We were picked up on time taken to the tour agents office, waited there for the bus for about 45 minutes. Then taken to another street where we stood while different tour groups fought for a bus. We finally got on the bus about 10 minutes later. Then the bus went to another tour office and picked up a few more people. Then back to the original street to pick up 1 more person. Finally at about 3:40 we got on our way. We were worn out before we started.
The bus trip was fine and we finally arrived at Wanzhou and the embarkation dock. We walked down to the boat, and I mean down and down, fully loaded with our back packs. Until I saw a porter with his bamboo shoulder yoke. I hired him he carried everything to the boat. I offered him what I thought was a fair price for the service. He was not happy. I doubled it and he was still not happy. I helped him leave the cabin. Our first class cabin!!! It was pretty bad. The toilet smelled awful and the bed clothes were brand new 20 years ago. We smiled and said "oh well that's life, lets go up on deck" Actually the deck was on the same level as our first class, outside, picture windowed cabin. They wanted another 30 Yuan each to go out on deck, to be fair we were told they would. We bought a beer and settled down on the little plastic stools (no charge, for the stools that is) to enjoy the beginning of our trip. Night had fallen by this time. When we left our cabin to go on deck we had left a couple of wrapped slices of banana cake on the table. When we got back to the cabin some beastie had gnawed through the wrapper and devoured half the cake. Fatima said mice, I thought rat, but said it was probably a cockroach, playing down the size of this demon. To appease Fatima of course. We slept with the light on that night.
The first stop on the first class cruise was at a, guess what, a temple, Zhangfeisei Temple. It was around 11:00 pm. Good temple viewing time. Remember the steps down to get on the boat? Now they were in the other direction. The way up, 600 steps, was lined with lights and hundreds of vendors selling everything no one would want. Well I never saw anybody buying. The temple was OK but nothing too endearing. We traipsed back down to the boat wondering why we had bothered and feeling a little disgruntled. An American Chinese guy who we had been talking to earlier, and who spoke the language, and now lived in Thailand had stayed on the boat, he knew something we didn't. He smiled at us as we passed and said his wife was tired and so they had stayed in bed. We met his wife later she was a lot younger than he, but there, we mustn't cast stones must we. We stayed on deck for a little, got some awful food from the restaurant and then retired. Tired.
5 am next morning we awoke to someone banging on our door and yelling something in Chinese (of course) We heard her all the way along the corridor banging and yelling. My God I thought the boats on fire. We hastily dressed and went on deck, no smoke, no fire. Tourist guide with hailer giving a commentary about we knew not what. Nobody looked happy. We learned later that we had entered the first of the Three Gorges, Qutang Gorge. It was pitch black and we couldn't see a bloody thing! Back to bed. We got up about 7:30 and went to view the scenery. It was quite beautiful even if a little misty. We had been told that the water level had risen about 30m because of the new dam, but to us it mattered little. It was still spectacular. Around 8:00 am we docked at I don't know where to disembark and then to embark onto a smaller bark. We could here the vendors bark before we disembarked but no dog bark. We embarked onto the smaller bark and listened to the tour guides bark for one and half hours none stop, not even to breath, it seemed. The speakers were turned up to an unbearable level. I was actually thinking of jumping overboard. I tried stuffing my ears with tissues but that helped little. I am not exaggerating! I recommend to those visiting China to bring ear plugs as they do love noise here. We then disembarked and embarked onto an even smaller bark with a bamboo thatched roof. Off we went to the Smaller Three Gorges, which turned out to equally or more spectacular than the big ones. Back to the middle sized bark to take us to our "first class" tour boat. Tour guide barking all the way. I wondered how could so much be said about gorges. It was the same route as before, perhaps she was playing back in reverse. I wouldn't know. I scurried round the boat looking for a spot where the voice would be muffled or less obtrusive. Finally up on the top deck she could only be faintly heard. I said a prayer of thanks. After an hour of silent bliss, with just the sound of the diesel engines things changed. One of the crew came out of the cabin looked at the speaker saw that it was disconnected and reconnected it. Everyone on deck looked as though they would scream. When he had left a young Dutch lad disconnected it again. I thanked him and promised to buy him a beer. Peace again till the end of the trip. Back on the tour boat we had a peaceful and quiet trip through the other two gorges, Bellows Gorge and Wu Gorge.
We arrived at the disembarkation point somewhere near Yichang and the Three Gorges Dam. We were then taken by bus to an open air theater to watch a show depicting the history and the moods of the Yangzi River, through dance and song. It was very colourful and entertaining if a little drawn out. From here we were taken to two different vantage points to view the dam. It was 11:00pm. Guess what we didn't see too much. We were then bussed into Yichang and a crummy hotel where you could book a room by the hour, to bed and sleep. Next morning up at seven to catch a bus to Wuhan and then a plane to Shanghai.