Tiger Leaping Gorge

Ears rotated, listening intently, a soft breeze rippled through long whiskers. The first rays of the morning sunpeeked above Jade Dragon mountain. Two huge pupils reflected these rays, a tiger’s, deathly still: she sensed danger. Many metres below her, the fierce waters of the Jinsha river smashed relentlessly into the gorge. But this river was a danger that had been a constant presence in the tiger’s life and was not what brought her to stillness now. The sun’s rays grew brighter, the tiger should be returning to the higher grounds of the mountains after a night of hunting, but instead she remained still. Suddenly, recognition of a scent: hunters. They were close, in front and to both sides, the only escape was down the steep edge to the raging waters below. The crack of a stick, the shuffle of a weapon, a drop of sweat: closer still. The tiger sprang to life, surging down into the valley, her paws crashed down a path of destruction. Before long, the ground levelled and the sound of the quickly approaching hunters was drowned out by the river: it was too wide to jump and the violent whirlpools made it too dangerous to swim. The men arrived, slowly now, cautiously moving forward, weapons ready to strike. A fire burned inside the tiger, a fierce will: she charged towards a large rock and leapt into the unknown. Strong hind legs propelled her into the air, sweat glistened on powerful limbs. For the briefest of moments, the world stilled. The river stopped flowing, the hunters held their breath, the tiger’s heart skipped a beat. All waited anxiously. And then, the gentle thud of paws landing on rock. A slow outward breath. To a murmur of human disbelief, the tiger turned defiantly. The sun appeared over the mountain, lighting up her hide like flames. A weapon fell from a hand. The water crashed angrily against the rocks, but before the droplets could fall, the tiger was gone.

… Or something roughly along those lines. I couldn’t find the actual myth, so I just added in a few details of my own… what do you mean too many adjectives? I’m a primary school teacher! Basically, as the legend goes, a tiger being chased by hunters, leapt across the 25-30 metre wide Yangtze River and subsequently Tiger Leaping Gorge got its name!

The longest river in Asia!

Location of Tiger Leaping Gorge

At over 6,300km the Yangtze river is the longest river in Asia and the third longest in the world, after The Nile and The Amazon. It flows from the west of China to the east before emptying into the East China Sea. At its upper tributary, the Jinsha river, it passes through one of the deepest canyons in the world, Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Katie and I decided to catch the bus from Lijiang to Qiaotou so we could walk “the high road” of the gorge, a well maintained trail used mainly by hikers and the indigenous Naxi people, who live in a handful of hamlets in the mountains. Upon arriving we spent a day at Jane’s Tibetan Guesthouse, in hindsight we wished we hadn’t. Our day there consisted of one long boring wifi-less power cut. The accommodation looked beautiful, but the smashed window of our room (with shards of glass falling straight onto Katie’s bed) set us up for a freezing cold night. The toilets were grim at best. We still had fun though, here we are experimenting with lighting techniques during dinner…

Candlelit dinner for two

Jane’s Tibetan Guesthouse

The following day we started the hike, the gorge was magnificent and was overlooked by the 5596 metre high, Jade Dragon Snow mountain, and the 5396 metre, Haba Snow Mountain.

Naxi man!

Naxi children

The start of the hike consisted of 28 bends that were quite steep. We realised we were probably quite high above sea level when we opened our drinks at the top and they exploded in our faces. The high road is about a kilometre climb above the river and at an elevation of approximately 2600 metres. After a few hours of hiking, we stopped at a beautiful place called, The Tea-horse, for lunch. We had Naxi bread and salad with green tea.

Katie enjoying the view

We continued hiking, undisturbed on the quiet trail, until we came face to face with a large obstacle…

Pretty sure I’m swearing here!

Then some more slightly smaller obstacles…

Goats block our way!

And finally…

When you’re on a small ledge next to a steep drop, the last thing you want is to be shoulder-barged off by a cow, or booted in the face by a goat. Fortunately, we arrived at our accommodation for the evening, The Halfway House, in one piece. We spent the evening sampling traditional Chinese food and wine and learning an advanced version of the Israeli card game we’d been taught in Xi’an.

Early the next morning, we opened the door of our dormitory to this…

A toilet with a view!

There’s something about mountains that make you really pleased you got out of bed.

After breakfast, we continued to Tina’s Guesthouse, ventured down the steep valley to Tiger Leaping Rock and negotiated a somewhat rickety bridge before climbing back up to the Walnut Garden. We then returned to Tina’s Guesthouse to get on the bus back to Lijiang!

The climb down – can you see the ladder?

Tiger Leaping Rock

Despite the vertical cliff edge, our coach driver drove at dangerously high speeds along the bumpy, winding roads. As he drove it started to rain, the sun’s rays continued to illuminate the landscape and subsequently a huge rainbow appeared across the gorge. I did feel that nature was slightly showing off at this point… nobody likes a smart Alec.

The rainbow and the traffic jam

Unfortunately, an hour or so later we hit a standstill of monstrous traffic, I used this opportunity to get a picture of the rainbow. There had been an accident ahead and there were vehicles as far as the eye could see. Our driver told us we’d be better off walking, but with 15kg of luggage each, an hour of daylight left and at least a two hour walk to the nearest hostel, we had our doubts. There was a shop, a restaurant and a toilet directly next to us… what more could we ask for? We popped to the shop and bought a few beers and a Toblerone and set up a card game with some others on the coach. At some point, we decided to nip to the toilet block behind the restaurant. It seemed the owners had been overwhelmed by the sudden influx of hungry people wanting to pass the time whilst waiting for the road to be unblocked. They had subsequently resorted to slaughtering their family pets. This is them about to fry up their dog…

Say goodbye to Fluffy, kids.

Their remaining living dog was in its kennel, only metres away. It looked pretty worried. For its sake, and for the sake of the pet rabbits in the nearby hutch, I silently hoped the traffic started moving soon. Fortunately, after about 40 minutes we were on our way again. We arrived in Lijiang in darkness and our somewhat irritated driver refused to take us to the hostel and pushed us out in the middle of nowhere. We wandered the streets for a while until we stumbled upon the clean and comfortable, Mama Naxi’s Youth Hostel.

I think (hope) the pets were spared…

7 thoughts on “Tiger Leaping Gorge

  1. Laura and Katie you are so brave! Laura you know how I feel about
    Cows I would have been terrified. I spotted the ladder. It all looked

    pretty scary, the views obviously made up for the climb!

    Gorgeous! Well done, great blog.

  2. Nicola and your mum have something in common, both terrified of cows. She also didn’t like the look of the ladder, I on the other hand thought it looked amazing. More please..

  3. Wonderful scenery – a health and safety nightmare – interesting to contemplate the two sides.

    Safe further travels,

    Rose x

  4. Those poor animals…the cows with ropes through their noses, the poor donkey carrying the heavy load that the Nexi man should carry himself and the dogs and rabbits being chopped up for dinner. It’s probs what is served at the Willow!!

    Keep up the wonderful writing girls. Enjoy your adventures. Em xxxxx

  5. Oh my goodness, you girls! I just spent far too long trying to find your blog (umm Katie, not Kate, of course!). Aaand now I realize that you guys were totally being modest talking about your blog–it’s amazing, and so professional looking! Instant fan. Looking forward to following the rest of your adventure! xx Silvia (from Jade Emu in Dali)

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