Son Noah and Howard

Daughter Sarah

Wife Rebecca


Mongolian Adventurers: Leo Murray, Mongolian Horseman, and Howard

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Yangtze River Boat Cruise

I had been warned, and had read, that the Yangtze River cruises were highly overrated. That was not my experience. I found my President IV boat 4 day cruise well worthwhile. I had a private room which was very comfortable, with a balcony overlooking the water. The food was good and ample with many courses each meal and a buffet breakfast. Most travelers on my boat were middle class Chinese, which was good, but there were a small group of westerners, Germans and Dutch, whom I befriended who spoke enough English to keep me in the conversation. They were backpacker explorers accustomed to traveling. The crew on the boat included an English speaking guide to keep us informed of the sights as our tour unfolded.

I had taken the flight from Shanghai to Yichang, then taxi to the boat, on the date of arrival. We spent the first day visiting the dam, largest in the world, that will stabilize the waters of the Yangtze River upstream and provide power for 3% of China. The environmental damage is yet to be determined. I did not find that it detracted much from the tour, though the water was, of course, elevated and over 1 million Chinese needed to be evacuated from their homes as the river rose after completion of the dam. We were told they had the choice of moving elsewhere with an compensation equivalent to $7000 USD, regardless of the value of their current home, or they could move to new homes constructed nearby uphill from the river above the new water level.

Our cruise took us through 3 gorges as we traveled up the river from Yichang to Chongqing. The vertical cliffs alongside the river were quite spectacular, some comparable to those in Yosemite Park in the USA. At one stretch in the river, there were hanging coffins high up on the cliffs. We were told they dated back 1400 years and were placed there in the belief that their vertical height brought them closer to the heavens for a good afterlife. The ancient people managed to construct a temporary system of trellising up the cliffs to place the coffins there. The wood was made of an insect repellent wood that helped to preserve the coffins.

At another stretch of the river, we went by smaller boat up a tributary. The boatsmen at a certain point got out of the boat and hauled it upriver by rope along the bank of the stream because of the shallowness of the water. Before 1991, we were told, they did that naked because their local natural clothing was made of a rope-like material that injured their bodies. Better to do the job naked than suffer the injury.

Rains were beginning to get very serious in the monsoon season, and the river level was getting very high, so our boat needed to dock well before our destination, Chongqing, and we transferred to bus to conclude our cruise. I took a taxi to the airport and prepared for my visit to Lhasa in Tibet.

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