Hutiaoxia (Tiger leap down) is basically big rock in a narrow stream. The water drops from its source 700 feet above is has an average depth of 131 feet. The gorge itself is 1.4 miles high.
Why the name? The story goes that a tiger leaped down to the rock and back up the other side using the bolder in the river. Like many legends the purpose is not to tell a true story but to give a visual to the visitor. It's something to talk about.
The walk is easy on the Lijiang side. If you visit, use the Lijiang side. (Its on the right side as you drive to the gorge.) Don't use the Shangrila or Zhongdian side. The Lijiang side is less crowded and you don't have to walk down to the lookout and then back up again.
But the walk on the Lijiang side is bit dicey. Rocks regularly fall so you are advised to hug the rock face to the right. The park rangers take this very seriously. If you get curious and start to saunter to the edge, a guard placed every 100 feet with a bullhorn will remind you to keep moving. This means that you can't pause to take pictures. Don't worry, the better shots are at the end anyway. I talked to one local person about this. He said that every year several people die because of falling rocks. Last year an older man from Germany was hit and was killed.
I took these "falling rock" warnings seriously. On the path there was a detour into a hewn tunnel. The reason for the detour was that on the original pathway skirting the mountain was a bolder twelve feet around. Now that would give you a headache. The stone balanced just at the edge of the path. The park is creating more of these tunnels for the ever increasing tourists. The tunnels are safer but, of course, it tends to limit your view of the gorge.
I know you must be worried that we took this path. I mean, if something happened to me, who would write the next blog post on this Travel Journal? What would you read tomorrow? Don't worry, the fact that I'm writing this now is evidence that I survived. Unfortunately, there'll be another post tomorrow.
One of the tunnels was still under construction. There was a worker outside overhauling the compressor. All the parts and pieces were strewn about him on the ground as he squat and hand filed one of the piston rings. We followed a couple inside the tunnel and passed piles of rocks neatly stacked against the wall. There was a concrete smell to the place. When we approached the other side we found that they had just poured a concrete wall to hold the stone walls in place.
Our Naxi woman cab driver sang Naxi songs to us on the way to the gorge. The Naxi people are the largest of the 22 minority groups in Lijiang. (There are 56 in all of China.) They are closely related to the Tibetans. She also bought strawberries (cao3mei2) for us. She understood that we have to stay away from the local water but told us these were okay for us foreigners as they were washed in the rushing river below. They burst with flavor and were ice cold from the water below. She also taught us Chinese words and we taught her some English. She really has a good ear for pronunciation. She said "This is my car" in perfect English after Ruth repeated it the third time.
The taxi ride to Tiger Leaping Gorge was like a ride on a bucking bronco at a rodeo. I hit my head on the side of the door frame from one of the car-sized pot holes we bounced into. Construction steamrollers and dump trucks loaded with rocks clogged the narrow roadway and fought for position on the turns. Buses and taxis don't stand a chance. Heshifu, our cab driver, placed her front bumper on the rear left mud flap of the truck in front of her waiting for an opening to pass. The trucks puffed soot that enveloped our car and swirled in great clouds with the dust from the road. We rolled up the windows but this only trapped the mixture inside and made it hard to breath.
Covered in dust and soot we crashed at 9:00 p.m. We'd been up since 5:30 a.m. It was a long day.
A traveler to distant places should make no enemies. - Nigerian Proverb
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