TIGER LEAPING GORGE
27 - 28 April 2012
Pete Smith and Trish Gardiner-Smith undertook this trip as part of a six-week trip to China 11 April - 23 May
After spending a couple of weeks doing a few walks in Guangxi and Yunnan provinces, we were up at Shangri-la 3200m near the Tibetan border hoping to visit Potatso National Park, but with constant rains and occasional snows and temperatures of 4C, the chance of any views of mountains and reasonable tramping were quickly quashed. So we decided to descend to Qiaotou and warmer climes and walk Tiger Leaping Gorge.
It is said to be one of the world's deepest gorges, 18km long and 3900m from the snow capped peaks of the Haba mountains in the west and the Jade Dragon Snow mountains to the east rising up to 5500m, down to the rushing waters of the Yangzte River crashing through the narrow gorge 18m wide at its narrowest.
We paid our $NZ13 entry fee into the park area. In China one pays every time one goes into a national park or reserve, unlike NZ. We left Qiaotou at 8:30am in clear skies with no sign of the rain and misty weather of the past few days. We followed the narrow concrete road with honking cars occupying the whole road, but thankfully turned onto the track, leaving the noise behind. We passed a man tending his broad beans where we saw the first view of the snow splattered mountains of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountains. The bad weather we had had in Shangrila had evidently dropped snow on the mountains here. A man on a horse approached me - did I want to go on his horse? Was I looking that tired already or was he just plying his trade? he track followed the river around to where it met the Yangzte. Slowly climbing, we reached the Naxi village of Nuoyu.
The Naxi are descendants of Tibetan nomads. Strong matriarchial influences permeate Naxi society, especially language, where female nouns are weightier. A female stone is a boulder, a male stone - a pebble! We then approached the 28 zigzags to reach a height point of 2670m. As we approached, a woman, hauling on her horse, hurriedly passed us to get to her shop, hoping to sell us Chinese Red Bull and Snickers bars to ease our climb to the top. We were fine and moved on. All up the track, there was litter and empty Red Bull cans. In the distance, a call of the cuckoo could be heard. A brown snake slithered across the track; it looked harmless but we gave it a wide berth, further up a smaller green variety. We stopped at the top to admire the view, looking across to the glacier on the Jade Dragon Snow Mountains. As we came down the other side, we met an English couple doing a return trip. In the forest we stopped for a snack - chilli and sesame dried fish and crunchy broad beans, delicious.
On to Tea Horse Guest House(GH). This was once a part of the renowned Tea Horse trading route from China into Tibet dating back from the Ming dynasty, where Chinese Tea was traded for Tibetan horses. We decided to continue on to Halfway House GH. The guest house is said to have the best loo view in the world, with its open wall to the Jade Dragon Snow mountains, though you don't linger long with the squat loos. It was quiet when we arrived at 3pm, but the rush certainly arrived at 5pm with many trampers requiring lodgings. We spent the evening chatting to travellers from across the globe.
Next day a 7:45am start, before the others hit the track. This part of the walk still had spectacular scenery, but the walk around the spurs and into the valleys was marred by unsightly plastic pipes criss crossing the track and visually impacting on the walk. Even the washings from a glacial stream were being extracted for use in the building industry. We were out at Tina's Youth Hostel soon after nine and descended on the track down to the crashing, dancing waters by the gorge. An interesting descent and return. We climbed a near vertical 25m ladder which made the Tararua Ladder look tame, especially when you looked at the bracing of reinforcing iron and no 8 wire.
The waters where the Yangzte pushes its way through the gorge are certainly impressive. It is said that someone once saw a tiger leap across the river here, hence the name. Well either it was a very powerful and large tiger or there was not as much water flowing down the gorge when he jumped. We climbed back up to the road in 1hr 15mins to be met by runners doing the 3 day 60/100km Asia Action Event who had just run across the track in 4 hours. So, a very interesting walk with some spectacular scenery in one of China's most interesting provinces, Yunnan.
- Party members
- Pete Smith and Trish Gardiner-Smith.