Our China Tour in 2006

Gene and Norma Maas

Saturday, April 29 Wu & Lesser 3 Gorges

This morning we headed through the magnificent 28-mile-long Wu Gorge. The river winds through the massive peaks and lush green mountains. At 8 am, we disembarked from the Sheena and took a ferry boat to the entrance of the Shennong Stream.







There we boarded small "peapod" boats to explore the towering cliffs and lush vegetation of the spectacular Lesser Three Gorges. These narrow but long wooden boats accommodated 10 or 12 passengers besides four oarsmen and a guide. When the stream got too shallow, the oarsmen, called "trackers", jumped out and pulled the boats upstream with bamboo ropes.






At one time, the trackers performed their task naked, but now wear swimming trunks. We were quite impressed by how four lean and wiry men could pull our loaded boats while walking over rough and stony terrain in sandals. When we reached some small but impassible rapids, the boats were turned around and then we waited until all boats caught up with us before heading back. We were in the lead going upstream but in the rear going back.

We were very fortunate to have a beautiful day with hazy sunshine. At one point along the way, we could see an ancient coffin suspended high in the limestone cliff above us. These coffins are believed to belong to the Ba people, a lost culture from the Bronze Age. We were also told we might get to see some wild monkeys along the way but we never spotted any. The excursion up the remarkable Shennong canyon was very impressive and another of many highlights of our trip. Unfortunately, many of the sights we saw in this canyon will be completely submerged by 2009.

We returned to our ship for lunch as we continued through the Qutang Gorge, the shortest (5 mi.) and narrowest of the three but perhaps most spectacular. We were fortunate to have clear weather and blue skies. The group who had gone the week before said the gorge was mostly engulfed in fog. It was quite a sight as we sailed under and between the towering precipitous mountains. In some places, vertical walls 3000 feet high on each side of the river create a one-way channel barely 100 meters (330 ft.) wide. Upstream ships often must wait for downstream ships to pass on through; however, the traffic was light and we never had to wait.

Beyond the Gorge we saw a number of large coal storage sites where coal was dropped down long chutes to waiting ships below. From our vantage point on the river, it was hard to figure out how they got the coal to these sites since they seemed be constructed on very steep mountainous slopes.

Gene Maas
5 Jun 2006



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