I arrived at the bus stop in the morning hoping to leap on a Zhongdian bound bus. Accordingly to the guide book there were around 11 buses a day heading up. Turned out to be 2. The next one was not for 4 hours. Some other people were in the same situation and we managed to haggle a mini-bus for a decent price. So off we went. Arriving after a couple of hours, me and Gene decided to stop for a bite to eat, while the other two were eager to set off immediately and had a pack lunch stowed in their packs. Gene is originally from America, but spent three years in Africa and now six years in South Korea teaching English.
TLG is better known as Tiger Leaping Gorge (by people who don't have to type out blog entries). Somewhere deep in the Tibetan plateau begins the Yangzi River, the third longest river in the world. It winds its way down through and across China all the way to Shanghai, 6300 km away. Here the Yangzi is squeezed between Haba Mountain and Jade Snow Dragon Mountain, creating the gorge where a tiger is said to have leapt across, hence the odd name.
Heading out from the lunch spot, we soon wondered if we were going the right way, as a large track veered off to the left, but with no signposts either way we decided on keeping straight. The high trail starts and at the first major bend, we reach a delta where we again get confused, shouldn't we be on the other side?? Nope, it turns out we are going round the corner, where we are greeted by the first sight of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain or Yulong Xueshan, which tops out at an impressive 5,500m. Continuing on we reached the 26 bends which is basically a big zig-zagging climb to the highest point in the trek. Sweatily we reach the summit as pose for the obligatory photograph with the mountains in the backdrop. A slight haze, desaturates the colour in the background and it looks like I've been cut and pasted into the photograph, but I really did make it up there honest!
It will hard to do justice to the spectacular scenery, or the steepness of the gorge in places, you just can't replicate that in a photograph.
About a couple of hours after the summit we dropped in to a guesthouse, where facilities were basic, but the food was pretty good! Tasty baba bread with chives. Here it has no yeast, served as a flat bread and better than it's doughy cousin served in Lijiang the later tasting like pizza base. The toilet is a trench, with mountain scenery. i.e. no door, the Chinese are not big on privacy!
The next day start early and soon underway, through small villages clinging to the mountainside, with the famous Chinese terraces farming style in evidence in patches. Sure footed mountain goats chew plants in perilous footholds. Onwards crossing over a waterfall, past noisy cicadas and more great scenery. Descending down the high path meets the low road. Arriving fairly early, Gene and I split, he wants to get the bus back to Lijiang, and I continue the trek. Pushing on is easy enough, just walking along the road rather than a path. I reach the ferry point and can see across the path as it zig-zags down the mountainside. I clamber down for an hour eventually reaching the ferry point, but there is no ferry! I climbed back up and make a choice, I can push on to the old ferry (and hope it is running) or head back to one of the guesthouses, about an hour walk back the way. I do the sensible thing and head back to spend a night in the guesthouse. Barely any traffic along the road and no telling how far till the next place with water.
Back at the guesthouse eat some food and zonk out. The next day, it is onto the old ferry, 3 hours down the road out the gorge and through a small village or two, past a handful of small rockslides. Up ahead a bang and dust floating up, as a lone rock fall from up above, a smattering of stones dot the road. On through a patch of sunflowers, and then wind down to the river. Squeeze past a herd of goats and jump onto the rustbucket of a ferry. On the other side I clamber up a really steep hill practically on all fours. Not until I get to the top and have an overview do I realise that the actual path takes a different route. Another 40 minutes or so gets me to the Snowflake hotel in the tiny village of Daju. Later on a French couple arrives and we have some tasty food with fried cheese & mushrooms, and a dish that seemed more Mediterranean than Chinese, with lots of tomatos and olive oil, all washed down with a beer. Next day hopped on a bus back to Lijiang and then it was onto Chengdu.