The Glass Slide and the Leaping Tiger
Before we arrived in Lijiang, I contacted our Homestay asking if they could recommend a trip to the Tiger Leaping Gorge. They could and the price was right. All booked, but let's say our trip wasn't what we were expecting.
In the morning, we met our guide and his very clean people carrier. We were the only passengers, which has its pros and cons. Sometimes it is nice to share experiences with others, however being just us means we can go at our own speed.
The scenery during our journey was stunning, with views of the jagged snow-capped Jade Dragon Snow Mountains in the distance under a clear blue sky. It was freezing cold though. When are we going to have some hot weather?
After 90 minutes we turned off the road into a touristy car park. Our guide, who spoke no English, effectively used a translation App and directed us to enter the museum of the history of the Tea Horse Trail. This cavernous area cut into the rock face had some strange looking exhibits, all coated in dust, making everything look the same colour. We saw some steps and climbed these to a concrete walkway, wondering where we were supposed to go. After a time, our guide called us, we'd gone the wrong way!
The next 30 minutes was quite bizarre. Following our guide, we took a ride on a diesel scenic train, then a wobbly walk over a swing bridge to another one with a glass bottom. Not the greatest ideas; it was cold, wet, rather dirty and very slippery!
Next, we were instructed to put on stylish camouflage shorts and zoom down a glass-bottomed slide! If you know me well, you would know that I yelled a few whoops as I sped down.
We waited for our guide, then followed him along a path between giant bamboo and trees with the running water of many bubbling springs and streams conversing together. Wandering over bridges, we passed waterfalls, metal water wheels for decoration only and a few locals selling fruit.
Eventually, we were out in the open, walking by typical Chinese step terraces full of leafy crops and the remnants of maize, down to the Jinsha River where a rib was waiting for us to climb on. No white water rafting here, we powered up the wide river between the hills taking us near to where a new bridge is being built, then coasted down to meet our waiting guide.
Back onshore, we got an electric cab back to the car, seeing a typical Chinese village and a few weird and wonderful things! What a strange place. All it was missing was a few statues of Mickey Mouse.
After a mediocre lunch, we finally arrived at the Tiger Leaping Gorge; thank goodness for that! We were hoping to do a bit of trekking, but this tour was not for that, this was all about being a typical tourist, joining the throngs of other sightseers. We walked down the steep stairs towards the roaring Yangtze River.
The Tiger Leaping Gorge is 16 km long with Jade Dragon Snow Mountain at the east and Haba Snow Mountain at the west. At 3,790 m high it is one of the deepest valleys in the world. We were near the narrowest part at 30 m, where legend has it that a tiger jumped over to the gigantic stone that had tumbled into the middle of the gorge, then over to the other bank, hence the name.
As we were walking down, many people were struggling climbing back up, and I was somewhat concerned that I’d also suffer. There was the option of having two men carry you in a sedan, sadly we didn't see anyone use their service though. We were going down a long way, meaning we'd be going back a long way!
We finally reached the viewing platform, of course, it had to be made of glass. This was near to the massive stone where the legendary tiger leapt on.
The roar and power of the river were tremendous. There is something quite magical being near such a force of nature, and with the sun shining and the spray of the waves, a rainbow appeared in the mist. Can you spot it in the photo below?
After a time, we started our ascent, and I was pleasantly surprised at my fitness level and that my knee held up ok. We stopped once for a quick rest, and a lovely lady started chatting to us; she recognised us from the morning’s escapade. She originated from Shanghai but has lived in Auckland for the last 25 years. We talked about what a fabulous place New Zealand is and also how China has surprised us by people’s laid back attitude.
Onwards and upwards, we had more steps to mount. I really did count them this time (a few less than the Great Wall of China), by the time I numbered 566, we had reached from the bottom to the top.
Time for our journey back to Lijiang and say xiè xiè zài jiàn to our guide. Not a day we expected, but as Alexander Pope said: “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”
Back at the Homestay, our lovely receptionist Li-Ly offered us a tea ceremony. The tea was from a disc of packed dried tea which she prised some out using a spatula, weighing to check she had the optimum amount. The process was very structured, pouring the tea from one hand for Tim and the other side for me. And as we were enjoying our drink, Ang-ni, the golden retriever was lapping up the attention we gave her. A nice end to an unexpected day.