Friday, November 12, 2004

China, Part IV

Tales of China continue here...

One of the main targets on the trip to China was to trek the Tiger Leaping Gorge. I'd heard so much about this place prior to flying out that it had become a definite 'must do'. I'll admit, I was a little apprehensive, especially with some of the tales I'd heard, while news of a missing American tourist who'd gone trekking there just a month previously (alone, the idiot) hardly helped. But, it had to be done.

We decided to do the trek over 3 days, with 2 nights spent in local guesthouses. The first step was actually getting there, because the language problem becomes a significant barrier when trying to buy tickets or garner any relevant information. Well, after finally buying tickets, we ended up in a small minibus that took us to the starting point.

After taking note of the large sign at the entrance that heaps all responsibility on the trekker, we started the long trek uphill. It was tough, and this was the easy part! After 2.5 hours we decided to stop for a long lunch at the Naxi Family Guesthouse, which then turned into our first overnight stop. The very cute Show Fein became our source of entertainment, trying to learn some Chinese while she picked up some words in English. I love mixing with the locals, for me it's one of the best parts of any trip. This was perhaps our cheapest night of the whole trip, costing something like 5 shekels per person for a double room, while the beers and food were tasty and very cheap too. After some rough nights so far on the trip, I slept like a baby.

The next morning we were up early and after downing a great egg and vegetable pancake we were off. Now this was the hard part. Holy shit, WHAT A CLIMB! 3 hours of steep, steep terrain, though accompanied by some amazing views. We were soon reaching heights of 2000m plus, while the path was getting a little dodgy in places, with drops straight down to the river below.

As what goes up must come down, we were soon on our way down the other side of the steep climb...though we soon picked up speed as raindrops started falling. We knew that the whole trek would take a turn for the worse if it started to rain, but it just about managed to hold off until the late afternoon, when we skidded and slid down to the next overnight stop, at Tina's Guesthouse.

We met up with an English couple and tales of Arsenal's astonishing form were soon being swapped over a few Chinese beers, though they were Fulham supporters (poor bastards!)...the cold and rain was all around us by now, but the fried rice and Tsingtao beers were doing a fine job in sheltering us from the elements.

The next morning it was still raining, so we had to catch a ride to the ferry station, which would carry us over to the other side of the river. It's just too dodgy to walk when it's raining, and besides the view was non-existent what with all the low clouds. A little anti-climatic, though we had done the hardest part...though once crossing the other side of the river little did we know that we'd be stuck in a landslide for 3 hours and shifting rocks by hand in the torrential rain that followed...

Great trek, highly recommended if you're ever in SW China.