My friend and I (both mid- to late-50s) are thinking of hiking TLG in late Oct. It seems that most people get a minivan in Lijiang to Qiaotao, hike to mid-gorge, overnight in a guesthouse there, and return to Qiaotao the next day. The hardest part is to pass through the 28 bends on the first day. Though we do do sports, we rarely hike, and so are a little worried about the 28 bends (once we hiked down the steep steps of Zhangjiajie from the top to the bottom for some 3 hours to avoid the cable car/bus queues, our legs became so soar the next day that we could do only half the planned hike the next day). We've been thinking of doing a tour with Sean's guesthouse which bypasses the 28 bends, but we've read some uncomplimentary reports concerning it, so we want to explore alternative options. Hence, our questions are:
1. Can we take the minivan from Lijiang directly to a mid-gorge guesthouse, hike around mid-gorge, overnight there, and then head back to Qiaotao the next day? This means we'll be hiking down the 28 bends instead of up.
2. Or are there ponies which we can hire from Qiaotao to take us to the top of the 28 bends?
Would be grateful for advice concerning the above.