There are a few, specific, must see or do’s on each of our lists for this trip. Cruising down the Yangtze River (China’s mightiest and the World’s third longest river) was one of Pete’s and once he had shown me the details I was pretty excited as well.
The cruise would take four days (well two and a half!!) and three nights to sail from Chongqing, through the Three Gorges to Yichang and the controversial Three Gorges Dam, until recently the worlds largest generator of power from a renewable source.
We boarded and were told check in wasn’t until 5pm, so we left our bags and went for a walk to see what we could find for a picnic dinner (dinner that night wasn’t included on the first night). Luckily we came across a Carrefour which importantly had tonics, something we had been chasing since finding a bottle of gin a couple of days earlier. We picked up assorted picnic foods and a bottle of wine for dinner as well as other pre-dinner snacks for the journey and headed back to the boat.
We passed up the 6am Taichi the next morning! but headed to breakfast just after 7.00am and we soon learnt not to be so eager, if anyone has witnessed a mass group of Chinese at a buffet station, they will know why!!!
Our first shore stop in the morning was at Fengdu, one of the cities that had to be relocated to higher ground with the construction of the Three Gorges dam, apparently the old city still exists deep under the lake waters (how cool would it be, to be able to scuba dive a city!). Here we had a choice of either an “additional” tour to City of Ghosts or the “included” tour Jade Emperor Scenic Area. We chose the latter. We were split into smaller groups, several Chinese groups, a large organised European tour group and the “left over” English speakers which included a lovely couple from north England, Ian and Caroline on a “ski” holiday (Spending Kids Inheritance).
Jade Emperor scenic area has a temple, at the top of a very steep mountain, known for its Chinese ‘astrology Gods’. Many will know that there are particular years, some lucky and some unlucky, depending on your sign and the current year. If it is to be your unlucky year, you visit this temple to make offerings and pray to your astrology god.
Back on board for our buffet lunch and the boat continued to cruise down the river (straight passed the Ghost City). We noticed Ian and Caroline weren’t in the dining room and thought they were just skipping lunch, it wasn’t until later that day we learnt that they really were having a “ski” holiday and they had taken the “Presidential Suite” (only 2 on the boat). They were being treated like gods, whilst us plebs were.... sheep! The afternoon was pure cruising and R&R. We lazed on our balcony admiring the breathtaking views and watching the footy on Petes iPad... mmm time for a round of G&Ts. I think Ian and Caroline were sipping champagne in their Jacuzzi (not jealous, honest).
Before dinner, we were invited to a Captains welcome cocktail party. Greeted with a glass of bubbles (they were trying to pass it off as champagne, but I swear it was some sort of non-alcoholic grape drink) and some snacks. The senior members of the boat crew were introduced together with a very young looking Captain. Following our “cocktail party”, buffet dinner was served, let me just point out here, that the food on the boat was.... ‘fuel’. Unmentionable, but certainly edible. After our feed, we retired to our cabin for some after dinner drinks.
The next day and again no 6am Taichi for us, a leisurely ... later.. breakfast and a lazy morning. While some guests took another “additional” tour we went to an interesting talk about the history of the Yangtze River the Gorges and the effects, both good and bad that the dam has had, such a as the extinction of the Yangtze River dolphin.
Boats used “trackers”, teams of men who would pull the boat along with ropes tied around their waist, to a beat of a drum and walking (often on all fours) along the narrow ledges along the waters edge or carved into the cliff face. A large boat required approx 300-400 men. Nowadays the dam has caused the river level to rise by 100m and easily passable for any type of boat.
Not long after the first gorge we entered Wu Gorge, another spectacular sight of jagged steep cliff faces. High on a peak of one of the mountains overlooking the gorge is the “Goddess Princess” a small girl shaped monolith that is said to bring people luck if you say hello to her as you pass. We were reminded that she doesn’t speak English, so we had to say “Ni hao” instead.
While we took in this wonderful gorge from the foredeck with other guests, Ian and Caroline did so from their vast balcony above (not jealous, honest).
The next morning the boat docked at the entrance to Xiling Gorge, the Three Gorges Dam blocking its path and forcing us onto busses for the visit to the Dam site and on through the gorge to Yichang. Whilst the dam is pretty amazing and serves a great purpose of power to the country.... yep it’s just a dam, hence no photos, google it if you have to. The dam however also consists of a large 5 tiered lock system for the mass of boats that travel the river. It can take approximately 3 hours for a ship to pass through this system.
They also have a unique “boat lift” system, which is literally an elevator for a boat. One boat at a time sails in and the container of water and boat are transported either up or downstream. Unfortunately it was currently broken down and we couldn’t view this system, that would have been interesting.
After the dam, it was back on the bus and 2.5 hour trip into Yichang. Given we had an early morning train to Shanghai, and nothing to see in Yichang, we stayed at the GreenTree hotel that was attached to the train station. Called our Mums for Mother’s Day, got some junk food takeaway (we were over average Chinese food) and... watched some more footy.....