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Himalaya

Day 76: Shigu to the Tiger Leaping Gorge

Yunnan, China 
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Lunch break overlooking Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Michael Palin - HimalayaNo sooner has Da Yu's carefully placed mountain done its work than the river is flung into the thrashing, frothing, unbelievably turbulent passage of a 13,000-foot (3960 m) ravine known as Tiger Leaping Gorge. Despite the fact that the escaping tiger that gave it its name would have had to leap a half-mile or more to cross it, legend is as important as fact in China and this is the name by which it is known, loved and increasingly visited.

At Quiaotou, a few miles downstream from Shigu, they're pushing an ambitious new road through the gorge. This will be the easy option: the Low Road, but we're going to walk the High Road, a trekker's trail that clings to the sheer side of the mountain. Our guide, Li Yuan, is a tall, stooped figure with close-cropped, greying hair and a livid scar running down one side of his face. He has six horses to carry our equipment. They're waiting patiently on the edge of town, tiny specks beside an army of bulldozers and earth movers. Adding a touch of surreality, women of the local Yi minority step daintily through the rubble on their way to market, dressed in sweepingly long, bright dresses, huge silver earrings and square, black hats, perched, like mortarboards, on the back of their heads.

We purchase tickets for the two-day walk from a small tourist centre beside which is a map of where we're going and a warning in English that 'Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the most dangerous gorges in the world which is not convenient to sail', before concluding poetically, 'However there is a kind of beauty making of magnificence tugging of people's heartstrings'.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 76: Shigu to the Tiger Leaping Gorge
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Quiaotou
  • Book page no: 178

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