Friday, November 30, 2007

China Odyssey, Day 16 - Yangtze River Cruise

Day 16 - Yangtze River Cruise
Friday November 30
Daning River Canyon Excursion

We tied up to a barge last night, just downstream of the middle of the three gorges, the Wuxia Gorge. We were up at 5am to do laundry, as we have a lovely balcony to string up our clothes line. About 7 am we entered the Wuxia Gorge, said to be the most beautiful of the three. The weather is so hazy and foggy that it was difficult to see the mountain tops. As we continued upstream we saw many beautiful side canyons. Keith was up early to catch the sunrise over the Yangtze.

Sunrise over the Yangtze

After breakfast we boarded a small excursion boat that took us on a 4 hour tour of the Daning River gorge (sound familiar you Gilligan fans?). The Daning is a tributary of the Yangtze. For 90 minutes we sailed up the Daning through the Dragon Gate , Misty and Emerald Gorges. Each was more beautiful than the next. We saw troops of wild monkeys playing along the shore.

Daning River Excursion Boat

Crumbling Infrastructure over the Daning River

A New Bridge is Under Construction

Proceeding Up the Gorge

Wild Monkeys

Terrace Farming Along the Danning

These gorges are also famous for Ba caskets, which are said to be more than 3,000 years old. They are perched high up in the caves along the gorges. No one has been able to discover why the wood has not deteriorated, or how the primitive Ba were able to raise the caskets up the sheer cliffs. (Art Bell would suggest alien intervention, but Keith thinks that stuff is hooey.) The Ba people who lived in the gorge believed that the higher you placed these coffins, the more the gods would favor you.

Ba Casket

About 90 minutes into the trip, we changed boats and found ourselves sailing in a much smaller, and very tender vessel. We had a guide and a boatman with us. They took us even deeper into the narrowing gorge.

Tippy Tourboat

Before the Three Gorges Dam was built, boats in this part of the river were pulled by men called trackers. They wore no clothes because of the high humidity. Our boatman was a former tracker. On our trip he wore clothing (a ritual cape and hat). He sang several old local songs as we continued up the river. On the trip back downriver, he pulled out his cell phone to place a call. It seemed almost anachronistic.

Poster Showing Trackers Hauling Boats Up the Daning Prior to Flooding

Re-Trained Tracker

On our return trip Keith, who had been nervous about the tippiness of the boat, asked the guide, " “do these boats ever tip over?" "Oh yes"' she replied with a broad smile. All of us in the boat were glad Keith saved his question for the end of our ride.

Back on the larger excursion boat, we made the return trip to our cruise ship.

The scenery as we cruised through the rest of the Wuxia Gorge is spectacular! Although it is late fall, there is still a lot of greenery. We spotted a herd of water buffalo and goats are said to be very common along the waterway.

Keith is developing a cold. Bummer!

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