Our most expensive activity in China, we paid US prices for a fascinating trip 600 km upstream from Wuhan through beautiful gorges. By 2003 the gorges will be gone as a dam floods the area, so go NOW if you are interested.
[Wuhan] [Yangtse River]
The Yellow Crane Pagoda (another beautiful temple complex) and the Hubei Museum (provincial museum with a world-class exhibit of artifacts from a local emperor's tomb, including a magnificent set of bells) are the main tourist attractions of Wuhan, while a walk through the night markets made us think we were in a zoo with live poultry, snakes, eels, fish, rabbits, and other livestock on display for the evening meal. We met a very interesting architect who walked along the waterfront with us, and filled us in on the local history. Many of the slums have been razed in anticipation of foreign investment on the riverbanks.
Our next adventure was to be a cruise up the Chang Jiang (aka Yangtze River). Here is our route, pick a spot and we'll tell you a little about it:
Day 1- Wuhan to Yueyang - We boarded the Victoria Cruises cruise liner Victoria Prince at sundown in the midst of great confusion and yelling by our taxi driver, ready for a relaxing 5 day cruise to Chongqing.
Day 2 - Yueyang to Yichang - a short tour of a Pagoda (we decided not to go), Chinese lessons, and a lecture on the 3 Gorges Dam project occupied much of the day. Many little factories were nestled on the hills, and coal was extracted from seams on the hillsides and channeled directly to factories or loading docks on the river. 3 great meals were capped off by a fashion show of period Chinese outfits.
Day 3 - Yichang to Wushan - early in the morning the boat was lifted 23 meters at the Gezhouba Dam and Lock (compared to the Panama Canal, it is 3 times as high, equivalent to being lifted all the way to Gatun lake in 1 lock). Midday we visited the site of the 3 Gorges Dam, a controversial flood control and power generation project where a 100 meter-high dam will create a reservoir more than 600 km long. It was very hazy, and visibility was poor, but the scale of the project is huge. The day wrapped up with a Chinese painting demonstration and more food as we moored near Wushan.
Day 4 - Wushan to Wanzhou - the trip through the gorges was spectacular, steep cliffs line both side of the Yangtze, sometimes soaring 1000 meters above us. The hillsides were lined with towns and villages, each with a twin, located above the high water level, where people will move when their home, farm or apartment is flooded by the rising water. We diverted to the Lesser Gorges, a beautiful tributary with smaller cliffs and farms on each side - also destined to be flooded into a placid bay.
Day 5 - Wanzhou to Chongqing - a shore trip in Wanzhou, this time to watch a young acrobatic team (Fantastic), museum (terrible), and a market (great vegetables, meats, and livestock). One highlight of the trip was a caravan of police and army vehicles parading shackled criminals (each with a sign around his neck stating his crime) through the main street - they looked very unhappy and it occurred to us that they were not long for this life. We had a tour of the ship's bridge (NO electronics, no GPS, no autopilot, none of the toys we cruisers have come to believe are essential) and a demonstration of painting the inside of small bottles, a typical Chinese craft. Then a farewell banquet and a night of rest before disembarking in the morning
Day 6 - Chongqing - we arrived right on time at 0900 amid a little drizzle. A short cable-car took us to the street level, and we grabbed a taxi to the bus station. A few hand-signals later we had our ticket to Leshan, join us there.