Originally published on World Nomads.
Sweat decants from my body and evaporates in seconds. It seems the Chinese sun in spring wasn’t so gentle.
Trailing through Southwest China’s Tiger Leaping Gorge has long bridged the extremes of impeccable beauty and formidable risk, 3700 metres deep worth of it. The gorge’s peculiar name derives from a legend; a tiger that once ran from a hunter leaped over the gorge to escape his pursuit, and prevailed.
Red words painted onto the side of an abandoned, lonesome shed greet me. ‘Prepare to tackle the 28 bends!’ Uncertainty quickly swamped me.
Amidst a vast bamboo forest, I breathe in unalloyed air. Sticks and small rocks crunch beneath my boots, as I follow a path of continuous steps. They range from 20 centimetres and one metre in depth. Relying on rhythm is non-existent. I do not dare to let my focus to slip; otherwise I gamble falling into the rampaging waters of the Jinsha River.
My body starts performing trickeries. I climb and each breath robs my mouth of moisture, the air grows more and more dense. I am tired and fantasise of submerging my head in the waters below.
Gallant steeds trot past my weakening self, teasing me with their strength. I come face to face with a local Naxi man whose face was cracked, withered by the countless amount of journeys through the gorge. He friendlily urges me to hop on his horse. Heavy temptation clashes my fatigue, but I gesture to him to pass so I can proceed.
How many hours have passed I wonder, one, maybe two? I am now tired and confused. My quadriceps quiver ferociously. Why have you chosen to put yourself through this, you never hike! The final ounce of my rational mind tells me there is only one option, up.
Suddenly a jangling chorus of bells erupts. A trip of goats plotter past me merrily, at least 30 of them. Inspired by their comical charm a husky laugh escapes me.
I stop to stretch, I glance up and notice the shadows from the trees begin to diminish. I eagerly quicken my pace, yearning to reach the final bend.
I emerge onto a protruding platform and stare vacantly at rows of multi-coloured flags. They signal achievement, celebration.
As I walk further out, the Jinsha’s waters are echoed by the air. Pure relief seeps from me in the form of tears. Every single angle of the 180 degree panorama before me is striking. I meet with an endless vista framed with a myriad of overlapping mountains. Snow-tipped, they defy the power of the sun.
To see the world, I had to climb.