Jun 21 2010

Breakfast outside? Too big windy

The March trip to Yunnan province was a fantastic opportunity to see the province again and how glorious it was 🙂

Rough Edge took a group of five from the UK, travelling to Kunming for a couple of decompression days, followed by our arrival in Dali (after a hot bus ride of 4 hours). Once again the delightful Bird Bar was our home for a few nights and that was wonderful and chilled. We took in a day on the Cloud Pass to acclimatise ourselves at an altitude of 2400m.

In Dali we ate mostly outdoors, the temperatures were gentle and the air was sweet. The only times we didn’t eat al fresco were when our restaurant host was to tell us “no, too big windy!”

From Dali we headed once again to the oasis that is the Carnation Inn in Lijiang. Among the trinkets and tourist trash we planned our trek along Tiger Leaping Gorge.

And after a couple more hours in a bus, there we were heading into the gorge again and arriving at the extremely friendly Naxi Guest House at sunset – to some awe inspiring views across the back of the Jade Dragon Mountain range – truly wonderful 🙂

Our three days in the gorge also took in Halfway House, where the new accommodation is now complete – and very comfortable to boot.

On the final day, we took loads of video and pictures in the middle gorge and were driven out by micro-bus on a scary trip under roadworkers blasting a wider road through the rock. (Health & Safety regulations haven’t really reached Yunnan yet!)

Finally, refreshed by a night back at the Carnation Inn, we found ourselves back in Kunming and reconnected with Melodie (owner of the International Nail & Beauty Salon & a huge help in securing our accommodation on day one two weeks before).

Flying back everyone agreed it had been an action packed trip – lots of laughter, loads of welcoming and friendly people and a host of new and different experiences and sights 🙂

We’d like to say a huge thank you to Peter (one of our trip members) and his company Gripped Communications for making this short video of our Yunnan 2010 trip – take a look, it should give you a good feel for the place.

Be happy.

Rough Edge Adventure Logistics China 2010. DofE Gold Expedition. Heol Senni, Brecon, Wales.


Jul 21 2009

On and off the bus

Heading south from Shangri La about an hour into the journey there is a loud bang. The driver slows to a halt and his sidekick steps down from the bus to see what has happened. The bus has had a blowout on one of the rear wheels. Thinking about it now, I am quite glad it happened on the long straight flat road across the plain from Zhong Dian and not in the mountains through the pass down to the Haba range. Anyhow, there is much discussion, one incredibly small looking jack to hold the wheel aloft (people still in the bus and free to come and go both in and out of the bus throughout)… It takes about 20 minutes to fix and we are on the way again – heading south towards Lijiang and for me the place I am to be reunited with some of my travel baggage – left behind before Wenhai and the trek to Tiger Leaping Gorge… Onwards. (On the bus from Zhong Dian to Lijiang 21 July)

Rough Edge Adventure Logistics. Heol Senni, Brecon, Wales.

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce


Jul 17 2009

At the end in the middle

P1030958At Tina’s I reach the end of the official TLG trail and here it’s possible to leave bags and take a hike – down deep into the gorge itself to see the Tiger Leaping Stone (allegedly a tiger once lept across the gorge hence the name). This is a great chance to see first hand the thunderous power of the Yangtze as it is forced through this the Middle Rapid. There are two paths to go down, the ladder path and the wending path. I choose the ladder path for descent and the wending path to come back up again. The paths have been built through the rock by the villagers and they ask you to pay Y10 to go in each direction. Fair enough. It is a long way down and the home made handrails and precipitous rocky steps are not for the faint hearted – this is much more challenging than anything up above on the main trail, but it is fun. At one point there is a sign with two options, labelled: “Dangerous Ladder” and “Safe Path” – it tickles me. Down below and health and safety haven’t even got a look-in, just a roughly made stick-and-pole barrier between me and the raging river. It is quite refreshing to be forced to take extra care where you step! Anyhow, apart from the masses who have heaved their way down for a look too, it is an awesome spectacle of raging exploding water. The pictures here only capture a fraction of the drama, there will be video once I am better connected. This is a fitting end to an amazing place. Time now to move on. (TLG Middle Rapid 14 July)

