We embarked on the ‘Yangtze 2’ at Yichang for the four-day Three Gorges cruise on the Yangtze River. Two programmes are on offer each day; one is included in the fare, the other an optional extra for which you have to pay a supplement.
We thought the best of these was the ‘optional’ one on the first day. We’d sailed into the Xiling Gorge, below the famous dam; the first of the gorges we’d traverse on the cruise.
It’s a hike following the Dragon Stream, a tributary of the Yangtze, which is described as ‘the first large-scale folk customs tourist area in China’, and proclaims itself to be an AAAAA-rated tourist area.
Ours wasn’t the only ship moored here, and it looked like chaos at first, with all the crowds, and the guides trying to outshout each other on the quayside. But, some sort of order emerged from the confusion, and the ‘Tribes of the Three Gorges’ turned out to be an unmissable trip.
Our own guide was a demure young lady dressed traditionally in red silk … we’re going to see a lot of ladies in red silk, for red is considered a lucky colour in China. Almost the first thing you saw was a lady, also in red silk, being poled around in a sampan on the stream far below.
All the way up the gorge, we walked along a wooden walkway, and passed traditional buildings, water wheels, cormorant fishermen … they’re showing China as it used to be … or, maybe, as we imagine it used to be. The jury’s still out on that one.
There’s natural beauty here, too. Everyone stopped to photograph or video the monkeys; are they pets, or do they come down out of the trees in search of a handout when a group of tourists comes past? The waterfall near the top of the climb was pretty, rather than spectacular and, the head of the gorge itself was a sheer cliff, with a quiet pool below.
In spite of the crowds, there’s still an aura of peaceful quietness about the place … until, on the way back, we came upon a noisy re-enactment of a wedding ceremony … I was asked if I wanted to be the ‘groom’, but I got out of the way in time, and another was chosen instead.