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Impressions of China

San Francisco | Beijing 1 | Beijing 2 | Beijing 3 | Beijing 4 | Xian 1 | Xian 2 | Guilin |  Chong-Qing
Yangtze River 1 | Yangtze River 2 | Yangtze River 3 | Shanghai 1 | Shanghai 2 | Shanghai 3 | Observations
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Yangtze River - Day 2

Another day in mystical, and I do mean MISTical, China. Using psychology on a boatload of people who woke on day 2 to a day of rain after a previous night of rain, the crew reminded us that the paintings of Guilin, and of much of China, always show mist - for a good reason. It is misty, foggy, and cloudy in the Middle Kingdom. One of our on-board friends also reminded us that the words travel and travail are from the same root word. Great stories all, but the soggy fact remains that it is raining again and the visibility is lousy.

The whole purpose of the river cruise on the Yangtze was to view the three gorges, places along the Yangtze where the river narrows, at the end of which is the new Three Gorges Dam. The boat anchored overnight on day one so that early on day two, 7 am in fact, passengers could see the first of the gorges, Qutang (shown at right). It is amazing how many of us actually climbed up on the upper deck to stand in the rain to look at wet rocks. Attendance was probably helped by the fact that an announcement came over the P.A. system at 6:45, so nobody could get back to sleep after that anyway.

The rain fell the entire second day, but the schedule didn't vary. The plan was for us to disembark and take a ferry up one of the Yangtze tributaries. From the ferry we transferred to a sampan to go further up the stream. About fifteen of us got into each narrow sampan (about 12 sampans were needed to carry all our boatmates), and each sampan was covered by a blue tarp to keep the rain out. As we started up, the five-man crew rowed us up river. Then, as this tributary got more shallow, the rowers jumped out of the boat, got on the river bank, and hauled us up a very shallow portion of the river with ropes. This was interesting enough on its own, but traditionally the sampan men worked in the nude. That was because the usual clothing of the inhabitants of this area used to be made of horsehair and when the horsehair clothes got wet, it injured the men. The practice of nude hauling stopped in the early nineties, coincidentally when China opened to tourism. The crew in our boat wore Jockey patterned briefs and hardly anything else. The books about the area still show nude sampan men, but they are photographed from behind, and, they have "bathing suit" tan lines. That's a dead give away that these are models and not the original folks.

The day ended with us going through the third and final gorge. The mountains coming down into the river all looked the same in the rain and fog, but the passengers tromped out in raingear and snapped pictures of the grey mist and black blobs anyway. We did too. What turned out to make this four day journey not only tolerable but great fun too was meeting 4 other twosomes and a single, all "independent travelers" like we were. We were all with the same travel company, Abercrombie & Kent, and each of us had our own guide in each city in China. To a person, each of us traveled independently because we did not like the "bus scene," three dozen people trying to stay in lockstep with each other over a two or three week trip. In group trips, there are always one or two people who are never, ever on time and hold everyone else up, etc. etc. The humorous irony in this Yangtze River trip was that although each of us preferred traveling by ourselves at our own individual pace and in relative privacy, we so enjoyed each other's company that we had all our meals together and also tended to congregate on the upper deck as we got soaked taking pictures of shades of grey.
     

San Francisco | Beijing 1 | Beijing 2 | Beijing 3 | Beijing 4 | Xian 1 | Xian 2 | Guilin |  Chong-Qing
Yangtze River 1 | Yangtze River 2 | Yangtze River 3 | Shanghai 1 | Shanghai 2 | Shanghai 3
Observations


HOME  |  AUSTRALIA 2003  |  ACROSS AMERICA  |  IMPRESSIONS OF CHINA  |  VIETNAM  |  AFRICA  |  AROUND THE WORLD 2009  |  SOUTH AMERICA 2009  |  LEGENDARY CULTURES 2011
  |  TURKEY AND GREECE  |  CIRCLE THE ARCTIC