World Class in China: Lijiang and the Yangtze
After 23 hours of travel from Los Angeles, CA, World Class Academy touched down at the airport in Lijiang. They were met with blue skies and crisp air blowing across the 9,000 ft. plateau. This is the home of the mighty Yangtze River and the former empire of the Naxi people. At one point Genghis Khan crossed the river here and came into Lijiang. The stones in old town might have seen his passing. World Class was met by Last Descents founder Travis Winn and the WCA marketing director Adam Elliott, two of the main organizers in the academy’s 2 month exploration of China’s three main waterways in the Yunnan province: Yangtze, Mekong, and Salween.
Driving into the old part of Lijiang is a magical experience, especially for those who have never been to China before. Wood buckets of live fish sat outside restaurants. Carts of strawberries and purple colored coconuts were being sold in the streets. Red banners with gold letters fluttered in the cold breeze welcoming in the Chinese New Years. This is the year of the dragon, a good omen for river runners. World Class entered the old city and began the exploration of this 2,000 year old town. Hiking up to the Elephant Hill, students and staff looked down upon the valley and the 19,000 ft Jade Dragon Mountain. Wrapping around this mountain to the North is the Great Bend section of the Yangtze River, World Class’s first goal of the trip. Packing up for the 9-day trip, excitement rippled through the group. What awaited us in the gorge? Tomorrow we leave to see. China has welcomed us.