The morning after the kareoke the night before, the private bus back to Xi'an train station after 3 hours sleep was a god send. And then the 300m walk from the bus to the station entrance wasn't. 300m my foot Leon. Then I was wheeling my back and go to the stairs going up and then down to the train platform, and this young Chinese lad insisted on carrying and wheeling my bag all the way to my carriage for me! I made sure Leon thanked him. So we all piled onto the train and went straight to bed! The train arrived in Yichang about 1am, where we were bombarded with cab drivers all wanted to take us where we wanted - that was a bit crazy, and when we got into the cab to the hotel, Leon said it was quite normal.
The next morning we all packed our smaller day bags for the boat cruise and could luckily leave our big back packs behind reception until we returned a few days later. Leon took us around the corner to a restaurant for lunch, I walked passed an old Chinese man carrying two turtles dangling from a piece of string. It was shocking but that was probably his lunch. So for lunch we had this delicious local pork dish, with other various dishes including an egg plant dish which the group tended to favourite, and also a lotus flower root dish that was sliced quite thinly and tasted a bit salty.
After lunch we had some free time to go to the bank, check the net and then a few of us went to a Beaner Coffee place, where Tommy had a tea that tasted like a burger, then to the supermarket that has no order or system in the way the aisles were laid out so you could easily get lost, and then to the bakers all ready to get cabs to the ferry terminal for the boat cruise!
Leon had totally prepared us for the worst on the boat, and we were prepared for the worst! I was expecting rickety floor boards, bad smells, shared squatter toilets like on the night trains and cold showers. But we were pleasantly surprised with the equivalent to a floating hotel with wonderful twin rooms, carpets, even a love seat bench and a desk and chair, wardrobe, flat screen tv stuck to the wall and an ensuite bathroom. Now as for the bathroom, well it was more of a wet room, so when you shower, everything gets wet, including the ceiling. This was mainly because the shower head was broken so sprayed water out of the top of it as well, a bit like a water fountain. So if you didn't want to get your hair wet then tough. And as for the toilet; every time you flushed the back of it would basically explode clean water all over the floor, so you kinda had to flush then jump out of the door. Plus there was a sort of moat all around the edges of the room, with a drain at one corner for the shower and sink. Which we didn't realise the sink water went down a tube straight into the moat then down the drain, until Emma poured away the rest of her noodle soup down the sink, so we had soup, cabbage and bits of carrot floating around the bathroom moat for the rest of the trip!
At 9pm we all stood on deck to watch the boat going through the first lock, this took a while as the doors open. The next lock would be about midnight and this was the first of five, and all five would take about 4 hours to go through until about 4am, but we only stayed up til 2am to see the first one, which took forever. Don't get me wrong, this lock was huge as we were right near the Three Gorges Dam, but it didn't half take a long time to get through it!
The next morning we all got off the boat around 10.30am to board smaller boats to take us on a mini cruise down the Goddess Stream. This was a very pleasant boat ride, apart from a Chinese tour guide commentated for the whole 2 hour trip on the loud microphone, in Chinese about the Goddess Stream and everything we saw. Leon ended up telling her half of what she was saying was rubbish, which made the Chinese tourists who we shared the boat with laugh. So we ended up sitting outside the boat on deck at the back on our bright orange life jackets, cause the seats were wet with rain and shut the door.
The fleet of mini boats then stopped and we all got off for a walk along a trail on the mountain side to the end of the river. It rained a bit, saw lots of waterfalls, took some photos and Leon found a massive green lizard on a wall (see attached). Back on the boat we all went back to our floating hotel, and by this time I badly needed the loo which doesn't help when you're surrounded by rain, a river and waterfalls!
That afternoon our boat stopped at a small town called Fengjie, where all the Chinese tourists got off to go visit the White King Temple, which we didn't because we didn't know the history of it or anything, so we just had a mooch about the small town which didn't have much, but we managed to get Maria a little present because it was her birthday.
After a little nap, we all went back on top deck to look at the Wu Gorge which is on the back of a 10 Yuan note. Then in the evening we all went up to the 4th floor (which is actually the 3rd floor back home as the Chinese don't have a Ground floor, it just starts at 1) for more kareoke for Maria's birthday! We all had a few beers and a group of Chinese people came into the kareoke deck as well, and Matt ended up singing a Chinese version of "My Girl" with one of their group, which was brilliant, Maria was also sung Happy Birthday on the mic and then Leon sang a Chinese song just for her, and we was quite good at it too! Then we started to head off for an early night for the 7am departure off the boat the next morning.
The next morning we soon found out that the boys had managed to shave half off of Tommy's eyebrow the night before when he had been so drunk! He didn't find out til hours later on the night train to Yangshuo. We all piled off the boat with our, gratefully, small day bags and Leon took us up a flight of 100 steps to the ferry terminal at 7 o'clock in the morning. Lovely. Onto the bus again back to Yichang to collect our backpacks and then on to Wuhan to catch the train! Including getting lost in a huge supermarket at a stop along the way when we only had 20 minutes to buy supplies. We finally boarded the train and prepared for the 5am arrival the next morning. Little did I know that the early morning was going to be sooo worth it when I arrived at Yangshuo and saw where we were staying.