Here I am in Shrangri-La, now a veteran of the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek. The day before yesterday I jumped on a bus from Lijiang to Quiotou, a town at the beginning of the Tiger Leaping Gorge. I'd gone as a solo trekker but ended up being anything but. I met two guys on the bus (one of whom was in my hostel in Kunming), Yuyao from Beijing, and Adel from Finland. Then while eating a pre-trek breakfast we met another, older guy, Daniel from Switzerland. And then finally another girl Id been running to periodically on my China leg showed up: Yvonne from Ireland. We all ended up forming a multinational trekking group to tackle the gorge. A League of Nations, if you will.
That day turned out to be a scorcher, nothing like I was expecting. It must have been a good thirty degrees C by mid day. We took the obviously best route, which is the high trail, the low trail being a paved road full of speeding minivans and buses. The first half of the trek was the toughest, climbing up almost five hundred meters from the river. The snow capped mountains tower above the gorge, a good two thousand meter drop from peak to river. Quite the impressive sight. The scenery in the first half of the trek is also the best. Around the second half it starts to become more developed, with random power and telephone lines hanging across the views of the mountains. We stayed in the Halfway Guest House, which is more like two-thirds of the way. It was a pleasant place with amazing views of the mountains, especially from the open air shitter.
The second day we headed straight down the valley to the Tiger Leaping Stone, where legend has it a tiger leaped across the gorge. That point in the trail is where it turns into a joke. To get down to the valley floor you have to pay ten Yuan to some people who claim to have created the trail. And then you have to pay to get back up. Now that is understandable if it's true they're the ones that made and maintain the trail, but once at the bottom you're charged to get into the best photo spots, which is complete bullshit, since the I'm positive that those people don't own a square inch of that land. It got even better when we went to go back up, and ran into a sign saying that on top of the ten Yuan we paid to go back up, we were going to be charged more up ahead for the maintenance of the "ladders" (there's only one), so me being the problem solver I am, I chucked that fucking sign right into the bushes. We never had to pay. That route back up was pretty nerve racking as well, you hike on a thin trail right on the side of a sheer cliff, with a metal cable bolted onto the rock face, the best form of protection to prevent you from falling to your death.
Once back at the top we hired a minivan to take us back to Quiotou on the road midway up the valley. We had to change vans midway due to the half-assed Chinese engineers blasting the rock face, thus dumping tons of rock onto the road. The funniest thing about it was as we were crossing the boulder field a front end loader starts to scoop up rocks behind us. Actually pushing them is a better description, right towards us in fact. I guess the rock > human fact didn't cross his mind. As a testament to how smart these workers were, you could see a ton of lateral cracks in the rock snaking out from where they drilled in the blasting charges, testament to their fine craftsmanship with explosives. Basically the whole rock face is visibly unstable and could go at any minute. So to whoever's reading this, take that road back at you're own risk. The idiocy didn't stop there either. The driver of the next minivan we jumped in decided it would be a good idea to pass a bus at high speed, our tire literally a few centimeters from the edge of the road, which is basically the edge of a cliff and a four hundred meter drop to the river below. I was frightened. Thankfully we arrived back at the town safe and sound, and enjoyed some much needed beer and food, and a great sleep. It was great until the next morning when I'm packing my bag and noticed a dark thing on my bed, and upon further inspection discovered it was a deer turd.