Monday, January 26, 2009
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Let's see... Several days have passed since I last wrote, which means I've traveled through at least several cities...
I realized that I've spent the night in a different place every night last week.
I think the last I wrote was the night we couldn't watch Obama's speech-
That night we went to Lijiang.
Cute, picturesque town. A little stream flowed through the streets, so to enter the stores you crossed a little bridge. There were red lanterns lit up at night. Just the typical type of architecture you'd expect of China- but you only find this architecture in little tourist towns like this one, because the big cities are filled with huge grey boxes that act as buildings. The Chinese minority that live in the area are called the Naxi.
The next day, I left to go on a trek in the nearby mountains, in Tiger Leaping Gorge.
I was to hike for the day, stay in a guesthouse along the way, then keep hiking to a point where the trail meets the road and take a bus back to town. The gorge is created by the beginning of the Yangtze river, which cuts through huge mountains. The trail is carved into the side of the mountain, and passes by little clusters of houses where the Naxi people farm and raise goats.
There are guesthouses set up by the Naxi people who take in the foreigners who trek the trail and feed them and put them up for the night. I went on my own, as Pri decided to do the one day hike instead of the two day hike. The other tourists who I ended up trekking with were cool peeps, and we had a great time... We hiked over 7 hours the first day, stopping for lunch right before we tackled the infamous "28 bends"- going straight up the mountain!
The Naxi people would amble by from time to time on little ponies, offering rides to anyone who couldn't take it anymore. Dinner was well-deserved, and we passed out after taking a brief look at the night sky, where you could see so many stars the sky looked cloudy! There was the milky way, so immense, and every star twinkling- what a moment.
We started out the next morning rather late- after a lazy breakfast, and watching them slaughter the pig... yes, this is life! The pig was probably well over 300 lbs, and took 6 men to hold it down. They poured boiling water over it to scrape off the hair... And we took off on the next leg of the hike.
I left my hiking partners behind at lunch, because I had to reach the road before 4 or 5pm. They were going to spend another night up in the mountains- so lucky! Pri and I had to catch an overnight bus back to Kunming so she could fly to Hong Kong and I could meet up with Tanque and fly to Xishuangbanna the next day... More travel with stinky feet blankets, ugh.
The final leg of my hike was glorious- I didn't encounter a single person. At one point I thought I heard voices yelling... but it turned out to be the goats bleating. The trail wound around windy precarious rocky pathways, high above the river. I saw a waterfall from afar, and as I approached I realized I actually had to walk through it! There was a temple up there too. Nepalese flags flew above the trail, leading up a stone stairway to a red door set in a stone wall. The door was shut but not locked, and I opened it, feeling like I was trespassing, but I knew that temples are usually open to everybody. Inside were larger than lifesize statues of gods- I'm not really sure which ones. There was incense, and cushions to kneel on. There were pots and kitchen stuff too- it looked like people might cook up there from time to time as well. Water trickled from a pipe, making a nice trickling sound. It was surreal, especially me being alone. I couldn't stay long, because I wasn't really sure what time that bus left.
It turned out that I missed the bus! By 10 minutes! I had to comission a mini-bus to take me back- at least there was one available and the driver was cool- she bought me a coke and drove very safely.
Once I got back to the hostel, Mama Naxi gave me and Pri little necklaces, a bag of oranges, kissed us on both cheeks and sent us off to the bus station.
Whew! No time to breathe!
We arrived in Kunming at maybe 6 in the morning, but nobody woke us up until like 8- everybody on the bus was still in the bus sleeping! Luckily it didn't smell as bad as the last one, probably because it was less than half full- thank god!
So, we met up with Tanque, and bade farewell to Pri- she was off to Hong Kong, and we left for Xishuangbanna, where the weather was supposed to be in the upper 20s...