The Yangzi River
Trip Start Jun 08, 2005
68Trip End Ongoing
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My adventures on the Yangze started in Chongquing in my second class sleeper (4 beds/bunks and a basic bathroom). Much to my utter horror my room mates turned out to be a really old Chinese man and his very young wife... I could handle the old/young thing not a problem, but this old geeza was certainly no Sean Connery! More like the seedy porn star type - greasy little moustauch, piggily eating boiled eggs, beer, smoking like a train (the room just stunk) and spitting left right and center (yes there was carpet on the floor!). The bathroom had the fowl stench of stale piss and there were rats in the walls (could hear them gnawing at night).... it didn't take me long to get myself into such a stew that I vomited! Total cultural gross out! After a night though of knowing that there would be no escape I managed to get a grip and by the end of the trip I too was drinking his beer (the only was to numb the senses to everything else going on around me)!
The Yangze is abit like the Northern Wairoa River (for those that are familiar) - upside down, all mud on the top! Day one from a scenic perspective was abit of a non-event, but the dam creation is just having the most amazing impact. I can remember being fascinated by the Clyde dam impact during the late 80's.... this was totally in its own league. 2 million people have to shift before the dam is complete, cities, pagoda's... you name it have all either been shifted or are in the process of being shifted.
The real beauty came on day 2 - beautiful gorges of shear cliff's of maybe 600-700 ft into the river and a trip up the tributaries to much clearer waters, monkey's scattered in the surrounding trees and then finally through to the dam. It's an amazing construction - just a shame that we had no English interpretation (for any of the trip)to learn any of the facts!
We could only spend 3 days on the river, I had originally planned to go right through to Shanghi on the river but that seems to be a no go situation for reasons that I could not decipher. It was an interesting trip though, nice to see so many Chinese enjoying there own country - of the 400 people on board the boat only 5 of us were foreigners (myself, 2 girls from Denmark, 2 girls from America). I was also fortunate enough to meet a really lovely Chinese couple, both English Professors and were absolutely lovely, it was nice to speak to them about their country - they added alot to my trip and helped me out alot! I have promised to send them a postcard from each country I visit.
In general I'm not so sure about the Chinese people though, some are lovely but most treat foreigners like they are part of a freak show - the endless stares, laughing, requests for photo's etc can wear alittle thin. Interestingly one of the American girls on the boat was an Afro American... from all accounts their fascination with her seemed about x10 greater than with any of us white freaks! I guess they see even less Afro Americans than white people. I had no idea how populated this country really is - I guess the consequence is cultural isolation. The few tourists are outnumbered by millions of locals... for example Chongquing in itself had a population of 6 million, I pretty much never saw another tourist.
Tonight I'm taking the overnight train through to Shanghi and alittle rest and relaxation in civilisation will be welcomed. I only got about 1.5 hours sleep last night... for some reason most of the boat went on the tour to see the new dam and the boat got court up in the marshalling area (can't remeber what the name is for that area) getting past the dam, the boat it didn't pick us up until 1am (by which time I was sound asleep on a set of steps like a homeless person!). The boat arrive at Yichang (final destination) at 2.30am at which point we had to vacate the boat... I've already been on a bus for 5 hours (getting to Wuhan) so I'm pretty tired already! It will be a relief to see my little train bunk later on today. Everything is challenging in this country, from getting directions through to knowing what's on your plate.