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Cascoly Travel -- China: Shennong - Lesser 3 Gorges of Yangtze River
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Cascoly Travel
China: Shennong - Lesser 3 Gorges of Yangtze River

DAY 14    THREE GORGES 11/4 Sunday

In the morning, the cruise will pass the Qutang Gorge and the Wu Gorge.  At about 12:30, you will arrive Wushan and board a small boat into the scenic Lesser Three Gorges, a natural habitat of mandarin ducks and golden-hair monkeys. Ancient hanging coffins can be spotted on the high cliffs along the stream.  (B/L/D)

 

Poor start to the day – 6:15 wakeup to tell us we’re nearing the Qutang Gorge (8 km).  Claiming to be the most beautiful, we can’t tell since we passed thru it in the dark – lots of steep cliffs nearby but cold and windy. Score 0 for ‘breathtaking scenery’.  In for breakfast at 7:15, then a call for the second, Wu Gorge (45km).  More light now, but just as dreary – low overcast, dull lighting.  Would be very pretty with some light or sun, but not today.  At 9:30 anchored in midstream, and a smaller boat shuttled us to shore where we split up in peapod sampans for a trip up the Shennong Stream but only after running a gauntlet of vendors selling oranges, woven sandals and other trinkets. 


One of the highlights of the trip.  6 boatmen work each small sampan, holding 15 passengers – a front and rear captain, and 3 oarsmen forward, one aft.  They started by rowing us upstream, using big wooden sweeps.  Then, as the stream became shallower, they’d switch to bamboo poles with big metal spikes, to pole along.  The rear rower just used his pole to give extra momentum to the boat, especially when we closed on another boat.  When the stream became even shallower, the rowers jumped out and towed the boat with a long rope.  They wore only shorts, leading to multiple comments from the women (One of our group commented in the guestbook later that the “boatmen wore too many clothes”, since the post cards show them wearing only thongs)   A lively trip up the narrow canyon, with sheer rock walls for the most part, with occasional narrow waterfalls or grassy breaks.  At one point we could see a hanging coffin perched on a ledge high above us.  (A local burial method).  Around another curve, a man came wading out to greet us and ask for a ride.  Turned out he was a postcard seller!  Around the next curve in the stream, now a wide but shallow trickle, we were pulled ashore on a gravel bar.  Here, in the seeming middle of nowhere, there were 2 long rows of tables of trinket sellers.  Some new things, mostly what we’ve seen before, but the incongruity of the setting made the episode seem like something out of Monty Python.  Found more snuff bottles at very low prices, and some ‘jade’ agate prayer beads.  Back in the boats for a quick run downstream.

 

We saw neither mandarin ducks nor any kind of monkey, but did see several brightly colored birds in the narrow sections, roosting in the cliff cracks and on the ledges.  One had blue back, red breast and showed bright red tail when it flew;  another was dark with a white head.  Also a jungle crow like bird, but smaller – gray upper, darker lower body.

 

Disembarked near our shuttle.  Bought another set of snuff bottles, supposedly agreeing on 50 yuan.  I only had a hundred, so the seller went looking for change.  Finally came back with 15 yuan and $2 which he said was the change.  (It was only about 30).  Eventually he gave up another $1.  Then his partner tried to sell me another set for 50, but somehow didn’t think that the previous ‘50’ in change was enough!

 

Another great lunch, then back to the observation deck for the third gorge – Xiling (65 km).  Interesting, but not really spectacular.  Some craggy peaks and pinnacles lurking  above the cliffs, though, so perhaps it’s more exciting in better weather.  Continued to move downstream (we do about 30 kph with the current)  Passed more doomed cities and lots of smaller villages and isolated settlements;  many coal mines with long slender chutes dropping coal to the river’s edge to be loaded onto barges and carried upstream.  About 4 pm, the new 3 Gorges Dam site comes into view – first white, sloping lateral dikes and dams, then the massive dam itself, towering over us, cranes everywhere as the dam is being built on the dry sections, leaving a shipping channel open for now.  Ugly and oppressive, at last we’d found the right sight for this dreary weather.   For 2 days we’d been watching towns that had already been deserted, and others whose inhabitants waited to be relocated, then demolished.  The Yangtze will probably remain a scenic attraction, especially for those who’d never seen it as it is now, but the human cost is staggering.  Some of the guides said that each resident was supposed to get $4000 but that $1000 was more realistic after graft took its toll.  And from this the people had to buy new place to live.  The new high rises will probably be much more expensive than the cheap flats that are being torn down.  But this is the ‘New China’ and even minor strains of socialism are hard to find.

