Ever since I read the book ‘The Story About Ping’ – a picture book about a little duck and his wise eyed boat, I have wanted to see the Yangtze River in Central China. So I was very excited when my G Adventures tour Essential China in 2014 included a 3 night, 2 day river cruise from Chongqing to Yichang. After watching a documentary of a family who travelled China with their 3 kids, I was also keen to see the Three Gorges and the Three Gorges Dam.
Outr boat was comfortable, but in no ways fancy. We hadn’t paid top dollar so I wasn’t expecting a ‘Princess Cruises’ style boat. It was about 3 stories high, with a large dining room, a simple lobby, one main bar and lounge and some deck space with artificial grass and plastic chairs.
Though we hadn’t come for boat luxuries, it was all about the sights! We left Chongqing (the world’s largest city area with 31 million people – and yet I’d never heard of it before this cruise) on CHINA’S NATIONAL DAY. Yes because in a country of a billion, in a city of 31 million let’s also add the amount of tourists swanning about for national day celebrations. It was almost peaceful getting out of the city and motoring down the river past farms, rock formations, mountains, canoes. Well peaceful until you rounded a corner and Bam! Another city, with a good hundred thousand people. Bridges like the ones below were quite a common site after hours of countryside.
After our first night on the river we awoke to the special experience of cruising through the Three Gorges, or as the Chinese translation said “The Three Georges”. I swiftly named them George Michael, Prince George and Boy George. We grabbed some prime locations up on deck to watch the spectacular scenery.
Recent rains had left the river brown, unclean and full of debris. But the dramatic rock formations and cliffs certainly took my mind off the river’s state. The cliffs are absolutely towering, and only when boats and houses were in the picture could you actually get an idea of the actual scale and size. A misty humidity haze followed us for most of the day, but I could not stop snapping hundreds of photos like below of the landscape that greeted us around every bend.
After the second dramatic day of cruising past The Three
Georges Gorges, our third day was a day trip down a tributary of the Yangtze, past some ancient burial coffins wedged in the cliffs to a random touristy stop, complete with souvenirs and a show. I had seen (in the documentary of the family) this really cool side excursion on small, raft like boats that were dragged down narrow tributaries of the yangtze with traditional guides and taken to traditional villages. I was so excited then at the prospect of our day trip. Alas, we just moved (with 100 or so other people) onto a large ferry which then chugged down a medium sized river, under some more Power Bridges (as I called them) to a tourist village and then back to our large boat. Not quite what I had in mind but I guess the term ‘optional day trip excursion exploring the tributaties of the Yangtze’ is pretty vague.
And had I not seen the documentary I would probably have not had any expectations of what the experience would be like! A typical travel caution; sometimes the things with the highest expectations turn out to be the biggest let downs and I leave feeling that the whole experience was overrated. And usually when I have no idea about a destination and no expectations, it turns out to be the best!