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vicino a Hetaoyuan, Yunnan (China)
I stayed at the Tina's Guesthouse. Tina's guesthouse is located along the main road and easily accessible by car It has a decent size car park which also is serving as a bus stop to daily buses taking backpackers between Tina's and Lijiang.
We have arrived at Tina's by car late evening one day before. The drive through the winding unprotected road was a bit scary and we saw few wrecks down the cliff. Signs of fresh landslides partially blocking the road in few locations further raised our hair. On the other hand, views are totally worth it - just drive slow.
I started the hike before the sunrise. Entrance to the trail is just in front of the guesthouse. The path starts steep with a few hundred meters climb. Once you reach the actual train it is very leveled and easy to walk, although in some areas the trail feels little dangerous: it becomes quite narrow in few places, there is one or two waterfalls you need to cross which make the narrow path slippery. You are constantly walking along a steep cliff, but as long as you are careful and don't slip it is not really dangerous. I have seen families with young kids doing the hike.
After about 3.5 hours of vigorous walking i reached my lunch breakfast destination: The Tea Horse Guesthouse. It is more likely to take average hiker 4h or more to make this section, especially if one would take some breaks.
Along this first section I only encountered one group of 3 girls and one Sheppard with a heard of about 30 sheep. After rather long and slow breakfast I set off.
After Tea Horse the road started to climb up a bit all the way to the top of 28 bends. This 1.5h climb takes the path through some forests that are home to the most densely populated colonies of mosquito i have ever encountered. And those mosquitoes are hungry and not going to leave you for hours. I have picked a short twig and kept fanning and smacking my self rhythmically at every step to keep a misquote free breathing zone in front of my face. Honestly this was something i was not prepared for.
At this point forest has cleared out and I have reached to highest point of the hike - to top of the 28 bends. There is a nice viewing rock here, however it is closed with a piece of timber plank. At this point there was a small stand where one local lady was selling fruits, drinks and local ganja. She advised me not to enter the viewing platform as its dangerous, but i still did although i did not dare to go to the edge. It is a spectacular view both directions of the gorge, but it is also a wedge shaped rock projecting away from the mountain, and its edges are vertical drops of few hundred meters. Due to its shape winds are very strong , the width of the rock is quite narrow but it projects quite far and at some point there is nothing to hold on to. All in all it is a little nerve wrecking spot, and i am not surprised there was a plank closing it.
From that point 28 bends have started and also have the crowds. Walking from Tina's to this point apart from one billion of starving mosquito I literally met only handful of people. Except walking short sections of the hike on a dirt roads when crossing villages, the path was actually rather small, wild and natural.
In the next hour or so of my descent however i encounter around 10 western tourists hiking up in couples of alone. I have also unfortunately encounter at lest several groups of mainly Chinese tourists being hoisted up the stair on horses lead by the local guides. Although the 28 bends path is made of concrete, it is still very narrow and only one horse can fit at a time. Those horses are quite easy to get scared and i have to say it doesn't look safe to me at all to be riding them. When met with the first group i have tried to walk by the horse but it got scared and did few rather jerky steps which really freaked me out as in case this horse would loose its grip it would not only got itself rolling down the cliff to its death but also take a tourist riding it with it. From that point i always let the path to horses and stepped away to let them pass - which was quite frustrating as it seemed there is no end to them.
At the bottom of 28 bends there is a Naxi Guesthouse. I have walked into its premises for a moment. It has very nice flowery courtyard and is also accessible by road if you would ever want to stay here. At this point i had a choice to either hike along the path all the way to Qiaotou or descent down to the road along the river and start walking back.
At the end i decided to walk down, which was to my surprise much longer descent than i was expecting. Walking down on concrete steep road was quite hard to the knees. There is also some construction site of some sort as at least several concrete mixer trucks pass by on this narrow road. Looking backwards i think it would be more fun to carry on along the train all the way back to town and take a taxi back instead.
Eventually i reached the main road at the lower area of the gorge and walked along it heading back to Tina. Once crossed the main scenic spot and the tuner there was very little traffic and the walk was quite nice. There is some old path circumnavigating the tunnel, but after about 50m its section has fell down the cliff and it is no longer safe to cross. Also it is completely cut off from reaching the road on the other side of the tunnel - so stay away from it and just walk through the tunnel instead.
After about 8km or so walking along the road and after about 27km of total walking i had a call with my friend who stayed in the Tina's guesthouse for the day and we decided to drive to another scenic spot 70km north. As i still had about 8km to walk i have decided to hitch hike. I let few of the local mini-vans pass and raised my thumb up on the first civilian looking car - which has stopped for me. It was the fasted hitch hiking success in my life.c Not sure if i was lucky or its a norm here - but i was super happy to find a kind people who helped me get back to my guesthouse faster. It was a family of 4 traveling all the way from Chengdu. 15 minutes later i was back at Tina's.