Going down seems like it would be easier than up. That’s the hope that keeps you going up in the first place. Yet, going downhill I found myself perpetually in the rear of the group, often on my own rear. I managed to slip and slide all the way down to Tina’s Guesthouse.
Tina’s is still located high above the gorge. From there, you have the option of heading straight down, deep into the gorge, and viewing Tiger Leaping Rock.
Tiger Leaping Gorge gets its name because long ago a villager witnessed a tiger leaping across the river from a rock on the north side. From the width of the river, it must have been quite a tiger. And that may be why you don’t see many tigers in this part of Yunnan anymore.
We had been told by yesterday’s bus driver that the bus would leave Tina’s for Shangri-La at 4:30pm. Arriving at Tina’s we learned it had been moved up to 2:30, meaning there wasn’t enough time to descend the gorge and see the rock. Here the group split. Three of the four Dutchies, who were on a tight schedule, managed to work out a compromise with the driver to delay the bus. They double-timed it down the rock and back, a feat I would not have been physically capable of.
The remaining five of us decided to spend an extra night and took our time descending.
One thing we noticed about Tiger Leaping Gorge, especially this part of it….
Even though you pay before you enter the gorge, there are locals every few yards with signs claiming that this part of the trail is maintained by such-and-such village and you are required to pay an extra fee, not included in your entrance fee. And it’s difficult to determine which of these checkpoints are legitimate, or if you should set up your own sign at a random point and make your money back.
Other hikers spoke to us of being chased and beaten with sticks if they didn’t pay up. We rarely got to witness such excitement. There was one sign that said if you take a picture at this point, you have to pay. Jeff and I didn’t take pictures, so we passed on. The others told us the old lady at the checkpoint went ballistic; they quelled her wrath by buying bananas.
The path to Tiger Leaping Rock was particularly laden with fees. For taking this path, for crossing that bridge, for climbing to this viewpoint or standing on this or that rock. It turned out there were two Tiger Leaping Rocks, or at least signs with conflicting information, perhaps two local clans jousting for tourist booty.
The fees were small, but by this point we were ‘fee’d out. Instead of taking the bridge to one of the Tiger Leaping Rocks, some of us climbed over boulders to the middle of the river and sat on a smaller rocks. (I proclaimed mine Lizard Leapin’ Rock.)
We took a group portrait and steeled ourselves for the journey back up the gorge.