The rain fell, clouds covered the sky and there was a chill in the air … Welcome to Tiger Leaping Gorge in the wet season.
We had dreamed of the 2 day Tiger Leaping Gorge hike from the day we decided to add China to our itinerary. We had seen amazing photos and read great things about the scenery along the trek – a hike not to be missed. Tiger Leaping Gorge high road is a 22km trek at 2900 feet along one of the deepest river gorges in the world.
It turned out that we didn’t have the best weather on the departure day but we decided to set off anyway and cross our fingers and toes for it to clear. We caught a mini-van from Lijiang to the entrance where we purchased our tickets and were dropped outside Janes Guesthouse which is the main starting point of the trek. We were a little confused where to go as you can walk the low road which is a main road where the tour buses go or the high road which we read was much better for hiking. We walked along the road a little before we found a sign pointing for us to turn left for the high road …. and we were finally on the trail we had dreamed of hiking for so long.
The first hour and a half was a great walk, a little challenging but not too difficult. It was raining but it wasn’t bothering us – the only problem was the clouds that were ensuring we did not get to see any of the amazing views we had come for. We stopped at the first main guesthouse for some lunch where we enjoyed a huge bowl of fried rice before again hitting the trail. The next section was called the 28 bends and was rumored to be the hardest section of the trek – and the rumors weren’t wrong. There are horses you can hire to take you to the top if the climb becomes too much – we decided it would be much more scary on a horse and we would lug our butts to the top ourselves.
As we climbed the rain stopped and the clouds began to clear although they wouldn’t give us the pleasure of disappearing completely. At least we got some great views every now and then to make the days climb all worthwhile.
We pulled up at Tea Horse Guesthouse for the night and checked-in to one of their rooms complete with hot shower and private toilet. It was much colder than we had anticipated and the hot shower was a blessing. We headed down to get some much-needed dinner and met some other hikers who were also staying for the night. The food was delicious and we finished it off with a banana pancake before heading to bed exhausted at 8:30pm.
We slept extremely well under cozy blankets. Waking up snuggled up in a warm bed in a mountain hut was such a great feeling. We again took advantage of the hot showers before heading down for a hearty and amazingly delicious Naxi Sandwich breakfast before setting off on day 2.
The hike of day two was much more rewarding. With all the hard work done the previous day and no rain we got to enjoy the most amazing views. We walked under beautiful cold waterfalls, watched baby goats frolic in the sun and gazed at the enormity of the gorge.
Along the trail we also came across this little guy who was working with his mum. It was 8am and he was covered in dirt and playing with a car with no wheels yet he had the biggest smile, He loved having his photo taken and then seeing his face on the screen – such a content wee guy!
Day two took us 4 hours to get to Tina’s Guesthouse where we decided to book the bus back to Lijiang. We had planned to stay a night at Tina’s and head back the following morning however Tina’s was down on the main road and lacked character and had no ‘mountain’ feel so we decided to get back to Lijiang early.
We had 2 hours before the bus was to leave so we decided to do the hike down to the Tiger Leaping Stone. It was a walk down hundreds of stairs and not for the faint hearted, especially after already completing a 4 hour trek that morning. When we made it down to the stone we saw the ferocity of the water, the power and force at which the water moves through the gorge – it was an impressive sight. Then it was time for the hike back up the stairs to catch our bus. We made it ….just! We were completely exhausted.