Yachting the Yangtze - China Travel Story
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Yachting the Yangtze
We flew in to the port city of Chongqing early November. My wife and I wanted to take advantage of the moderate Asian climate during the shoulder season. The trade off was an overcast week on the Yangtze with periodic mists making the trip even more romantic.
Our mode of travel was independent tour. Our guide and driver were just inside the luggage area. Grabbing our bags, we jumped into the car and were off for the M.V. Victoria. This classic vessel is American owned and operates with an international crew.
The trip to town was most pleasant on a modern controlled access turnpike. Then we passed through one of the many Chongqing tunnels and ran into evening traffic. It took almost hour to traverse some 2 miles through the heart of Chongqing. The guide made it a most interesting trip with his stories of his life there.
Arriving at the riverbank, we found the ship far below us. Our guide hired two porters to carry the two heavy bags and I carried the other two small ones. We climbed down several hundred feet in the dark to the water, then across a barge to our ship. Arriving at the ship our porters demanded several times the originally stated fee, but the guide told them to thank their Gods they were paid the agreed upon price.
Our processing took mere minutes, the guide took his leave, and we settled in for the night. Absolutely no fuss, musses or bother.
In the morning, we experienced the only hitch of the 4-day trip. It appears under a half of the passengers were on board for breakfast so the dinning room crew decided to close half the dinning room. Unfortunately, they closed the half on the riverside leaving us to view the barge we were tied to. I worked my way up from the waiter to the supervisor to the manager informing them I was the paying customer and they were crew. Furthermore, my wife and I had come to see the river and would see the river for the remainder of the cruise. Sure enough, we were seated at a table on the port side, which almost always faced the river traffic. One third of the passengers were on the starboard side which we tied up on (regardless of where the dock was) and the remainder were seated inboard.
Our seat mates were a real treasure. One had been playing basketball for the China national team when the Nationalists fled to Formosa. His mother got him to the United States where he became an engineer and successful businessman. He was showing his accomplished wife his homeland. The second couple was a San Francisco man-about-town and Chinese companion. She had owned a dress business in China prior to migrating to the US, and was introducing him to China and her relatives. We got together again in Hangzhou for a great protracted dinner and in Suzhou for the Tiger Hill Festival. Finally there was the elderly German gentleman who's wife was experiencing a protracted terminal condition and he was taking a break to make a last visit to one of his favorite areas. He had lived and travel extensively throughout the world and was most fond of China and the Yangtze.
Cruising is definitely the best way to visit a multitude of sites with optimal use of time. You unpack once, eat bountiful meals on schedule, have grand periods of time to use as you see fit, and take periodic land tours with no worry concerning logistics. Our staterooms were most adequate with a picture window on the river. We could eat and drink to our hearts content. Finally, we always meet people who were extremely interesting. Like our river cruise in Russia, we simply make friends for life on the river.
The highlights of our trip include the scenery along the river, the ghost temple in Fengdu, the mini gorges, the three gorges and their tracker paths, and the Three Gorges Dam. The river is China's primer thoroughfare. Everything imaginable is transported up and down the river. The banks provide sand, gravel, coal and food for a large section of the country.
According to Buddhist stories, you must pass through denizens of the underworld before you cross into paradise. At the Ghost Temple, you confront the devils on your way to pray to Buddha and an extensive array of Guardians. The site is quite unique and fun. The devil statues make great props for pictures. The temple statues were some of the more spectacular we visited in the country. During our trip, one had to access the grounds via a climb up the mountain or a chair lift. When the dam is complete and the lake fills, the temple will be at the water's edge.
The Mini Gorges have a unique beauty with the narrow river course, clear water, and historic remains. One gorge has a most noticeable coffin stuffed into a man made cave high in a shear cliff. This is a Chinese thing. All the gorges have multiple square holes cut in to the solid rock. In the old days, the trackers or porters had to haul/ pull the boats up stream. In the gorges the waters are deep and reach from wall to wall. The answer to this dilemma was a shelf cantilevered on bamboo poles jammed into the holes in the rock. Now imagine, some one had to cut thousands of square holes in solid rock before the Iron Age and steel chisels. That is thousands of square holes several feet deep and five to six inches square. The rising waters will soon cover these holes and every other evidence of the trackers toil.
Finally, on the down river voyage, there is the dam. This is a story in its self and the entire project must be viewed to be appreciated. Suffice it to say, it is simply the World's largest dam, electric and water control project.
Bottom line: Anyone even thinking of visiting China should do so within the next three to four years. Once the Yangtze Dam is completed and the water begins to rise, one of the most lovely and interesting spectacles of the country will rapidly sink beneath the rising waters.
Story Courtesy to Grybow