Friday, April 26, 2013

虎跳峡 // Yunnan Day 3

Tiger Leaping Gorge 虎跳峡  is surrounded by Yunnan's mountains and the rushing Jinsha River. Trekking through one of the world's deepest gorges was one of the most exciting days of the trip for me.  Granted, we only scheduled time to explore the latter third, lower trail of the 9 mile stretch, but I was thrilled.  Unlike other Chinese national parks and scenery, these trials were still raw, the tourists were few, and the area isn't completely commoditized yet.  There were even a few places were a careless step could be dangerous -- cool!  
Driving through Yunnan.

Okay, so it's not like we were completely roughing it.  The guest houses that mark stages of the trail are rustic luxury.  The guest staff was so generous to be cooking at 10 PM when our bus finally rolled in with 25 ravenous students.  We were also driving through pitch black (except for the glorious starry sky I have missed so much) along the sheer edges of the gorge, so what a freakin' relief it was to sit back in a wooden cabin.  I felt like we were in the Adirondacks, except with less pine trees, more epic, cragged mountain faces, and amazing Yunnan home-cooked food.  This cuisine is much more vegetable-based, less oil and sweetness, and even a bit spicy.
After settling into my room, I went back inside the dining room of the guest house and looked at them asking, "What is this, a gentlemen's club?" We moved outside together in the outdoor patio, drinking beer, play games and laughing loudly until after midnight.

This greeted me from the window first thing in the morning.  Not bad, right?  It was definitely worth arriving at night for the shock value at 7 am!  I awoke earlier than everyone else to catch the end of the sunrise and changing colors in the sky.  Then I sat in that carved trunk chair and wrote in my journal until my classmates joined for breakfast on the patio -- which was banana crepes(!), fresh bread, and rice porridge.

 The marvelous Yunnan group as we started our trek into the gorge.
 A man was hauling his mules up the trail!  That was awesome and unexpected.

 I romanticize mountain side farms with terraced farms.  Not exactly sure why, but I love it. 
 Mountain goats!

 Mary and I.

 Some of the trail was actually pretty steep, with loose rocks and dirt.
 A local woman hustled ("Chinese'd") us into paying 10 RMB to cross this bridge to Tiger Leaping Rock.  It's actually a lot sturdier than it looks, but I scooted across before too many people were on.

 Tiger Leaping Rock jutting onto the powerful Jinsha River.


 And then I decided it would be a fun idea to shimmy across a sheer rock to reach the Tiger Leaping Rock flag..
  At this point, it was a drop on both sides and I felt more or less stuck.  I sat there and burst out laughing at my compulsive foolishness.
 Nevertheless, SUCCESS.

 The Sky Ladder that connects the upper and lower gorge.  I hiked up to that point, then watched the boys ascend, but ladders (particularly rusty metal ones clinging to mountain faces going several hundred feet upwards) aren't quite for me.  I waited at the rest stop and chatted with the lovely local woman who was selling water and snacks.
 The hike back was actually pretty strenuous with the sun beating down and little water, but always so gratifying at the end!
 The Captain Morgan Pose.

  One more delicious lunch, lingered with the dynamic scenery a bit more, then we were in the bus again and off to Shangri-La.
Even images like this can't justify.  I adore Yunnan. 

Like everything in China, the gorge and surrounding region are in the midst of development.  I'm glad we went now, because I'm scared to see what it will look like in five, ten years from now.   Nonetheless, I implore that you take at least a full day to visit and hike if you are in Southern China.  I would rather be towered by mountains that metal any day.

Listening: "The Start of Something" by Voxtrot

1 comment:

Jenny said...

These pictures are absolutely gorge-ous...hehehehehe I miss you so much, but i'm so glad you're having such a spectacular time!