April 12, 2010

Tiger Leaping Gorge

During the ten day long October national holidays, I left the urban jungle of Beijing behind and ventured into the wilderness. I found myself trekking through Tiger Leaping Gorge, the most breathtaking canyon on the Yangtze River. Too treacherous to be navigated by boat, the rapids are best enjoyed from solid ground. With 2000 meter cliffs on each side, Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest canyons on the planet. The river beneath narrows to 25 meters at one point, and legend has it that a tiger jumped across the gorge to escape a hunter at this very location.

The nearest city to the gorge is Lijiang and the nearest town is Qiaotou. At the Lijiang bus station, I found the schedule unfavourable and decided to hire a vehicle to Qiaotou instead. It was costly, so I waited until another traveler joined me so we could split the fare. A fellow named Fangyuan was up to the challenge. His friends had decided to relax back in Lijiang, while he was keen to see the sheer cliffs of Tiger Leaping Gorge. We took the low road, passing goats, driving through waterfalls, and experiencing occasional engine failure as our vehicle had a hard time navigating through the rock slide prone area.

Without any assistance from the government, the locals have created a path down to the river. They charge a maintenance fee and have set up stalls every few hundred meters down the arduous trail selling refreshments. As we made our descent, it started raining heavily. The stall keepers wisely packed up and hurried back to the top. I got separated from Fangyuan, and we took alternate routes. I arrived back at the summit and waited for him to return, observing a suit clad villager chase down a chicken with a knife in the meantime. As I shivered in my wet clothes, I heard someone call out for me. Fangyuan had returned with the driver! At Qiaotou we went our different ways. He went back to Lijiang to rejoin his buddies, while I caught the last bus to Shangri La.


Tiger, tiger, burning bright   
In the forests of the night,   
What immortal hand or eye   
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

~ William Blake ~