Rough Edge Adventure Logistics mountain navigation & training & worldwide trekking. Heol Senni, Brecon, Wales.P1030941

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce


Jul 17 2009

Gorgeous hordes

P1030801 OK so Tiger Leaping Gorge is not the most edgy place on earth, but even minutes after setting off from the Naxi’s it was easy to see why this has become a backpackers’ right of passage. It is a stupendous sight – in almost every direction, nearly all the time. First opened up in c.1986 the trail is well defined with some steep sections, particularly as you climb on day one, as I did, up the 26 bends and over the ‘peak’ (2690m) here you are treated to spectacular views of the Jade Dragon mountain range across the gorge (you trek on the Haba mountain range side, the gorge is this amazingly narrow fault between the two). Through sections of forest and lush bamboo growth the sound of crickets fills your ears. Lower down there are small ‘swarms’ (what is the collective noun for butterflies?) of small purple butterflies. Higher up their black and white big brothers rule. At turns you can hear the pounding, gushing thunder of the mighty Yangtze below. There are, of course, lots of other people walking the trail – mostly westerners, but the space is enough that you don’t need to feel in a crowd and a short 5 minute break for water or a biscuit puts you back in your own space – surrounded by truly inspiring scenery. (Naxi to Halfway day one TLG 14 July)P1030811

Rough Edge Adventure Logistics mountain navigation & training & worldwide trekking. Heol Senni, Brecon, Wales.

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce


Jul 17 2009

Into the gorge as darkness falls

So we folded, but there was still a tiring end of day climb, from Qitao first onto the start of the gorge trail, then a solid 9k to reach the Naxi Family Guesthouse, a perfect point to set off from on the gorge trail proper in the morning. Peter strode ahead up this early section of Tiger Leaping Gorge – keen, as he said, not to be walking in the dark (there were moments when I wondered if he meant US walking in the dark or just HIM walking in the dark…) Anyhow, we were finally installed at the Naxi Family Guesthouse just before 9pm and just after sunset. Over supper we agreed our 3/4 complete trek had been fun, we also decided that now we were safely ON the gorge trail, we could set our own paces and wend our separate ways. I slept incredibly well here and before bedding down I saw more stars in the sky than I ever before have seen, it was breathtaking. Awaking to beautiful views, I settled my bill and noticed people had posted their business cards on the board all around the office in the Naxi courtyard. Could I also leave my calling card here? Yes, of course! Imagine my delight when, unprompted, the delightful Naxi girl decided to place me in such illustrious company. But enough ego. Let’s get up this gorge and see what all the fuss is about 🙂 (Into Tiger Leaping Gorge 13 July)

Rough Edge Adventure Logistics mountain navigation & training & worldwide trekking. Heol Senni, Brecon, Wales.

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce


Jul 17 2009

Flexibility rules

Armed only with google maps (see A route with no map), we decided eventually to fold. Just like armies of other people we grudgingly found a bus. It was an awesome ride, but nothing compared to walking the route there. We had achieved most of the route, the altitude had affected Peter which was a shame for him. The grubby surroundings of the ‘restaurant’ fleapit had done nothing to help our morale that morning. The extortion of the gobbing man had added insult to injury. Let’s just get to our objective, let’s get to the gorge. (To Tiger Leaping Gorge 13 July)

Blue T shirt

Rough Edge Adventure Logistics mountain navigation & training & worldwide trekking. Heol Senni, Brecon, Wales.

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce


Jul 17 2009

Hospitality rocks

P1030718 P1030730The village was charming, the sun was shining. It was a different world from the night before. Rested we set off at valley level. By whatever means we would reach Tiger Leaping Gorge today. It was 3.30pm but we were in no mood to let the experience of the night before stop us. Encouraged by our hostess Rosie, we set off again… Onwards… (Baisha 13 July)

Rough Edge Adventure Logistics mountain navigation & training & worldwide trekking. Heol Senni, Brecon, Wales.

