We began by taking a minibus from Lijiang to the trailhead at a town named Qiatou. We were delayed for several hours by a terrible accident on the road and finally arrived at Qiaotou around 4:30 to begin hiking.
We began our hike.
After an hour and a half, we arrived here, the Naxi Family Guesthouse, where we roomed for the night. There were hikers from Hong Kong, Germany, Canada, and China staying there that night.
Morning arrived and we had our breakfasts of eggs, tea, porridge, and pancakes. The next section was the hardest part of the hike, called 28 Bends. It's about an hour or two of uphill climbing, with lots of switchbacks. With only one day to adjust to the altitude, I was breathing hard.
28 Bends eventually ended and we got to walk along the side of the gorge with peaks all around and the river below. Local people raise corn and other crops in beautiful terraced fields, but everything was dry because of the drought. (We sometimes saw farmers with hoses in their fields, trying to rain some life into their anemic looking crops.)
We knew we wanted to spend 2 nights in the gorge, so we took our time hiking and ended the day at the Halfway Guesthouse.
Sign on the Halfway House terrace. Check out those mountains!
Village surrounding Halfway Guesthouse
Unfortunately, there was some bad magic in the food, and two of our group got really nauseated over the night. So the next morning found some of us (including me) watching the sun rise over some of the most stunning views in the gorge while others languished in bed.
Guidebooks always praise the view from Halfway's toilets.
Finally at noon we decided we better just start hiking, although it was rough going for the sick ones. It was another 2 hours (at our pace) to Tina's Guesthouse, where we arranged a ride back out of the gorge.
The ride home was a harrowing ride indeed. They are widening the lower road where you can drive back to Qiaotou. This meant maneuvering around bulldozers, workers, rock slides, and even explosions in addition to the oncoming traffic. Even the driver looked a little scared. (And the bumpiness did no good for the queasy kids in the back.)
Final assessment of Tiger Leaping Gorge: One of my favorite travel experiences ever. The hike is tiring but not too hard, especially if you go slow like we did. It hasn't (yet) been over developed, and there aren't too many tourists. Every inch of the hike is surrounded by beautiful views -- an awesome display of the Creator's handiwork.