The Tiger Leaping Gorge: THE spot to see in Lijiang?
Rare is the hot-blooded, passionate traveler who comes to Panba Hostel and does not ask about the Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡: Hu Tiao Xia.) It did, after all, get the highest backpackers’ rating for “the place to be in china” according to Passplanet.com! We have, however, finally dragged our unbelievably lazy and near un-motivate-able photographer / writer / blog editor over there, and so now we can finally have a post for it, complete with lots of PICTURES!!! :D
We expect that you guys will have read up on the Tiger Leaping Gorge on your own before checking us out, so we will just be using snippets of basic information from other more-reliable sources, as will be stated below this article, while focusing mainly on experience itself, as according to our guests and our staff as well!
The Tiger Leaping Gorge is so-named because; according to legend; it is said that in order to escape from a hunter, a tiger jumped across the river at the narrowest point (still 25 metres wide). The gorge is not considered navigable, and in fact, in the early 1980s, four rafters attempted to go down the gorge and were never seen again. That was a long time ago though, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything more impressive than this.
We embarked on our little Tiger Leaping Gorge Adventure with the English studs Mark, James, and our new German friend, Stefan. Following them, not much as guides but more as two people tagging along; although they occasionally functioned as translators and hagglers – were our staff members Ken & Linda.
Good shoes, trainers at least, are a must, due to the terrain, which consists mostly of dirt and rocks, which can get slippery especially in wet weather. A hiking stick is actually provided for free at Panba as well, so be sure to grab it if you think you’ll need it. The paths are narrow and can be risky because there are no safeguards to prevent you from falling right off, so it is strongly recommended that if you have a hangover or if you’re already plain drunk to give it a day’s rest before you proceed.
For anyone who still wants to see the sights without having to brave the hike, there are also mules for rent, that will bring you through the toughest spots. It isn’t exactly overpriced either, provided you have someone who can speak Chinese and haggle on your behalf. ;)
The trekking route is relatively straightforward, but in order to make sure you don’t get lost (and also so they can get your business, since you can’t make money from missing customers); the locals and hostels have drawn arrows along the path, mostly on rocks so that you can be sure that you’re on the right path.
Along the trip, you are likely to spend the night at one of the hostels along the way, the two main ones being Tea Horse and Halfway Inn. We went to Halfway Inn, which was very cleverly located, and cleverly built as well.
The toilets, for example, that you’ll see right here, offer you a great view of the mountains while you do your business. This does, however, come with a crooked edge – the toilet is really little more than a hole in the ground. So if you appreciate a good toilet, you might want to give Halfway Inn a miss, or you could consider the private rooms.
Another tiny problem with the Halfway Inn is their coffee, which I reckon is made cowboy-style, meaning the ground coffee beans are thrown directly into hot water.
This would, of course, be perfectly fine, but only if they filtered it before serving it. It tastes fine though!
There are spots along the Tiger Leaping Gorge that are specially-made for photographers to take photos, strategically chosen for their locations that tend to offer the best views of the gorge. These do, however, often come with a small fee, and so if you are not ready to pay for these, just hike right past them and try to find another spot to take your photos from. There are many other, somewhat unavoidable spots that will charge fees as well, ranging from 3 to 10RMB, so be sure to bring some extra cash along. Regrettably, we have not yet discovered any way to get around these, and it is unlikely that it will be easy to do so anyway.
All in all, however, as something that is pretty darned hard to substitute now matter where else you may go in the world, the Tiger Leaping Gorge isn’t something for any real traveler to miss. No one so far has not been satisfied of their experiences from the Gorge, so it is pretty much guaranteed that you’ll love it too!