Tiger Leaping Gorge

Nicholas Quirke really looking forward to a day driving 300 km through the mountains on 3 May 2021 from Shangri-La to Lijiang another ancient city in Yunnan Province where they would get a plane in the evening to their final destination, the tropical Xishuangbanna in the south which, bordered Myanmar and Laos. The views on the drive were continuously breathtaking and the peak of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Yulongshan 玉龙雪山, continually showed its towering massif above of the yulong Mountains, that stretch further north. The northwestern flank of the massif forms one side of the Tiger Leaping Gorge (Hutiao Xia, 虎跳峡), which they were stopping at en-route. They gorge is a scenic canyon on the Jinsha River, a primary tributary of the upper Yangtze. Legend has it that the name comes from a hunted tiger escaping by jumping across the river at the narrowest point (still 25 metres (82 ft) wide), using the rock in the middle. And as they arrived images of the beast prevailed. Getting into the national park was a laborious and difficult process with long traffic queues formed. Though once through the red tape it was surprisingly unpopulated. Before descending the gorge to the gushing river he visited the lavatory which, is note worthy as a wide open window along the top of the pissoirs presented a fabulous view of the gorge and river and has to be the best public toilet he had ever been in. They made it down to the river which lies at is maximum depth approximately 3,790 meters (12,434 feet) from the mountain peak, making it one of the deepest and most spectacular river canyons in the world. The force of the water and the thunderous sound it made was staggering and he was not surprised to learn that the there were no survivors of one attempt to raft down the river in the early 1980’s. He drank in as much of the scenery as possible before continuing the journey to Lijiang where they were headed to get a view of the massif from the gardens at the Black Dragon Pool (Heilong Tan) in Lijiang which is noted as one of China’s finest views. They had time to explore the quaint streets and riverside of the Ancient Lijiang town with a history over 1000 years old. once a confluence for trade along the “Old Tea Horse Caravan Trail”the Old town is famous for its orderly system of waterways and bridges and a gorgeous water wheel. They needed to drop off the rented car at the airport before getting the 7pm flight. It was only an hour and passed quickly and he watched the sun set through the tiny portal. There was a stark contrast to the temperature the moment they disembarked and he immediately thought of the discomfort he had previously suffered in similar climates. They were renting another car to get around but not till the morning and they took a Didi to the hotel, dropped off the luggage and went out into the conveniently close but overcrowded night market to get food. Peng got a dish that was made in front of them but on tasting it he was immediately knocked back by the overpowering spice. It was not often he couldn’t take something hot but he rejected it and was relieved to find a stall selling coconut, plum and watermelon popsicles to cool down his tortured taste buds. With another long day ahead of them they retired to the hotel for a good nights sleep.

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