Gorgeous Gorges

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This blog entry about the events of Friday, September 03, 2004 was originally posted on September 08, 2004.

DAY 321:  The Yangzi River stretches for over 3,960 miles from the western mountains of Chinese-occupied Tibet all the way to the East China Sea, but it is the 215 odd miles between Chongqing and Yichang that most tourists travel through.  It is on this stretch that the mighty Yangzi cuts through the famous Three Gorges, a big draw for people to experience, much like The Three Tenors:  Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and (if you’ll allow me to borrow a bit from Seinfeld) The Other Guy.  (Thanks, Jerry.)

Our little group of Westerners was starting to get the hang of the way things on the ship went, with its cruising passed points-of-interest at early hours in the morning.  We were all awake by six to join the thirty odd Chinese tourists (and two Spanish Basque country tourists that recognized my San Fermin t-shirt) on the front deck to see the first of the Three Gorges, the Qutang Gorge, with its steep rock cliff faces that greeted us in shades of blue with the early morning light and mist.  The passage was brief, only about ten minutes, but worth waking up in the morning.  Needless to say, a lot of us went back to bed afterwards for a couple of more winks.


“DID YOU BOOK THE BOAT to the Little Gorges?” I asked Wayne.

“Yeah.”

Back in Chongqing, the travel agency that set up our river cruise asked each of us if we wanted to pay extra for a five-hour tour of the Little Gorges of the Daning River, a tributary of the Yangzi, where the ship would stop for six hours.  Their sales pitch (which I had heard from many agents in other countries):  “You can’t say you saw the [insert place here; ‘Three Gorges’ in this case] unless you’ve seen the [insert site here; ‘Lesser Three Gorges’ in this case].” 

“They always do that,” I told Wayne.  “And they get me every time.  ‘Yeah, you’re right, I can’t say I’ve been there if haven’t seen that.  Here’s my money.’”


THE SHIP DOCKED IN WASHAN, the city at the junction of the Daning and the Yangzi, and with our pre-purchased tickets in hand, all of us Westerns got off the big ship and boarded smaller ships waiting for us to see the smaller gorges.  These smaller motorboats journeyed up the Daning, passed little villages of the Three Little Gorges:  the Dragon-Gate Gorge, the Misty Gorge and the Emerald Gorge, all three of which I couldn’t really distinguish from the other. 

The little boats docked upstream for us to board even smaller boats — let’s call them “mini-boats” — to see three more gorges we didn’t really know about beforehand:  the Three Mini Gorges on the smaller Madu River.  What was this, a big natural Russian Matryoshka doll, where you open one and find a smaller doll inside with an even smaller one in that one?  At least, the mini-boat tour was included in our tour ticket price.

The Three Mini Gorges — the Changtan, Qinwang and Sancheng — flanked the Madu River, a much smaller and intimate river to see, although the draw of tourism forced villagers to “put on a show” for the foreigners and city folk passing through.  Some villagers sang traditional folk songs over a megaphone.  The music of clarinets sounded from above at one point, but only when the boat passed by.  And even the Chinese-speaking guide on the boat sang a song.  We didn’t know exactly what about, but we applauded anyway, unaware if he was singing about how clueless the Westerners on the boat were.


BACK IN WASHAN’S PORT, I bought some fresh fried fish from a street vendor and boarded the big ship for lunch.  Soon after leaving port we were engulfed by the second of the big gorges, the Wu Gorge (picture above), known for its twelve crazy mountain peaks.  The third gorge of The Three Gorges came after the second one, but by that time I had been “gorged out” already, and therefore it was just known to me as “The Other Gorge.” 


THE CULPRIT (OR GODSEND IF YOU’RE A TOUR OPERATOR) in the rush of tourism on the Yangzi is the Three Gorges Dam, a huge engineering wonder that will control the flow of the river, causing the water upstream to rise and submerge its lower contents.  For an additional fee (of course), we could exercise the option to tour the dam and the tourist attractions in nearby Zigui.  Wayne, Natasha, Kelly and I got tickets and left the ship to walk and stretch our legs with the Chinese tourists, while the rest stayed on-board for four hours as the boat traveled through the dam from the upper Yangzi to the lower Yangzi with a series of locks.  We saw these locks from a park overlooking the dam, where water poured through, forming a constant mist that rose and formed new clouds.  The dam was not yet fully completed — only about two-thirds so far — with construction of another power generator well underway.

Our arrival in Zigui happened at night and I thought that perhaps nothing would be open, but everything around opened specifically for tourists.  We were driven to a street of stores and food vendors where all the lights were turned off — until the sound of the bus that magically turned everything on.  We visited the Chinese Sturgeon Aquarium, featuring the many different species of fish found in the Yangzi, and then saw a horse show with guys dressed in warrior clothes.  It was suppose to reenact battle scenes in Chinese history or something, but I’m not quite sure if the warriors of the past simple rode around in a circle pretending to fight other guys on horses to a cheesy soundtrack of music, voices and sound effects that never really synced up with the live action that was happening in front of us.

