Thursday May 26, 2016

At some point (it’s hard to tell where, because this vast river just keeps flowing, from one to the other) we entered the last, shortest, narrowest and most dramatic of the impressive Three Gorges – the Qutang Gorge. The rain had stopped, the sun was playing peekaboo through the clouds, and (as we’d done each morning on the cruise) we interrupted our upstream-sailing – this time with a shore excursion to Shibaozhai: a 12-story, 18th century wooden pagoda that hugs its way up a large rock rising abruptly out of the river.

It was erected by Emperor Qianlong – and is an architectural wonder, having been built entirely without nails. When the Three Gorges Dam finally opened for business, the rising river levels were soon lapping at the base of the temple – so the Chinese government built a wall around Shibaozhai, adding a long swing-bridge to connect the new island with the town (especially in winter, when the river’s at its highest and the surrounding land is all underwater).

We wobbled across that self-same bridge, hiked past the ‘hello’ stalls, then grunted and groaned our way up the pagoda for some birds-eye views.

In the afternoon, for something a little different, we drove to one of many relocation towns built for the nearly-two-million people who had to be moved as a result of the Yangtze’s rising tides. We spent a pleasant half hour in the home of a very gentlemanly Chinese grandfather who answered our questions (through an interpreter) about what life was like now for him and his family.

Then, en-route back to the Lianna, we took a detour-by-foot through a real, fair-dinkum Yangtze River food market – jam-packed with local meat-&-veg shoppers (plus a footpath-dentist!) who seemed to find the presence of 23 Kiwi tourists something of a novelty.

That evening, back on board, some of us played dress-up … and, for a few moments, looked the part of Emperor and Empress. Good fun!

STILL TO COME: Our Yangtze Cruise comes to an end, and we head off in search of some famous rock carvings – and some even more famous oh-so-cute panda bears! Just wait until you see the pix …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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