 

Another tasty supper, with mostly new items:

  • Wuhan deep fried fish
  • Bitter melon, stir fried with bay leaves
  • Stir fried cabbage with peppers
  • Pork strips stir fried with strips of pepper and onion
  • Deep fried lotus root
  • Pork and peanuts
  • Deep fried fish strips
  • Sausage rolls (in dim sum bread)

 

At 9:30, a Guzheng concert – the Chinese harplike instrument.  Beautiful music, though of a limited range.  Only a handful of people came, dwindling to just 2 of us at the end. 

 

 

   The gauntlet      , Badong
The gauntlet , Badong
   Loading peapod sampans    , Shennong Stream, Badong
Loading peapod sampans , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Loading peapod sampans    , Shennong Stream, Badong
Loading peapod sampans , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Loading peapod sampans    , Shennong Stream, Badong
Loading peapod sampans , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Rowing sampans upstream   , Shennong Stream, Badong
Rowing sampans upstream , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Steersman  Shennong Stream        Badong
Steersman Shennong Stream Badong
   Boat 8     Shennong Stream        Badong
Boat 8 Shennong Stream Badong
   Boat 8     Shennong Stream        Badong
Boat 8 Shennong Stream Badong
   Boat 8     Shennong Stream        Badong
Boat 8 Shennong Stream Badong
   Boat 8     Shennong Stream        Badong
Boat 8 Shennong Stream Badong
   Poling     Shennong Stream        Badong
Poling Shennong Stream Badong
   Entering gorge    , Shennong Stream, Badong
Entering gorge , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Pulling boats     , Shennong Stream, Badong
Pulling boats , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Pulling boats     , Shennong Stream, Badong
Pulling boats , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Pulling boats     , Shennong Stream, Badong
Pulling boats , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Pulling boats     , Shennong Stream, Badong
Pulling boats , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Pulling boats     , Shennong Stream, Badong
Pulling boats , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Boats in gorge    , Shennong Stream, Badong
Boats in gorge , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Boats in gorge    , Shennong Stream, Badong
Boats in gorge , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Boats in gorge    , Shennong Stream, Badong
Boats in gorge , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Using poles to keep from walls    , Shennong Stream, Badong
Using poles to keep from walls , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Using poles to keep from walls    , Shennong Stream, Badong
Using poles to keep from walls , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Moving upstream in gorge  , Shennong Stream, Badong
Moving upstream in gorge , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Moving upstream in gorge  , Shennong Stream, Badong
Moving upstream in gorge , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Moving upstream in gorge  , Shennong Stream, Badong
Moving upstream in gorge , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Moving upstream in gorge  , Shennong Stream, Badong
Moving upstream in gorge , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Moving upstream in gorge  , Shennong Stream, Badong
Moving upstream in gorge , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Coming ashore     , Shennong Stream, Badong
Coming ashore , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Coming ashore     , Shennong Stream, Badong
Coming ashore , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Looking for a parking place       , Shennong Stream, Badong
Looking for a parking place , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Boatmen take a smoke break        , Shennong Stream, Badong
Boatmen take a smoke break , Shennong Stream, Badong
   River shop Shennong Stream        Badong
River shop Shennong Stream Badong
   Heading back downstream   , Shennong Stream, Badong
Heading back downstream , Shennong Stream, Badong
   Heading back downstream   , Shennong Stream, Badong
Heading back downstream , Shennong Stream, Badong
 

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