Jul 17 2009

Build it and they will come

Zhong Dian until 2003, now Shangri La. If you had visited here in 1997 you would have missed the Old City. Because it wasn’t there. This town at 3200m is the result of massive investment to attract tourists to the area and it works. There is traditional dancing in the square every evening from 7pm – you can join in if you like, it goes on for two hours or more. P1040095To be fair the Old Town has been lovingly (re)created and it is extremely picturesque. There’s a great Yak Cheese shop, the young yak cheese is rubbish but the old yak cheese is great. And there is an interesting take on the Long March in one of the museums at the foot of town. It’ll also come as no surprise by now that you can head up the nearby snow mountain on – yes – a cable car. Among other things I was also advised to see the monastery at dusk, but unfortunately today it was raining so that will have to wait for next time. It would be very easy here to get sucked into the backpacker (lonely planet) trail and again meet everyone you just met at TLG, so best advice is find something obscure or ask people who have already been, before you come yourself. But after five days trekking around and generally doing fit stuff, this will be a good halfway house before heading onwards and upwards to the final Chinese frontier with Tibet; Deqin the most N Westerly town in Yunnan and my final destination on this trip. Right now – I think I’ll just be a tourist for a day or two – now where’s that reproduction yak’s head keyring shop again? (Zhong Dian 17 July)

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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)

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Jul 17 2009

It’s not really halfway

Setting off from Halfway Guesthouse fueled by bananas and weird coffee it is only a couple of hours towards the Middle Rapid and the end of the official TLG trail. nonetheless the scenery remains captivating and it is impossible not to stop and record some of these amazing scenes. At Tina’s Guesthouse there is the chance to eat and rest. It makes sense to get here early, as there is a 2-3 hour trail leading into the bottom of the gorge to see the Tiger Leaping Stone and experience first hand the amazing power of the river as it explodes through the narrowing gap. Here are the shots on the way from Halfway (it’s more like 3/4) to Tina’s. (TLG day two 15 July)

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Jul 17 2009

Some sunset

P1030894P1030904On the Insperation Terrace over dinner and a beer I meet Ben and Cara, they are on a massive four month trip and they are delightful. P1030893We talk and laugh and when we are not doing either of those the Jade Dragon Mountain teases us with rare glimpses of her peaks while the sun slowly sets. (Evening TLG 14 July)

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

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Jul 17 2009

Insperation welcome

A very warm welcome awaits me at the Halfway Guesthouse, where the view from the room is awesome. It is packed full of westerners, but the view is magnificent and Frankie and his family are exceptional hosts. Michael Palin wrote about the view from the toilet here – it is amazing 🙂 – he was looking at the Haba snow mountain though, and in front of you is the Jade Dragon snow mountain (Haba’s what you’re sitting on on this side of the gorge) – maybe they’ve moved the toilet in the meantime. Showered and refreshed it’s time to get some insperation… (Halfway guesthouse 14 July)

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Jul 17 2009

At every turn

P1030826 P1030832 P1030845.JPG P1030843The splendour of the scenery here is breathtaking. All these shots are from the section between Naxi and Halfway Guesthouse. Along the way you can stop at the Tea Horse for refreshment (or the night if you’ve had enough – you can even take Tai Chi classes, hmmm). (TLG day one 14 July)

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

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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

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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)

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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.

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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.

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