Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rollin', rollin', rollin' up the Yangtze.


T
oday is “Yangtze Boat Cruise” day but we first we had to get up and have breakfast.

On our orientation tour the previous night, Jenny had warned us about the boat’s schedule. There would be a wake up call at 6am, breakfast would be served at 6:30a and then at 7a all passengers would transfer to a river ferry for the actual cruise. Jenny told us the wake up call would be sounded over the boat’s speaker system and that we needed to check to make sure the speakers in our room worked. Of course, I was not (and it turned out Mairead was not either)) paying any attention to this part of the orientation so we had no idea where the speakers were or what to check for.

No matter, Mairead would set the alarm on her cellphone and we would be up at 6am. That was the plan. I don’t remember hearing the alarm go off, just the sound of Mairead’s voice telling me it was 6:15a which gave us 15 minutes to get ourselves ready and down to the restaurant for breakfast. I managed to get down to the lobby at what was probably 6:29a only to find out that the schedule had shifted by a half hour so breakfast was now at 7a instead. Sheesh….I could have gotten in another half hour of sleep. 

At 7a, the restaurant opened and we gathered around one of the tables. Good thing that there’s 10 of us because that’s the exact number that fits around a Chinese dining table :-)

At 7:30a, we wrapped up breakfast and followed Jenny to the ferry. We were each given a boarding pass that would allow us back on board the “Mother Boat” as Jenny called the boat we would call home for two nights.






At about 7:45a, the ferry pushed off and we began our slow cruise up the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River. We all headed up to the top deck. It was early morning and the skies were hazy as I’ve come to expect. Even so, the karst landscape of the hills surrounding the river was spectacular. This is what I imagined the Three Gorges would look like. Soaring cliffs banked both sides of the river. The gently flowing water was a beautiful shade of dark jade reflecting the greenery on the hills.



























The sun peeked through the hazy every now and again. It was a pleasant, smooth cruise and after the few minutes of madly snapping photos, I eventually just sat down and enjoyed the ride. The river gently wound its way upstream.










 







Somewhere along the way, Jenny pointed out the hanging coffins – these were actual wooden coffins that had been placed in open cavities in the hillsides. According to Jenny, the wood was carried up to the cavity, the coffin constructed and then the body placed inside. For preservation purposes, several of the coffins have been removed and put into museums. We would see more of these coffins as we cruised to other sections of the river.

There were sights that reminded me that people live and make their livelihoods along the river.













































After about 2 hours, we arrived at a dock. The dock was lined with souvenir vendors – is there no escaping them?? We all got off the ferry and made our way to awaiting sampans owned and operated by the local Jiao people. The sampans would take us for a short ride up the Shennong Stream which was extremely shallow and rock filled. The story of the sampan ride up the Shennong Stream continues with the next blog posting.