When I decided to do this trail, I had no idea what a gorge is. I pronounced it as George! While in LiJiang, I had a lazy thought to skip TLG because exerting in high altitudes sucks big time. I’m glad I didn’t though – it’s easily the best part of my trip!
To those who think that TLG is a fussy, needs-too-many-arrangements kind of trek,fear not, it’s quite simple and straight forward. Your knees would not love you for this, but if I am honest, this trek is really quite easy. Maybe it’s the breathtaking views every step of the way?
The 28 bends can be quite a killer, but the bends are now numbered (on the rocks with red paint)! Surprisingly, this made it that much easier knowing the sufferings I was imposing on my myself were numbered. Read on to find out more about my hike. I was dropped in a restaurant in Qiaotou by my tour guide.
From here, you can choose to walk (that’s what they say, but this is ridiculous, I strongly advise against this because it’s hot and you’ll be tired before you even start the hike) or take a ride with a cab/ hitchhike etc. I paid about 7 yuan for my ride to Jane’s Guesthouse from Qiaotou town with a woman in her van.
Next, I continued walking towards the TLG hike gate which was about 500m away. Upon arrival at the gate, you’ll see another guesthouse offering maps etc ( I believe they offer the same services as Jane’s). And up up up you go. The trail starts off with white roads mostly, and the heat got to me quite a bit. Mostly uphill and keep to the white roads for as long as you can until you see a signboard saying ‘Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge’, then follow the red arrows. But on the front part there will be no signboards, here make sure you go on the white roads all the time. I took a wrong trail and it lead me to a patch of cabbage I nearly ruined.
When I was just a little into the trail, a woman shouted at me and my friends, on top of what I fear to be her lungs. It was scary and the worst part was I did not get a thing she was screaming at me. Neither did my Mandarin speaking friends.
I have however heard of a certain Mama Naxi that interacted with hikers through her balcony. But she was supposed to be friendly and caring so I’m not so sure. Let me know who do you think she is in the comments!
For the first 2 hours of the hike, it’s quite flat (say 20-30 degrees slant) then at the 28 bends, it’s about 60 degrees slant.
After 2 hours of hike from Jane’s Guesthouse, you’ll reach the Naxi Family Guesthouse.
The horrible part of this trek is all mental. Mostly, you wonder where the 28 Bends is. I remember thinking that we were at the bends whenever the trek got slightly hard. And I was positively sure I was done with it until I saw the real thing itself.
So let me be clear with you, the 28 Bends are not bends that curves left and right. They go up and up. And if the sight of the trail doesn’t take your breath away (with fear for your heart and thighs), you are not there yet.
Along the way, you’ll meet some locals and of course your curiosity will get the better of you and you’ll pop the question – “How long more does it take to get there?” . Chances are the people you meet will exaggerate, for example :
I stopped to ask how long will it take to get to the 21 Bends and a woman replied ”1 hour, but it’ll be faster with a horse”. I walked for about 30-40 minutes and asked again, this time the stranger said another hour! Don’t be disheartened by their replies, they only want to get you on their horse.
There will be many stickers saying who and who was/were here and you’ll see something like this.
Then, you’re about 10 minutes away from the gruesome bends. You will know the first bend when you’re there. There’s also the number 1 sprayed in red on a rock, which will continue for the whole 28 bends even though not every bend is numbered. I remember seeing 1,2,16,21 and 28.
After the 21 bends, the trail is flat (not going up at all) and resembles more of a tropical rain forest rather than the previous rocky mountains. If it rains ( it was drizzling continuously when we were hiking), the trail can get quite muddy/slippery so it’s a good idea to wear shoes with good grip. Some parts of our trail were blocked by fallen trees and some part of the trail also fell off!
I’ve got no more photos of this because at this point, I was just trying to get to my stop for the night safely.
After the 28 Bends, it took us approximately 2 more hours to get to the Tea Horse Guesthouse. This includes walking at a fast pace (because it was getting dark) but stopping by at a few spots for photos. The last 2 hours were not tiring at all.
The dorm beds at the Tea horse Guesthouse set me back by 30 yuan a night. The food in the canteen was also very good, a bowl of piping hot noodle (serves 2!) costs only 12 yuan. Here’s my review on the Tea Horse Guesthouse.
My next post will be on TLG Day 2. Be prepared for some awesome photographs and mind blowing scenes!
Have you been to TLG in China? Or are you making plans to go? Drop me a comment below as I like to know!
Feel free to ask me questions too.
Till the continuation of this adventure,