Relief. We woke up feeling fine. As if yesterday had never happened. Just in case, we didn’t hurry off, but relaxed on the terrace at the guesthouse, drinking coffee and eating breakfast. Also, it was drizzling until 10:00am, so we waited for the weather to improve. So, like yesterday, we started late, but today’s walk was shorter and less strenuous.
Estimates from Tea Horse to the Middle Gorge range from three to four hours, and we found it took us closer to the longer end of the scale. The first two and a half hours were fairly flat. Like Day 1, there were some great views, but it was not quite as spectacular as yesterday. Maybe we had gotten used to the scenery?
But there was a waterfall! The stepping stones in the pool were obviously placed for tall people. I had some trouble and nearly stuck my foot in the water. It’s not deep, but it would not have been pleasant to hike with wet socks.
There are many encouraging signs painted on rocks along the way, mostly in English (did I mention that this hike is most popular among backpackers?) Homemade apple pie and a hot shower do sound pretty good….
The last hour was downhill, but there’s a lot of scoria and the path is steep, so it was slow going. While it was much easier on the lungs than yesterday, it was harder on the ankles. Luckily the rain had been too light to make the path slippery, but strong enough to dampen the sand and prevent it from filling the air when the wind blew. In wet weather, I think this part would be the toughest.
The path ends when it rejoins the “low road,” the paved road we had left behind back in Qiaotou. When we got there, we found several guesthouses and cafes, whose names we recognized from the boulder-signs. We opted to stay at one called Tina’s Guesthouse, which is HI-affiliated and offered a 20% discount for members. Score! This is certainly the best view I’ve ever had for US$3.25 per night:
This area is called the Middle Gorge, which is considered the most scenic. As such, many tourists opt to just drive to this point, without doing the hike. It is a very beautiful spot… but not seeing the view from the top of the cliff would be such a shame. It would be like seeing the Grand Canyon from the middle of the gorge, and not from the top like in all the postcard pictures.
On Day 3: we hike down all the way to the river itself! We’ve seen the view from 3000 meters up, now we’ll see it from 0 (or as close as possible.)