I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I elected to hike through Tiger Leaping Gorge on the old Southwest Silk Road. We started in Lijiang ("the Beautiful Waters") of Yunnan Province, China. By the bus stop, there was an alley market. "We need food," she said to me. "Put these bananas and mandarins in your backpack." It wasn't one or two; it was a huge bunch of bananas and a big bag of mandarins.
“They won't fit,” I said. "There's too much in my backpack already. Plus, it'll be too heavy."
"Doesn't matter," she said. "We need these. Make'em fit."
I followed the order and stuffed them in my pack. Then I wandered up and down the alley wondering how this was going to go with a bunch of heavy fruit on my back.
It was okay. I was going to be okay. That is, until about ten hours later after hiking all day under the unforgiving sun. There was little shade. By 8pm, I was so glad to have discovered this guesthouse dangling over the side of the canyon, a few thousand feet above where the Jinsha River cuts and scours the bottom of the gorge. I heard a story of ten whitewater rafters attempting to float the gorge. Two made it; they others were taken by the raging waters. Everything about Tiger Leaping Gorge is intense, unless you're sitting inside a guesthouse. But even then, the night wind shakes and howls with so much incredible force that you start to wonder whether or not you're gonna make it into tomorrow.