Monday, April 25, 2005

The Gorge - Part 2

The next morning I woke up refreshed and thankfully free of any ailments, though slightly tired and annoyed by having been woken up in the middle of the night by the rather unneeded headache. A wonderful breakfast and some morning mountain air that breathed new life into me instead of taking it away was all I needed. The three of us left the Naxi Guesthouse and headed onward, following the gradually inclining slope of the highline path until we reached the 28 Bends.

The Bends are a series of grueling switchbacks that snake up to an altitude close to 8000ft. I would have complained but that would have required using air that my lungs decided they'd rather have instead. As we were planning on spending another night on trail at a guesthouse near the end, we didn't feel any need to rush. Still, we were quite anxious to get the seemingly unnecessary torture behind us, and we heard the night before by a couple Australians heading the other way that the trail levelled out after the Bends. But they told quite a tall tale or two and we would wait to see for ourselves.

The trail levelled out after the Bends. Able to breathe, talk and walk at the same time, we sailed through the rest of the day's hike, winding along the curving mountain face high above the river, which became increasingly turbulent and louder as the day went on. A waterfall showering the path late afternoon graciously cooled us down while the nearby goats would have none of it. I guess they can stand at impossible angles on a mountain face -- as long as the rocks are dry.

Another night at a guesthouse, Sean's, another night of delicious Chinese food and beers under the almost full moon, another day free of yellow hats. The rest of the trail the following day mostly followed the road, which felt like butter under our tired feet, until it meandered into a new village, creatively called New Village, and down some rocky slopes to the ferry which took three tired but satisfied hikers on their way back to the crowded alleys, waving flags and dried yak meat of Li Jiang.


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