Docked this morning in Badong and left immediately after breakfast for our tour along the Shennong Stream, a tributary of the Yangtze River. We boarded a smaller sightseeing boat and soon after leaving the skyscrapers of Badong behind, we entered the first of several deep gorges. Unfortunately, the weather today was nowhere near as clear or sunny as yesterday, so we did not see the Shennong Stream at its best.
The steep sides are heavily wooded with only occasional signs of human habitation - a few houses and some fishing boats - until we came across a major infrastructure project. We passed under a large highway that spanned the stream and, on the other side, construction was underway for a parallel bridge that will, eventually, connect to a tunnel that is already in place. Our guide told us that the new bridge is for a High Speed Rail link. China already has several High Speed Rail lines and is building many more. This is just one of them.
Another feature of this waterway is the local custom of burying their dead in “hanging coffins”, so called, because of the ancient practice of placing coffins in crevasses in the cliffs, supported by timber braces. Many of the old coffins have been removed to museums, to prevent them from being inundated after the dam was built, while others, located above the flood line, are still in place and are easily visible.
We arrived at the village of Yanduhezhen, where we were welcomed with a gift of a semi-precious stone and many opportunities to shop! We resisted the lure of shopping and made our way to the theatre, where local residents/artists (again, the Tujia people) put on a musical show for us. Naturally, we could not understand any of it, but the action and projected English translations gave us enough understanding that it was about a love story (of course!) and a people’s love of their land. The background music was so intense and almost unbearably loud, that we could not hear the singers! However, the colour, movement and lighting were hugely enjoyable. We left with a headache from the noise, but a great sense of the Tujia people’s love of their land.
After a pleasant cruise back along the Shennong Stream, we returned to Katarina for lunch. As we ate, the ship sailed and by the time lunch was over we were entering the second of the Three Gorges on the Yangtze. This one is called Wu Gorge and was beautiful - in a subdued, mist-shrouded, overcast kind of way! The earlier rain and dull weather certainly detracted from the experience of being in the gorge and it was quite easy to imagine how spectacular it would be on a sunny day.
The Captain held a reception, mid-afternoon, to introduce the ship’s officers (four of the five were female) and to welcome us to his ship. It was fun, as everything had to be repeated in English and Chinese - and then refreshments table was opened. What an experience! Having lived in Malaysia for two years, we were somewhat educated in the Asian way of crowding in, but this was crowding on steroids! There was pushing, reaching across and even attempts to remove tongs from the hands of other people. We cannot be critical, as we know this is normal, not rude, behaviour, but it was still very disconcerting for those of us schooled in a more genteel approach to queuing! We were just happy that the ship was only carrying 120 passengers instead of its full complement of 300!
Shortly after the reception, we passed through the Qutang Gorge, the shortest and prettiest of the Three Gorges. We certainly experienced the short bit but, sadly, the weather foiled us again as far as the prettiness was concerned. Still, we saw enough to know that if the weather had been better, we would have had great views.
Later in the afternoon, the Katarina docked at Baidu, location of White Emperor City, with history going back more than 1800 years. We decided to give the excursion a miss, but it was well-reported by our travel colleagues that did go. Ray did some journal work, while Angela attended a presentation by the on-board artist, who demonstrated the art of snuff bottle painting. Sounds boring? Not! The artist uses specially shaped, tiny brushes to paint exquisite scenes on the inside of small snuff bottles. Very skilled!
To round out our evening, the talented crew put on a short cabaret show, featuring their many talents from magic, to music and dance. As with last night, it was most enjoyable. Half a dozen passengers- all from our group! - stayed on for the Rock and Roll session, but after ten minutes we were done! Besides, we have another early start tomorrow, to visit the Shibauzhai Temple, so time for some rest!