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Published: September 24th 2005
Tuesday, September 13, 2005 Weather: Clear and dry. Temperatures: Still hot - 80's to 90.
This was a day on the trip that we could sleep in as late as we wished. After having a wake-up call or alarm (by the way, be sure to take your own travel alarm along if you go as even the 5* hotels do not always have alarm clocks in the room) at 5:30 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. it was a real treat to "sack in!" However, we had been advised that our ship would be entering the first of the Three Gorges during breakfast hour and that commentary would be available only on the top deck so as to not disturb those who wished to sleep in. Therefore is was early to rise to enjoy all of what we came to see.
We enjoyed a western breakfast in the dining room (there is NO room service on river ships) where the omelet station was awaiting us. After getting my plate full of food I learned that the omelet station on the OTHER side was also serving freshly cooked French toast and blueberry pancakes! Must try that tomorrow! By 7:30 a.m. we were
on the upper deck to see the Qutang Gorge. It is a very short gorge but quite narrow and has spectacular scenery. I think that was were in and out of it in less than a half hour. A full day awaited so on we went. Our Cruise Director, Mark, remained on deck for quite a while commenting on the sights and scenes along the river and filling in with commentary about life in China and how the farmers survive.
About 9:30 a.m. we arrived at Wushan where we docked to transfer to a smaller vessel for our day trip into the Lesser Three Gorges. There was considerable wonderment about what awaited us. Was this "smaller" boat going to be like a tender, or possibly just an open boat with bench seats? Have no fear! Viking does it right! An announcement was made that the passengers were being divided into two sections by indicated by the names of their group leaders. The first group, in which we were included, would go on Boat #10 leaving at 9:30 a.m. and the remainder would go on Boat #4 leaving at 10:00 a.m. Our first view of our Boat #10 was when
Mark providing commentary
we left the Century Sky moored to a floating dock and followed the path lined by ship's personnel to help us over every little uneven spot. Our Boat #10 was marvelous! It had airline type seats inside the cabin with plenty of room on the forward deck to be outside if you wished. There was an upper deck but we didn't visit it so I cannot comment upon it.
Shortly after 9:30 a.m. we cast off and headed up the Daning River. Accompanying us was a local guide who gave running commentary on all of the sights. Apparently a big thing to the Chinese are the "hanging coffins" located on the cliffs. It seems like in ancient times it was a great honor to a family to have their loved ones entombed in a niche in the cliff wall way above the river. The higher the niche, the higher the family was regarded.
As we traveled the river we saw many river taxis with lots of people utilizing them. This is about the only means of transportation from places upstream down to Wushan which is a substantial sized city where much work has been done to move people
to higher ground away from the rising waters.
The trip into the Lesser Three Gorges is leisurely and extends about 20 miles. I would estimate that the boat was traveling no more than 8-10 knots. Along the way we passed a river taxi that was carrying a group of lovely Chinese girls dressed in bathing attire with numbers attached as though that had just been or were about to be in some kind of pageant. As our boat slowly overtook their taxi they all were waving to us and shouting "Welcome to China!" That was really nice and was consistent with the feeling that we received everywhere on the trip.
Shortly before noon we observed high on the river bank some modern construction. At the top of the stairs leading from the dock below was a pavilion covered with a striped awning and signs indicating "Viking Cruise Lines." This was to be our picnic ashore during the Lesser Gorges cruise. It was quite a climb. I did not count the steps but would estimate that it was somewhere between 50 and 100. Along the way there were souvenir stands where you could pause and see what a dollar
could buy. Upon arriving at the top we found a complete crew from the Century Sky had set up buffet lines (one for vegetarians) and were serving bar-b-que, fried chicken, salads and all types of tasty dishes. And, bless them, we saw for the first time since leaving the U.S. ICED TEA! They did a wonderful job in carting all of the items from the ship well ahead of us (now we know why the boat was traveling so slowly!) and up all of those steps.
The group on the second boat went sailing on by as we ate and just as we were finishing and returning to our boat they came from up river and docked for their lunch. It was a nice way of splitting the groups to avoid congestion. So, as we sailed away from Camp Viking we continued upstream to see a bit more of the Lesser Three Gorges before turning around and retracing our steps in the late afternoon back to the Century Sky.
In the late afternoon, I think around 6:00 p.m., there was the usual disembarkation lecture. The passengers were leaving a various hours so there was no single time for
The Lesser Three Gorges
Water taxi as local transportation
anything. Basically, luggage was to be out two hours before your scheduled departure time and you could have custody of your cabin until it was time for you to depart. No herding into common areas as on ocean cruises. That was most convenient. Our departure time was not until 2 p.m. so we had both breakfast and lunch on board. More on that in tomorrow's report.
Tonight was our last dinner on board and we were treated to a specially prepared Chinese Dinner supervised by the Chinese assistant chef (the lead chef, by the way, is from Minnesota!) and the menu was designed by the famous Chef Martin Yan. Admittedly, I am not a connoisseur of Chinese food but I will take the word of others at the table who found the meal most enjoyable. After dinner there was soft music for dancing in the Observation Lounge but most people seemed to be more interested in getting their things together for the next day's departure.
At about 8:30 p.m. our ship arrived at the locks at the dam and got in queue for transition. We had been warned that there is no way to know exactly when the
A surprise along the river!
Shouting "Welcome to China" on the way to or from a pagent.
ship would actually enter the locks. As it turned out, we did not enter until 10:00 p.m. I stayed on deck until we were in the lock along with about 6 or 7 other ships of varying sizes but did not await the various changes through four locks before going to bed. If you have seen the inside of one lock you have seen them all!
All in all it was an outstanding day and we had become accustomed to early bedtime so we were both asleep shortly after 10:00 p.m.
Next: Yichang, the Dam Tour and on to Shanghai.
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