Tiger Leaping Gorge - Walnut Grove Village
Some people insist on calling this place "Walnut Garden" which is absurd, because you cultivate trees in a grove not a garden. You can have trees in a garden I guess, but a bunch of trees is still... well, it's squares and rectangles again.
Greta and I had a lovely if somewhat terrifying drive up to the gorge in a nice car. The road was as small as you might expect, with stomach hollowing drops, mini land slides, and magical views. We saw the beginnings of a massive high bridge that will soon bring the modern highway over the gorge, carrying the ever growing throngs of
Chinese tourists from Lijiang to Shangri-La. Which village is actually Shangri-La tends to be a much debated topic, but I didn't care - it was all mountainous and magical to me. We gave the official Shangri-La a miss due to the lingering effects of illness and headed into Walnut Grove village, the end of the trail for most folks trekking the gorge.
Our room at Tibet Guest House was cozy enough, but the bathroom made you feel as if tourists were butchered and hung to cure there in the off season. We upgraded to a newer room and it was downright luxurious for a small family-run inn on the side of a canyon. The food was good, although the "restaurant" was simply run by whichever member of the family happened to be near and available when someone was hungry. They also did the laundry, cleaning, and driving to and fro of tourists, so it might take you a minute to grab a bite if you didn't arrive at the the normal dinner time.
But! I saw a woman cook a duck (maybe it was a chicken? I couldn't tell) while holding it with her bare hands over a roaring burner. I tried to take a picture, but it didn't really come out. She is holding the bird in her hands, turning it over and over and moving different parts into the flame (which is much hotter than your average stove burner). It was probably delicious.
The view was indescribable, and all the pictures we took will never do it justice. I felt as if I might fall feet-first across the chasm and raging river below into the sheer cliff rising opposite our room. I wanted to sprout wings and touch those far patches of bamboo jutting out from the rock. Instead, we lounged, read, I played guitar, and we drank this terrible... terrible... I really can't explain how bad it was... "wine." The beer was tasty, but the alcohol content meant we might as well have been drinking flavored, carbonated water. Which was just as well, because it was about the same price.
On the third day we were feeling well enough that we decided to hike the middle trail, which is detailed in another post.
We walked around the small town, played on a bridge that would have given inspectors a stroke, tried the cafe at another guest house, and the tea at a restaurant down the way. It was quiet, idyllic, and really fun. The pigs out back of the restaurant were where you got your pork for dinner. That stuff was not trucked in frozen. We also noticed that not a few cannabis plants were growing with little to no subtlety just outside... I didn't ask. The penalties for smoking are widely disputed and possibly light in comparison to some US states, but I decided that offending the government wasn't worth sampling the local flora.
We relaxed a great deal our last day in Walnut Grove, getting read for our next adventure in Shuhe Ancient Town - a suburb of Lijiang. We were scheduled to stay in a place called "Romantic Homestay" or some such and joked about how very weird it would be. Oh lord, if we had only known...
Fatty gallery of things we saw and did: