we boarded our ship, the President 8, two very young cabin attendants, one
boy and one girl, greeted us. For the remainder of the evening, we
explored our ship, which would be our home for the next three days.
The Yangtze is far wider and more impressive than my uninformed previous
impression. It’s hard to imagine anybody swimming across it, including the
omnipotent Chairman Mao. I know I wouldn’t even give it a try.
After an extensive breakfast buffet, we settled down for the cruise, with
mouths agape at the gorgeous scenery. Soon, we came upon our first gorge,
. The gorge
passage zigzags for 47 miles down to Yichang. The longest and most
dangerous of the Yangtze gorges, it was first tamed and made safe in the
1950s. Before then, the river consisted of a mass of swirling whirlpools.
The gorge comprises seven small gorges and two of the fiercest rapids
between Yichang and Chongqing. As we sailed along in ignorance, we felt
nothing of the power of these rapids, a testimony to advance nautical
technology and to the skill of our captain and crew. As we navigated
through the gorge and smaller gorges, the scenery took our breath away. We
passed small villages
along the way, allowing us to get a glimpse of the life the inhabitants
lead in this unbelievably beautiful environment.
Next we came upon the mysterious Wu Gorge. Known for its deep valley and
elegant beauty, the gorge is flanked by twelve peaks of the Wu Mountain,
the most famous of which is Goddess
The environment of the Wu Gorge seems mysterious because of
its strange peaks, grotesque rocks, and the fog
in amazing shapes, lending a spookiness to the gorge.
We then entered the third and final large gorge, the Qutang
Again, the scenery was spectacular. The jagged
surging straight up, just like we’ve all seen in Chinese
paintings, took our breath away. Later on, we spotted a shrine
along the bank. The main buildings lay close to the river,
and a trail led up the spine of a rock wall to a smaller pagoda about
halfway up the picture.
Before dinner, the crew treated us to the Captain’s Welcome cocktail hour,
followed by a fashion show.
Dinner proved to be an elegant affair, served Chinese style on round
tables with a turn-table in the middle. The food tasted good and exotic, a
great way to end the evening of our first day on the Yangtze. Part
of our group posed with our assigned waitress, Agnes
. After dinner,
we filed into the large barroom to watch a talent show put on by the crew
and some of the guests, including one of our group who sang brilliantly.
Lesser Gorges and Sampan Side Trip
Beyond the Wu and Qutang gorges, we passed through what the Chinese call
the Lesser Gorges
as spectacular as the three main gorges, these smaller ones,
never-the-less, possess a beauty of their own.
Next, the ship docked and we disembarked for a ride
, which paddled up a tributary stream. A little concerned
at for our safety at first, because of the narrowness of the boat, we soon
became accustomed to the rhythmic whoosh of the paddles in the water. We
sailed up the Shennong Stream to the land of the ancient BA people. At one
point, a couple boatmen disembarked and towed us from paths on the side of
the tributary, as they did in former times. This small passage afforded
the only convenient landing for the rest of the trip because the cliffs
dove steeply straight down into the water, with no footing or mooring
Formerly, the oarsmen paddled naked to attrack females in their village,
but now in a nod to modern modesty, they didn’t even strip off their
shirts. We saw more incredible scenery as we paddled upstream, including a
bridge suspended over the
making it easier for villagers to cross rather than paddling
across especially since the banks are steep. Later, we saw one of the hanging
, wedged into a vertical crevice in the rock many years ago.
Speculation is that the coffin is now empty, the body having disintegrated
over the many years.
Farther along, the guide pointed out images in the rocks, such as this ...
er ... snake hanging down the
side of the cliff
. Still farther, we spotted a waterfall
spilling its contents into the tributary
That evening, we enjoyed a special treat: The Captain’s Dinner. This
occasion gave us an excuse to put on our finery and savor a special
dinner. Once we took our seats, the captain entered, dressed in his best
white uniform, and to a round of applause, marched up to the head table.
Of course, we took some pictures of this occasion — one picture of some of
us with our cute waitress
and another with
our outstanding national guide Sheila
After dinner, we headed into the bar for a talent show. For a warm-up act,
some Chinese dancers entertained us with their fancy red costumes. Then Robby,
one of our own
, stood up and sang a superb solo.
Visit to Ancient Pagoda
The next morning, we passed by some river towns, some with old
. After breakfast, we stopped at one
and wandered in to town toward a suspension
that led across to an island with an old wooden pagoda. The
suspension bridge was tricky because we had to share it with a herd of
Chinese tourists who kept wiggling the bridge from side to side. With the
length of the bridge and the frail-looking wooden planks we were walking
on, I feared we’d go down to the rocks below at any minute. However, we
all made it across safely.
The Dam and Locks
The next morning, we reached our goal, what we’ve all been waiting for —
and locks. First, we passed through a series of three locks
The technology and use of gravity that goes into the engineering of locks
fascinated us all. The ships ahead of us added to the thrill of our
There we bid farewell to our ship and crew. As we filed out of the ship,
dragging our suitcases behind us, we realized we had some steep stair
climbing to get up to the buses. After our hearty buffet breakfast aboard
ship, the stair climb gave us a chance to work some of it off and also get
some aerobic activity going, which we all profited from.
After loading our luggage on our bus, we drove to the Three Gorges Dam
museum and lookout points. Inside the museum, we saw a mock-up of the
whole dam site — locks, dam, and the flood created by it.
Three Gorges Dam — Site Mock-up
Outside the museum, we walked over to a grand viewing platform so we could
see parts of the site for ourselves. Unfortunately, we could not walk on the
. For example, we saw the view
from the opposite side of the mock-up
. You can see the bridge, which
is in the foreground of the mock-up, is in the background. Looking down
from the observation platform toward the vendors and to the left of the
dam, you can see the other side of the Yangtze
Finally, it was time to bus into Chongqing to see the pandas.