Today was another wonderful day. I woke up early this morning, because we were going to pass through the first of the Three Gorges at 7:00 am. We all met on the observation deck, and our tour guide told us what we were looking at. We first entered the Qutang Gorge. The gorges were quite beautiful as they rose up on either side of the boat. The rock formations and rock patterns were amazing. We passed many different temples nestled high up on the mountains, and many villages. After we went down to have our breakfast.
After breakfast we passed through the second gorge known as Wu Gorge. After passing through Wu Gorge we began our second excursion, the Shennong Stream. Our boat docked and we transferred to a smaller boat. When on the smaller boat, we rode down a tributary of the Yangtze River. The mountains on either side of the boat were much closer than on the Yangtze River. There were many monkeys and birds in the trees along the river and I could see many local villagers riding their simple wooden boats passing by. As we rode down the river, the local Tuziang minority girls, who were acting as our tour guides, informed us what we were passing and told us of the local legends surrounding the different mountains and caves.
They also pointed out the hanging coffins located in the cliff caves. Now, they are only about 5 meters above water, but originally, they were over 60 meters above the water level. They were put in the caves over 2,000 years ago. Nobody knows how these coffins were moved up the sheer cliffs. When we reached a junction in the river, we docked, and were transferred to small wooden boats called pea pod boats. They are manned by a crew of 5 men. 3 men were located in the front, and 2 in the back. The men in the front rowed long wooden oars. They used their whole body to work them.
The oars are about 3 meters long, and required a lot of strength to operate. In the back of the boat one man worked an oar while the other handled the rudder. It was a really interesting experience. They worked so hard. I felt guilty sitting down while they worked so hard. Our guide talked about the local minority groups, and the different gorges, and trees we saw. She was really knowledgeable and told great stories. When we reached a shallow area of the gorge, we pulled up alongside of the bank, and the three men in the front jumped out. They were wearing sandals made of rice grass. They wore them because they will not slip on the rocks on the bank. They were pulling on a rope made of braided bamboo.
They used this to pull the boat through the shallow water. It was really funny to watch these guys work. They kidded with each other, and seemed to be having a lot of fun with what must have been really strenuous work. The men were called trackers. When we turned around to head back, the guide told us about the local Tuziang people's love for singing. To express their love for each other, they would sing to each other. If they could not sing well, they could not find a date. Our guide sand a local song for us. She sang really beautifully. When she finished, one of the boatmen sang a song.
He didn't sing as well as her, but his song was really lively, and fun. I had no idea what they were singing about, but it was wonderful! Since our excursion down the Shennong Stream lasted several hours, the boat gave each of us a box lunch and a bottle of water to eat on the way. When we got back to the boat we all had lunch. Afterward I took a nap because I was really tired. The announcer said that we were entering the Three Gorges Dam Ship Lock, so I got up, and went to watch it. It is HUGE!!! We passed through the giant gates of the 5 stage locks with four other boats. The gates, which are the largest in the world, slowly closed, and the water in the lock we were in was lowered to the level of the next lock.
The next set of gates opened, and then we moved forward into that gate. This process was repeated until we reached the level of the river below the dam, which took about 2 hours. While we were in the locks, the crew had another party for us on the Sundeck. The crew is really talented, one of the crew members played the saxophone beautifully, and Candy who sang the last night, sang an English song tonight. They had many different games. I was in the musical chairs, which I did not win, but was laughing the whole time.
It was a lot of fun. After the party, I went to the music bar, and talked with the bartenders for a while. They are really friendly, and a joy to talk to. After the boat got through the locks, it docked near the Three Gorges Dam. There were many different cruise ships lined up. I visited a couple of them, and it looks like I have the best one. It seems the best designed, and the best looking. After I called my wife, who I miss terribly, I started to write this journal.