Saturday, 21 February 2009

Drifting Down the Yangtze: Part 2

It was around 7am and cold. Still, we had to get up because this was the time we would be reaching the first of the three Yangtze gorges. After adding layers of clothes and water proof’s we walked out of the cabin and into the gloom of outside. With the rain pounding down, the sun still rising and the mist thick the ship was reaching Xiling Gorge. Xiling is the gorge you will see in all the promotional pictures and adverts relating to cruising down the Yangtze. Unfortunately, due to the water level rising, it has lost some of its scale and is no longer quite so impressive. It's still far from shabby though.

Later that day we reached Wuxia Gorge. The entrance to the gorge was less impressive than Xiling but the landscape was much more dramatic. I ran from one of the ship to the other trying to take it all in. Any disappointment over the first gorge was quickly forgotten in this rugged landscape. Two gorges passed through we stopped by a smaller tributary.

Here we transferred into smaller boats and headed up towards Shennong Stream. Arriving at the entrance to the stream we moved to even smaller fishing boats and, under the power of ores, our journey began.

The Shennong Stream is a remarkably beautiful and serene place with its caves and rolling hills. Being in boats (barely) floating so close to the water made the experience all the more magical. Every now and then a race would break out between the different boats. Our oarsmen were by far the best and beat every challenger with our chants of encouragement.

One final race proved to be a step to far for our little wooden boat. The rudder literally came away in one of the oarsman’s hands and we drifted back to the dock.The adventure over, we headed back to the cruise ship.

Later that night we passed through the Three Gorges Damn. Moving into the massive locks was certainly impressive. It seemed to swallow us up like some huge, man made, sea monster.

Slowly, we sunk down to each new water level. The enormous scale of the thing coupled with the darkness and flood lights reflecting off the water created a suitably epic end to our journey along the great river.

In the morning we departed and after a brief tour of the damn, with a guide who had the most irritating voice I have ever heard, we started a day long coach ride to the airport. Once aboard, it was time to fly to the capital city of Beijing.

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