After snacking on fried dumplings and “peanut milk,” a deliciously sweet drink Wayne and I were curious about because all the Chinese tourists seemed to be drinking it (and the fact that peanuts don’t exactly have nipples), our tour bus took us to the Huangling Temple, the former home of King Yu of the Ming dynasty who control the flow of the river back then in a far-less engineered plan than a dam:  by offering sacrifices to the gods.  The temple, which also had an exhibition of corpses of ancient people found in the river, was a fine place to kill the rest of the time before the boat picked us up — the docks were right across the way — although we couldn’t exactly sit around and wait without paying one yuan each to one of the many smart locals who rented time on one of their chairs. 


THE SHIP CRUISED DOWN THE YANGZI through the wee hours of the morning on its last leg of the touristy gorge-a-plenty stretch between Chongqing and Lichang, passing through the locks of a smaller dam on the way.  I’m not exactly sure of its name, but as far as I’m concerned, it was just The Other One.






Next entry: The Tower in the Detroit of China

Previous entry: Submerged




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Comments for “Gorgeous Gorges”

  • STILL DAYS BEHIND… bear with me!  At this point, it looks like I’ll have to do most of my catching up in HK…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/08  at  07:55 AM


  • First smile  Too bad the boat’s timing is off - sights early in the morning, dam late at night.  Is it trying to avoid rush hour - heh wink

    Posted by Liz  on  09/08  at  09:47 AM


  • It’s a good thing you missed the flooding…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/08  at  05:18 PM


  • What beautiful mountains….what ugly water!  Brown water does not make for good pictures!  I wonder, was it shallow and dirty with pollution?
    Looking forward to HK.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/08  at  05:47 PM


  • yeah, the “other one” is beautiful smile but talk about nickel and diming you to death!  looking forward to your ventures in HK… i think I want to go there some day! N smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/08  at  06:08 PM


  • Thanks for the postcard Erik. Just wanted to say that yesterdays entry “Submerged” was perfect because there were floods in NY yesterday. ha ha.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/08  at  06:15 PM


  • ROSE:  Shallow, no.  Dirty yes—from pollution and silt.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/08  at  06:20 PM


  • NEVEN:  Actual floods?  Deadly ones?

    Hey, are the typhoons still killing people on boats in western Japan?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/08  at  06:21 PM


  • The “steep rock cliff faces that greeted us in shades of blue with the early morning light and mist” picture is a good one….

    Can sorta remind you of LOTR but also The Princess Bride…haha….gotta love that Andre the Giant…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/08  at  06:30 PM


  • Deadly Floods in NY?  well they basically killed the subway system all yesterday morning….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/08  at  06:33 PM


  • Erik - not this week LOL The typhoons have been crazy this year.  Seems like there is one every two days.  Heh, if you’re lucky you’ll get a typhoon and an earthquake while you’re here wink

    Posted by Liz  on  09/08  at  06:42 PM


  • is that peanut milk skim or 2%?

    cool pics..it looks like you’re off to train at Wudan mountain. 


    “don’t think…..feeeeeeel”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/08  at  09:51 PM


  • Great entries Erik…awaiting HK adventures too!

    I’m keeping track of the Hurricanes in this hemisphere….Ivan killed 20 people in Grenada over the last 2 days….might end up being the third hurricane to hit Florida this year!

    Stay Safe!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/08  at  10:07 PM


  • Anyone going to Thailand over the holidays?  I just bought my ticket for Dec 17 - Jan 9, Chicago to Bangkok.  yay!  If anyone has advice for me (Vietnam and maybe Cambodia too) let me know!  tdOT already helped me out..  I can’t wait!

    Vietnam has me a little stumped as to where to go - I just need one or two good places for a few days.

    (Sorry, Erik - I know this is your blog!)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/08  at  10:15 PM


  • nice stuff…
    did you really eat the fish they caught in this dump?

    kudos on your diligence by the way! (it’s been going on for about a year, right?)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  06:08 AM


  • WHEAT:  Don’t concentrate on the finger!

    My style?  You can call it the art of fighting without fighting. 
    ...
    That island.  Over there.  We could take this boat.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  07:51 AM


  • F.LEVENTE:  Yup, rather tasty too.  Let us not forget I ate a guinea pig at a food stall that wasn’t exactly up to health standards in Ecuador, and I still survived.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  07:53 AM


  • SARA:  I’ll be in the area at that time somewhere…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  07:58 AM


  • Hey Erik

    Are you going to be heading to
    S. Korea at all.  I’m going back next week and will be there for the next month.  No problems if you need a place to stay.
    Have a great time in Hong Kong.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  09:00 AM


  • Hey Erik

    Are you going to be heading to
    S. Korea at all.  I’m going back next week and will be there for the next month.  No problems if you need a place to stay.
    Have a great time in Hong Kong.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  09:00 AM


  • ANGIE:  Hey there… S. Korea a possibility…  I’ll keep you posted…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  10:17 AM


  • I was wondering about the brown water - yucky. Glad you got to see some green water. How much of the “lesser gorges” will be submerged??

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/10  at  11:28 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
The Tower in the Detroit of China

Previous entry:
Submerged




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