The rock that the famous Tiger leapt from to cross the Gorge is about two thirds of the way across the Yangtze River. To get to it, you need to go down. Which means you need to come back up. This isn’t like the Great Wall at Badaling. There’s no cable car, no toboggan run (apparently there is there..) and the 65 Yuan you paid to get into the Tiger Leaping Gorge Area doesn’t cover this area.
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There are three ways down to the river and the rock. Each was created and is maintained by a different family, if the signs and stories are to be believed. The government does not maintain these trails (mind you, it doesn’t appear to maintain the Upper Trail either, but that’s by the by).
The first route is easy to find, after leaving Tina’s Hostel turn right, head down the road until you see the signs, and until someone wants money off you to go down the trail and you’re there. For 15 Yuan, you get access to this trail, called the Sky Ladder. The second way down is a little further down the road, but we never saw anyone manning this. We went down the third, which is yet further down the road, but not as far as the hamlet of Walnut Garden where we’d stayed at the Tibet Guest House. There’s a brick built building with WC on it. There’s also a sign, telling you why you need to pay and that day there was a guy in a minivan saying it was him we had to pay.
Welcome to China. Not, for the paying, which I have no issue with, but for the randomness of a dude in a van asking for payment, for which there is no receipt.
The trail down was long, windy and well maintained. Steps made of boulders and rocks, no slipping and sliding down mud like we did yesterday. At the bottom, a trail cut into the rock as we followed the river upstream to another checkpoint. If we want to use the Sky Ladder, then it was built by this next family and we have to pay, otherwise we have to turn around and go back the way we’ve come.
As we haven’t yet reached the famous rock, we have no alternative but to pay, even though we’d planned to actually return the same way we walked down. We make it to the river, past two or three covered seating areas where we can buy Red Bull, Ganja, cucumbers on sticks and beer. At the river, there’s the opportunity to cross a bridge – made and maintained by family number three for 10 Yuan.
We’ve come this far, I say to Nigel, viewing the torrent of floodwater raging under the bridge, that I’m convincing myself is reasonably stable, and it’s only 10 Yuan. (US $1.50). So of course, we walk across the bridge, stand in the middle of the river on the famous rock imagining that the river is rising rapidly with each crash and surge.
This is a very different river from when we cruised on the Yangtze River which you can read about here.
We’re eyeing the time as we saunter, now nonchalantly back across the bridge, swaying quite vigorously with two of us on it, it took us 50 minutes to walk from the road to the rock, we have a bus to catch at 3:30pm and our bags are still at the Tibet GH. Worse, between us and our bags is the Sky Ladder.
I have no real idea what the Sky Ladder is, because we weren’t planning on going this way. But it’s now our way back up, so we head uphill. This makes the 28 bends look easy. Using boulders and cut into the rock, there are cables to help you go up. They’re slippery, but at least it’s not raining. We arrive at another shack. We’re waiting for two people to come down.
They’re Westerners, we fall on them rabidly. How long is the ladder? How many ladders are there? How long did it take you to get down? How far is Tina’s?
It’s almost disappointing to discover that there’s one ladder. And that it took them perhaps 40 minutes to get here from Tina’s. I feel we might make our bus after all.
The ladder is now a metal almost vertical ladder – it’s just a few degrees off vertical. There are two metal bars across for your feet. Perhaps 18 inches in between each “step”, and there are vertical metal poles for your hands. Wooden stakes, and occasional metal bars hold the ladder off the hillside. Behind the metal ladder you can see a previous incarnation. Two metal wires, with wooden steps attached. No handrail in sight. I’m happy for evolution.
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70 feet later and I’m climbing over the top, seeing the red painted sign at the top that tells me that I could have taken the “Safe Route” instead of the Ladder. Safe, I find doesn’t make the heart beat quite so fast.
A metal ladder, more boulder steps, horse-donkey poo mud and about 20 horses tied waiting for the tourist who needs a ride to the top await us – but 50 minutes after leaving the rock we’re back at the road and heading back for more Tibetan Cheese Hotpot, which is now my burning reason to ensure that we do visit Tibet in the future.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China
If you like visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites, then our guides to these Chinese World Heritage sites will be useful
- How to Visit Huanglong National Park [the Yellowstone of China]
- Discover Xian’s Terracotta Army
- How to Visit Kunming, Shilin and Dali
- How to Visit The Great Wall of China – [Independent Public Transit Route]
- The Forbidden City of Beijing
- The Historic Center of Macau
- Jiuzhaigou National Park
- Huangshan National Park and Sacred Mountain
- Wulingyuan and the Zhangjiajie National Park
- The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries
- Tiger Leaping Gorge
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