I awoke on Boxing Day after a lush sleep at Halfway Guesthouse along Tiger Leaping Gorge. I didn’t have chance to mention my accommodation in the other post. Halfway has mixed reviews but I’d highly recommend it – I had a great stay here. A dorm room costs just ¥40 a night (with the most spectacular view I have ever got from a dorm), the food is good, the beer is cheap (I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t the first thing I asked for when I checked in – it was Christmas after all!) and it’s where most of the other hikers congregate so you end up with a good crowd here. Their terrace (and bizarrely their toilet) gives you access to the most incredible views and is a great place to sup on a beer. It was actually quite warm in the evening sun but was freezing at night and in the morning.
It took a long time for the sun to come up over the gorge so I remained pretty cold for a while. I decided to warm myself up by setting off on the second part of the hike. Halfway Guesthouse is somewhat misleadingly named – it’s actually about 3/4 of the way through the main hike which meant there was only 2-3 hours of mostly flat/downhill hiking left before the end of the trail at Tina’s Guesthouse.
A bus departs from Tina’s to both Lijiang and Shangri-La at 3.30pm everyday so as long as you make it to the guesthouse before then, you’re all good. Furthermore, I was able to buy a ticket for my bus back to Lijiang at Halfway (¥50). I set off along the trail with a few of the other guests.
The difference the sun coming up was incredible. Just minutes earlier I’d been shivering under 3 layers. Now I was stripping faster than a fat man at the gym. Fortunately there were only a few small uphill climbs in this section. The majority of it was flat, albeit following the very edge of the cliff. The path wasn’t too narrow which was good but I still had to try and ignore the huge, perilous drop to my right.
One part of the hike I’d read about and was dreading was climbing across a waterfall about half an hour or so into the second part. The waterfall is exactly as people described – gushing literally over the edge of the cliff with nothing to stop you going with it. However, the climb over it wasn’t too bad – there was a choice between balancing near the edge of the cliff or getting your feet a bit wet. I opted for wet feet.
After this, things meandered downhill which is not my forte at all. I’d take the 28 bends any day over a steep climb down. I was gifted with many (well, a couple of) talents but balance was not one of them. A three year old could clamber downhill with more grace and dignity than I can. Luckily though the downhill bits weren’t too bad. A lot of the steeper bits weren’t too close to the perilous drops which was very considerate. In a hiking first I don’t think I fell over once (I came close) but shimmied down the gorge with all the grace of an injured duck.
And that was it! We arrived at Tina’s, the second part taking only about 2 and a half hours. We now had 3 hours or so until the bus arrived so grabbed some lacklustre (but cheap) food from Tina’s. Some of the group then took the 2 hour hike down to the gorge but I (and my knees) was happy to chill up here. Even if you don’t have time to make it down to the gorge, I’d advise turning right out of Tina’s and walking over the bridge down the road for 5-10 minutes. You get some even more spectacular views of the gorge, just when you think it can’t impress you anymore.
I celebrated with a beer at Tina’s and then it was time to board the 3.30 bus back to Lijiang. Surprisingly, my legs weren’t as knackered as I thought they would be though I did power nap during the 2 hour bus ride back.
Overall, there are no words or pictures I can use to demonstrate how incredible Tiger Leaping Gorge is. Go there. See it for yourself. I promise you won’t regret it.