The boat made some strange maneuvers in the early morning hours, so once the sun came up I got up (waking Linda) so we went out to look at the scenery. It was overcast and cool, but wasn't raining, and the river had narrowed considerably. We watched the scenery go by, periodically going back to the cabin to get more clothes. Eventually the boat passed a small temple-like building and entered the first gorge, with cliffs right down to the river. Our guide chatted about the scenery and history, showing us pictures from a book that he was holding. It was amazing scenery, reminiscent in some ways of our trip through the Inside Passage.
Once we made it through the first gorge we motored on for a while before coming to the large-ish city that of Wushan. There, we boarded smaller boats and took a 3 hour tour up the lesser gorges. The scenery here was even more spectacular, with narrow passages, steep cliffs, and strange rock formations. The rock was limestone, though it seemed like there were also stretches of siltstone and I pondered what geologic forces had shaped these interesting valleys. There was a book of postcards on board showing before and after pictures of Wushan. We spoke with a woman on the boat who lived in the town and remembered the demolition of the buildings and flooding of the town. She seemed adamant it is better now, and it probably is because the government would have made it that way.
Continuing on in the cruise ship, we had lunch before entering the next gorge. To be honest, I must have taken a hundred pictures but I won't be able to tell anyone which gorge any particular picture is from. It was all spectacular, but after several hours of looking at the cliffs, it all starts to run together. Eventually Linda and I started playing cards, several of the group played mah jong, and others found other things to do.
Jennie noticed, and by this time the skies had partially cleared, so she offered to run another tai chi session. Most of us took her up on the offer and it was very pleasant to do tai chi on the upper deck of the boat while the scenery floated by.
Eventually we arrived at the dam. As I've seen a dam or two in my day, I was not initially that excited. However, as we got closer the scale of the dam grew. We lined up for the locks along with some large boats carrying coal. The size of the locks didn't seem very impressive until we started entering it, when we discovered that 6 ships of our size fit in the lock at once. The side clearance was very small and we rubbed a couple of times. As the water level was quite low in preparation for the summer rains, we passed straight through the first lock and stopped in the second one. Once moored in the lock (with 5 other ships), the doors closed and we started dropping ... about that time, they called us for dinner.
We met the captain again as this was the farewell dinner. It seemed like he maybe should have been on the bridge as there were several abrupt bumps as we moved from lock to lock. More toasting, this time with sweet red wine, and it was on to supper. The food was good enough that I had to try some of everything, though that led to a bit of distress later. One dish in particular was bean curd wrapped around sticky rice, which was very nice.
After dinner, we watched the ship progress through the last of the locks. Progress was smooth and other than the use of a rather shrill hand whistle, was barely noticeable other than the ups and downs within the locks themselves. About the time that we went back inside, karaoke night started. The others had chosen Neil Diamond's “Sweet Caroline” so I joined in – it wasn't too bad. The staff of the boat did a variety of sketches and some of the other groups on the boat also did songs – the French group in particular was handicapped because there was nothing in the karaoke machine with French words, so they sang something that I didn't recognize ad that may not have sounded like the song's author had intended. One French guy also played “Ode to Joy” on the harmonica. More staff dances and skits followed, then it turned out that some of our guys had decided it would be a good idea to sing Aerosmith's “Dude Looked Like a Lady” ... I won't share my feelings on the way it turned out. They had also signed us up for Abba's “Dancing Queen”, but by then the crowd seemed tired of seeing us and hearing us, but it turned out okay, I guess.
By then, the boat had been moored with some others and we went downstairs to sleep.