After getting some needed downtime in Lijiang, we decided to hit the trails again in Yunnan Province. But where to go? Like other travellers before us, we went in search of Shangri-La. We had heard at the local lamasery that the man who knew the true location of the Shangri-La from the James Hilton novel could be found at the middle of Tiger Leaping Gorge, short 3 hr, 88 km, bus ride from Lijiang. What the damn monk didn't tell us, is that it would involve 22 km of hiking! As we found out more, we realized we needed to stay over night on the trail due to the timing of the buses. We had our work cut out for us. Once the bus let us off, we were confronted by the beauty of the wilds of Yunnan Province.
Ashley is smiling there because that is before we reached the land of 28 switchbacks. About 2.5 hrs into the hike, you reach a sign that let's you know you've got a new ascent ahead of you consisting of 28 switchbacks. Considering the hike started at 2500 m of elevation, it was definitely challenging.
The one positive piece of such a challenging hike, was the vistas. Since we were hiking a path below mountains at 5500 meters and a river at 2500 meters, it made for some natural beauty and not nearly enough oxygen in the air for me to ever catch my breath. You guys better enjoy the pretty pictures!
Once over the switchbacks, it was pretty level hike into the guesthouse called the "Tea Horse" which would provide our lodging, food, and beer for the evening.
Clearly, the beers were medically necessary at this point, as all the views reminded Ashley of only the Coors Light can.
From this guesthouse, the views across the gorge were amazing.
You can see the guesthouse in the left hand side of the picture. All the positives of the view and location, were trumped by what the guesthouse lacked, any functioning heating, insulation, or hot water. I wasn't expecting the Ritz in literally BFE China, but man was it cold in that room that night. The mountains were blue!
The next morning Ashley and I rose early to making down to the rock in the middle of the gorge. We still had about 6 km to go until the descent into the gorge.
For proof of me actually getting up early, I submit to you a photo of the first light breaking out over Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
We finally make it to the next town to begin our descent into the gorge. I find out its 1.5 km down (and eventually up) and 10 RMB a head to pass. We press on. Lighter by 20 RMB and 20 lbs of water from sweating, makes the descent relatively easy, as long as you don't mind 1.5 km of descent via hastily cut stairs in the dirt and "high quality" welded Chinese ladders.
At the bottom, the river's torrent creates such a white noise, that normal conversation is impossible.
We find the old man who know of the real Shangri-La, but alas he only speaks Naxi, a local language. Those damn monks, again! Then Ashley turns to me and asks, "Is that what this is all about? Figuring our where Shangri-La is? ". "Of course, it is our quest!" I hastily retort. She craftily replies, "Uh, you illiterate ass, it's in the guidebook." We start the trek back up, out of the gorge. If it's 1.5 km down, it's 1.5 km back up. Not fun.
With quads and calves afire, we make it out of the gorge and to lunch and WiFi. We find out Zhongdian ( China's claim as Shangri-La) has an expected high of 40 F and low of about 15 F for the foreseeable future, weather wise. We choose the bus back to Lijiang.