Noilly Prattle: China – Winter 2016 (Tiger Leaping Gorge)

Saturday, July 30, 2016

China – Winter 2016 (Tiger Leaping Gorge)

bridge to the Shangri La side of the Yangtze River
Whiplash Express
    We were so impressed with Nongbu, our guide to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, that we engaged him again for another eco-tour to a gorge on the Upper Yangtze River called Tiger Leaping Gorge. Nongbu picked us up at our hotel in Shuhe at 8:45 a.m. for the 2-hour drive to the gorge. The first hour was on a relatively fast and smooth tollroad until we arrived at a point on the Yangtze where a bridge crossed over to the Shangri La (from the Li Jiang) side of the river. We didn't cross the bridge but continued straight ahead on a road whose condition I can only call the Whiplash Express.

terrace farming along Whiplash Express
        This road was partially under reconstruction and in a condition that was partly dirt road, partly broken asphalt, and potholes some of which were full of water. We were jostled and thrown around the rear seat of the van for the better part of an hour (try taking photographs), passing through old towns and wide vistas of terraced farming and always the Yangtze river that we were riding parallel to. It was hard to believe that this was the only route to a well known tourist attraction, yet there it was. I have to say, though, that arriving at your destination this way makes you appreciate it all the more.

        We finally arrived at the entrance to the Upper Gorge. This course is relatively easy for older folks like us. There is a 2.7 km. path cut into the cliff along the river that is wide, smooth enough, on a level without ups and downs to hamper easy strolling and a chain rail for psychological security. The scenery (especially rock textures) becomes increasingly spectacular as you walk along, first the smooth flowing river and, as the gorge narrows, increasingly squeezed into a narrower channel with white water rapids beginning to occur. There are a couple spots along the path where tunnels were dug into the rock to circumvent dangerous passages where rocks can fall and there have been a few deaths according to Nongbu.

 . . . go around rockslides 

tunnel cut to . . . 

        The Upper Gorge is a popular tourist attraction of both sides of the river. On the Shangi La side there is a relatively short hike from the parking lot above, but it consists of some 600 steps. Coming down isn't bad, but going back up, I hear, is a bitch. We, being on the Li Jiang side only had a relatively short set of steps to negotiate since the approach path is much lower than the Shangri La side where you can get to the gorge by motor vehicle. On our side to have to walk the 2.7 km., but the climb down to the rapids is much easier.

Li Jiang (our) side

Shangri La side (600 steps to climb down and UP)

        The river is low at this time of the year so the water was blue green in color. When the snow melts later in the spring the river rises and turns yellow and submerges some of the rocks in the main gorge that are visible today. After oohing and aahing and taking I-was-there photos we walked the 2.7 km. back to the entrance, and took the van for the outbound run along Whiplash Express (which hadn't improved over the inbound run).

Tiger Leaping Upper Gorge

the fabled tiger leaping across the gorge

the lunch
traditional kitchen
       Soon we stopped at a local restaurant in the shadow of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain that was run by some friends of Nongbu's and ate a delicious lunch. In fact, the best meals we had during our entire stay in the region were had at Nongbu's friends' restaurants which were included in his very reasonable tour prices.

in the shadow of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

pear blossoms
         I mentioned in previous posts that we wanted to see some pear tree orchards after seeing some photographs at an exhibition in Dali without any success. Nongbu may have heard us talking about this because he took us along winding rural roads through the Lashi Lake region of farmlands and fruit orchards on our way to Ziyunshi Tibetan monastery. Spring had come to the valley with flowers and fruit trees in full bloom. Particularly beautiful were the pear tree orchards (which we finally got to see) with their branches ablaze in white flowers.
field of Rape Blossoms in the Lashi Lake valley

Ziyunshi Tibetan Monastery
        Ziyunshi Tibetan monastery (like the Chongsheng Temple in Dali) was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and rebuilt with private donations and some 20 or 30% funding from the government. It is a concrete replica of the original, very colorful in red and yellow and gold. It is reached by climbing numerous steps as it is on a mountainous site (as are many Buddhist temples), and commands a wide panoramic view of the Lashi valley below.

Lashi Lake valley from Ziyunshi Monastery

the high lama Gamba
Dapeng Bird - a Dongba deity
resembles a Balinese Garuda Bird
        We learned from Nongbu, who is both a Tibetan Buddhist and a practitioner of the ancient Naxi religion called Dongba (he claims it is 18,000 years old), that there are different kinds of Tibetan Buddhism designated by colors. I noticed that there were no pictures of the Dalai Lama and asked him why. He gave two answers: one, that the Dalai Lama is a “Yellow” Buddhist and the local high lama here (called Gamba something I couldn't quite catch) is a “White” lama; the second was that probably the government doesn't permit mention or images of the Dalai Lama (a political topic I didn't care to pursue). 

Garuda - Bali c. 1983

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