Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 7 - Three Gorges and Sampan Rides

After the sauna that was the day before, it was nice to wake up to moderate temperatures and relatively clear skies.  Of course, the haze set in after breakfast, making everything look mystical and magical to those of an optimistic nature, and smoggy and polluted to those who were not quite so.  The boat made a brief stop at Baidicheng before entering the Qutang Gorge, the first of the Three Gorges.  Our cruise director said that the Baidicheng stop was mostly for Chinese tourists, and since it cost extra we decided not to go ashore.  I later regretted this, as Baidicheng would have been interesting to see!

Instead we stayed on the ship and took pictures of the entrance of the gorge.


The sheer cliffs and size of the gorge was amazing to be sure.  What fascinated me was the gale force wind that hit us as we entered the gorge!  It was so strong that it made my eyes dry out instantly, and water copiously for the duration of the gorge!

As we sat there enjoying the view and the air, we remembered that we had hung clothes out to dry on the little patio just off the rooms!  I had a pair of shorts, some socks, and a few pair of underwear draped about on the chairs and such.  Remarkably none of us lost an article of clothing!  We brought our clothes in for the next two gorges!
Since we were heading downstream, it seemed right to have me in my red shirt on the left, and Jason in his green shirt on the right!
Along the gorge, there were smaller streams joining up with the river, making little gorges of their own.

We left the first gorge and went up to lunch.  During this we made our next port of call.  From here we took smaller boats...
Festively decorated to look like huge dragon boat/tow boat hybrids.   
Along the way we saw fields of sesame, complete with bundles being dried prior to harvesting the seeds we love so much on our hamburger buns.

We also got to see one of the famous 'Hanging coffins' of the gorge.
See it?

For a long time, the Chinese suffered from a serious lack of curiosity about the coffins.  They knew they were old, but nobody really knew how old or why they were there.  Within the last twenty years or so, someone decided to check one out and see how old they were.  They were expecting to find something a few hundred years old.  But when they opened the coffin, they discovered that the person had been buried with artifacts dating back two thousand years!

We took the dragon boats up a smaller tributary to get on sampans and tour the Lesser Three Gorges. 

This was a series of high cliffs and hills rising up from the narrow tributary we travelled, giving amazing views and scenery.  I'll let the pictures speak for our experience...

The sampan driver showed us what used to be traditional garb for them. 
Fashionable rain cape and hat woven from Yak hair.  Traditionally, they only wore a loincloth otherwise, and the boats were powered by long bamboo poles.  Now they had the blue pajamas and outboard motors.  Our driver was also quite the singer, and regaled us with a song about working hard and missing his love.  Jason tried on the rain gear too, but didn't sing a song for us.
 All along the way, the hills got steeper and steeper, prettier and prettier, and... well...

You get the picture.

This guy was playing a horn of some sort.

Which the guide said he did all day every day, playing for tips. Of course, nobody ever did tell us how he gets the tips!

Then it was back on the dragon boats...

and back to the ship.

Rather dramatically, I might add!
Back on the ship, we headed into the second gorge, The Wu Gorge.  At 45 KM, it is the second longest.  There were amazing views.

And of course - the wind!

We passed by Goddess Peak, where if you look closely, you can see what looks like a figure standing on the mountain.  This is the River Goddess who brings luck to all who pass here.

See her yet?

Here you go!

We saw a great variety of boats, including the very rocket ship like hydrofoils that cruised up and down past us.
There were many caves.

Enough for any spelunker to stay busy for years. 
There were also on board classes and shopping and such, but we mostly just stayed on the top deck and watched the scenery roll by!

As the sun set, we passed the city of Badong.  The whole city was relocated (along with a great many others) to high ground after the Three Gorges Dam was finished and the water level rose 176 meters. (About 577 feet, or a bit less than two football fields.)

The crew did a show again that night, sort of a talent show.  It was fun.  One of the highlights was a Szechuan Mask dance that one of the guys did.  I didn't take my camera, but I think Dad got it on video, so I'll re post this if I can get it.  The mask dance is a part of Szechuan Opera, and I would have loved to see that!  I also didn't get pictures of the food on the ship.  By this point in the tour, it was obvious that the food we got would be pretty safe, western style Chinese food.  Although the food on board was some of the best we had on the trip!
Tomorrow we would see the dam in all its glory, and we would also get off the boat and head for Shanghai. 

More Later

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