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce


Jul 17 2009

Let’s get out of here

Breakfast was shouted at eight o’clock. Peter had become dizzy and ill during the night, I knew it was the altitude that was affecting him and I decided we would lose some height and find an alternative route to Tiger Leaping Gorge. Measly Mr Gobby brought me an egg fritter, it was OK. Peter was sleeping, feeling very tired indeed. There was no sign of anything else edible or drinkable, so I got out the jetboil and made coffee which I drank with ‘France Bread’ – kind of weightless pre-packed sweet rolls I had picked up in the supermarket in Lijiang for this very occasion. Byebye Mr Gobby, bye bye barking dogs, bye bye fleapit ‘restaurant’ Ni Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaau! (still just as funny) (Escape from Wenhai’s worst host 13 July)

Rough Edge Adventure Logistics mountain navigation & training & worldwide trekking. Heol Senni, Brecon, Wales.

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce


Jul 12 2009

A route with no map

I have met Peter at breakfast in the Well Bistro. We bumped into each other first in Dali and here he is again. He is American and he’s been teaching English in Taipei. With three months off before a new post in Beijing he is travelling around. Peter is keen to avoid taking a bus with everyone else to Tiger Leaping Gorge too and we agree to do the trip together. He will come to my meeting with Lily.

Lily is very helpful indeed. She shows us a hand drawn map of the area around the Jade Dragon Mountain and points out a route from Baisha up to a lake called Wenhai (3100m) and then over a ridge (3800m) dropping down towards the road and ultimately the usual start point for the gorge. We discuss this trip and she assures us we need a guide. Maybe we can do it with the help of her map I ask? No she replies, these maps are just for the use of her guides. Oh. Anyway, I think, maybe going with a guide wouldn’t be so bad, so how much will this 3 day trip be? Her price is a little high for me I explain the following day, but she is welcome to come and explore the mountains in the UK anytime, borrow my maps and if she needs me to guide 🙂

With Lily’s route in mind (and now delayed by a further day) I put on my poshest English demeanour and head to the Grand Lijiang Hotel business centre in the hope I’ll be able to print google maps. It is time consuming and frustrating, but it gives me what I need. Peter meanwhile has visited Chang (Joachim’s helpful Chinese friend in Lijiang – but who speaks no English). Chang adds helpful advice to our route including that we will doubtless find a guide if we want one en route. It is Saturday and this has taken most of the day, but we will head off on Sunday – with bags of helpful advice, tips on where to stay, where to find guides and even maps of a scale where you can read the contours. Thanks Lily and thanks Chang. (Lijiang 11 July)

Rough Edge Adventure Logistics mountain navigation & training & worldwide trekking. Heol Senni, Brecon, Wales.

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce


Jul 12 2009

It’s better on the edge

P1030625Whilst the crowds and souvenirs of Lijiang may be suffocating, it isn’t hard to find a breath of fresh air and some great views on a walk out of town – through the public park and out of the back gate – onwards and upwards right away from town. Random areas of the hill are quarried and dogs bark when you pass houses. An old woman is tending her vegetables by a stream. Back down the track in the outskirts of the new town is a reservoir, people were swimming. It is the best view from a free public swimming pool I have ever seen. I eat fried potato on a stick and head back to the hordes past meticulously clean cafes in scruffy roadside buildings. Planning is underway to avoid the classic bus to Tiger Leaping Gorge and trek there instead; around the back of the awesome Jade Dragon Mountain (above)(5596m) The Chinese say it’s 13 peaks hold up the sky. This little trip needs preparation and – ideally – maps… hmmmm. Fear not, later I am to meet Lily, she knows the moutains, she runs an Eco tourist bureau and she will be able to help. (Lijiang 10 July)P1030628

Rough Edge Adventure Logistics mountain navigation & training & worldwide trekking. Heol Senni, Brecon, Wales.

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce