- I've seen some beautiful things in the past few days. We've been following the Yangtze river down one of its bends through one of China's natural heritage sites, the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Perhaps foolishly, I haven't asked any of our guides why it was named thus, or if there is a specific story behind its name.
- The country has been beautiful, I've taken a ton of photos, some of them much better than others. No camera can adequately capture what I've been exposed to over the past few days. The geography reminds me of home in the American northwest, but the constant existence of hill/terrace agriculture definitely marks it as a place far from home. It's not like a national park that you'd see at home. Farmers whose families have worked this land for generations are still living on the outcroppings above the Yangtze, and the human element is incredibly evident, even among the rugged terrain.
- I've had my first experience with a third-world reality over these past few days. Our guesthouses (essentially hostels) where we've been staying generally have electricity, but the grids that power these mountain residences can be really unreliable and lose power. Yesterday, I had access to a public computer and tried to send out a few emails, but we lost power both times during the night. We still didn't have power when we left the next morning. It' was interesting as I watched from the house's veranda the farmers working on their different terraces below. In the west, electricity is virtually omnipresent in our lives. But for these farmers, who have had elecricity for less than 10 years, it's still a novelty that provides occasional convenience. It's a striking difference, and something I reflected on when the entire gorge went dark around 11pm.
- The next morning we had what I would call a "real" hike compared to what we had been doing over the past few days. We climbed up the gorge across 28 super-steep switchbacks. It was managable (even though I was carrying an extra pack from one of the girls), and I felt like I had finally burned off some of the rice that I've been eating since I got here. In a semi-ironic moment, we were also solicited to buy Marajuana from some locals who had set up a little convenience shop selling water and energy bars. It was on the table right next to the food. The sales-lady (who spoke no english) evidently thought that we'd be good candidates and excitedly shouted "Ganja!" and "Marajuana!" at us until we started moving again.
- The outcropping that we climbed to was scenic to say the least. It's not really something that I can describe in words. I'll have to do my best with pictures when I get back. Evidently the locals felt that way too, and to our amusement/annoyance a local angrily attempted to bar us from leaving with a wooden gate until we paid her 30RMB/person. This is blatantly illegal (as we already paid a fee to enter the gorge) and was a really strange experience. Our guide gave her a token amount of 30RMB for all of us. I guess he was trying to protect his relationship with the locals. It was an interesting example of how ecotourism and its management is evolving in China. The fact that this kind of thing was going on made me wonder if this was due to a lack of governmental experience in the operation of natural sites like this one. The lack of enforcement might have been testament to this fact. Litter and improper disposal of trash is another huge problem.
- In other news, we'll be leaving the gorge in the morning and travelling to Zhongdian for a few days. We've been granted Tibet permits, but some Tibetan Buddhist monks self-immolated in downtown Lhasa a few days ago. This may affect our access to the country, so things are still uncertain but we're still on track to go there for now.
The Tiger Leaping Gorge
a guest Jul 8th, 2012 12 Never
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