The overnight train arrived in Wuhan at 11.20am, and with our usual mad dash, rushed downstairs and out to meet the local bus that for some reason was waiting for us. I sat about half-way back with Alex (from the UK) for the four and a half hour bus ride to Yichang. And true to form, even though buses are supposedly smoke-free, there was definitely smoking happening! Who knows what my health is going to be like by the end of the four weeks here - and add to that constant spitting by our feet, food being prepared on the street (yes, actually on the concrete floor of the road) etc etc. For anyone who plans to travel to China my most useful item is anti-bacterial baby wipes, though already I'm halfway through mine, so they're not going to last.
Ooh - and our halfway toilet stop was a trench. Yes, I went into the bathroom and all there was was a deep trench running the length on the room with a couple of low, hip-high partitions. Only myself and two others from the tour were brave enough to use them. One girl apparently held for 25 hours until she got to a semi-decent toilet!!
We awoke this morning to very hazy weather, so it's really hard to see the scenery at all. However, from what I can see, there's only just a few little hills and the rest of the landscape is dead flat - such a comparison to the beautiful mountains in Yangshou that I've been enjoying for the past couple of days.
This area is heavily industrialised, and we're seeing much more evidence of some of the 1.3 billion population. Wuhan itself is a city of 12 million people - half the population of Australia in just one city. When I asked Tomic what was special about Wuhan, he said "nothing". I found that hard to believe of a city with 12 million people, but we stayed there all of about 15 minutes!! I guess with such a huge country, it's a case of getting to the areas that do have cultural or historic significance.
Ate lunch on the bus - Vita-Weets (from Australia), Blueberry flavoured crisps (yes, you read that right - they were actually quite nice, and did smell and taste like blueberries) and a Chinese speciality "Moon Cake" (a kind of pastry with a jelly-like substance in the middle - nice enough, but I wouldn't choose it over a snickers bar!) Had a nice nap, and before I knew it we were arriving in Yichang, on the Yangtzee River.
True to form, we dashed off the bus, to put our luggage in yet another dodgy-looking railway station, and dashed off for an early group dinner. Tomic ordered for us, and it was all SO delicious - my two favourites were the thin slices of pork in a tangy sauce, and the chicken, liver + bean curd in a slightly chilli sauce. For our table of eight people he ordered nine dishes, way too much, and like the rest of our meals here, it worked out dirt cheap at A$6 per person. We're quite surprised, as most of us didn't imagine being able to get such rich and delicious types of Chinese dishes - they're completely different to what we get back home, perhaps a little more like some Thai-type of dishes, but differently spiced than Thai. Interestingly, a few people have "turned" into vegetarians, after seeing food prepared on the street right outside of the restaurant, but the Chinese way is to cut the food up very small (almost shredded) and cook the food very quickly and very hot, and so far no-one on our trip has been ill.
Had a little bit of time now to check the internet. The next couple of days we're on the Yangtzee River cruise, so will have to catch up on the past couple of days later. Right now, I'm off to the supermarket next door for water and snacks, and then back across the street to meet the group in half an hour. Normally Tomic says we can go explore, but this time he told us not to go too far, so most people have ended up here in the internet cafe. Interestingly, I was the first to arrive at the internet cafe, and the staff here spoke no English at all, so for the first time I've had to consult my phrase book, as well as my pre-existing Manadrin to ask her how much the internet cost (the problem wasn't actually that question, but rather that the girl's answer wasn't standard, as it turned out they don't charge per hour, but per person, so that threw me). By the time the next people came I had it all sorted - cool!
Picked up our luggage and caught a bus from Yichang for a one hour, forty minute journey to Zigui to board our boat for the cruise on the Yangtze River. On the coach we passed by the main dam, all lit up at night which was a great sight to see. For many of us, including myself, to see the mighty Yangtze River has been a dream for many years. Our four star boat didn't look too bad from the outside, but it is obviously four Chinese stars, as from the moment we stepped onto it, Sarah likened it to stepping into the Fawlty Towers' hotel - entry to the foyer was via the boiler-room, up the steepest, narrowest staircase ever, dragging my big suitcase - not quite a grand entrance!
The room looked quite nice, and the beds were the softest yet (still completely hard, but not quite concrete). But the bathroom was a disaster - the door hinge was broken, so it didn't shut and the shower drain was blocked, so the entire bathroom flooded with an inch or two of water which didn't go away. They sent a maid with a plunger, which basically did nothing, as with the next shower it just flooded again. This is obviously a normal occurence, as on the bathroom floor was a two inch high plastic mat which floated like a surfboard, that you stepped on to keep out of the used water. Oh, did I mention that there was no hot water at all? In fact nothing come out of the hot spout at all. Thankfully the weather has been plenty hot here, that I'm coping quite well with lots of cold showers.