Up the Yangtze without a Paddle

Cruising down the Yangtze river is all about the journey rather than the destination. The Yangtze is …wait for it…China’s longest (there it is again) and most scenic waterway, and the world’s third longest river.

It is also a very welcome escape from the endless marathon bus rides and multiple plane journeys (by the end of the 12 day trip, I will have amassed 7 plane trips).

The Sinorama Diamond river cruise ship will depart from Jingzhou and for the next 5 days drift toward Chongqing, a city of approximately 32 million people (just a shade fewer than the population of Canada), and a city I have never heard of. I find it astonishing that China is populated with innumerable cities of multi-millions, the names of which most of us have never heard. How is this possible? It speaks of the relative insularity and somewhat impenetrability of this country, that’s for certain.

Along the way, we’ll pass through the Three Gorges and their locks, visit the White Emperor Town, a half submerged village, now operating more like a Disneyland than a working village, and visit the massive Three Gorges Dam project, the world’s largest artificial generator of electric power from a renewable source (are you still keeping track of the longest, biggest, more awesome-est references here? How many have we amassed, dear reader, and we’ve only journeyed through a mere fraction of this country?)

It is also the rainy season along the Yangtze…we are in a place that sees 280 days of rain each year. In a word, it’s moist.

What has intrigued and impressed me most about the tourist highlights I’ve seen is the number of Chinese tourists in their own country. They are as curious about these places as we, the big noses (their charming nickname for us), are. They take as many photos as we do, and ask as many questions…well I assume they’re asking questions…

And so, as pictures are worth a thousand words, I give to you…pictures along the Yangtze River…

My sincere thanks to Sameer Kamal, who I met on this trip and who takes the most astonishing photographs. If you are impressed by any of these photos, it is likely he took them.

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Three Gorges Dam project in miniature. Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

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Yangtze River Bridge (I think…one loses track sometimes) Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

Lock, stock, and three smoking ships (diesel, that is). Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

Wow! Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

Wow! Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

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Car manufacturing is huge in Chongqing and so flotillas of cars drift up and down the river. Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

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Between amazing vistas, cities of millions suddenly emerge. Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

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White Emperor City. Courtship ritual — he (in blue) sings to her (in red) to capture her attention and woo her into wedded bliss.

Water Village Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

Water Village
Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

Because who doesn't love monkeys?? Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

Because who doesn’t love monkeys??
Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

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Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

Shibaozhai, a 12-storey, 56m-high wooden pagoda built on a huge, river-water-encircled rock bluff, Qing Dynasty (1662-1722) Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

Shibaozhai, a 12-storey, 56m-high wooden pagoda built on a huge, river-water-encircled rock bluff, Qing Dynasty (1662-1722)
Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

Surrounding the Shibaozhai pagoda is the Hello Market where one can purchase any number of souvenirs and items to eat. It was here that I considered, and then decided against, purchasing a bag of peanuts from a very old woman. This, despite her showing me her gnarled, arthritic wrists, presumably indicating my purchase stood between her and certain poverty. She was asking too much for the nuts, and I declined. Walking away I suddenly heard her behind me (she was quick for someone so disabled by chronic pain, I thought idly), and then felt her both grab my wrist and thrust a shopping bag of peanuts into my other hand. Politely I demurred her request. Then she got mad. I don’t know what she said, but I could tell Grandma was quite irritated. I couldn’t loosen myself from her grip…I put the bag on the ground and twisted my arm. Those arthritic fingers held tight (so much for them being an impediment to her life)…and I’m thinking “I don’t want to knock an old lady to the ground, but geez how do I get free of her vice-like grip??“. It took both my writhing and Sameer, a fully-grown man, to wrestle her off me. Next time I’ll just buy the damn peanuts.

Crossing the Bridge of Heaven. One must do it in odd-numbered steps, 3 being the most advantageous. Those of us with shorter legs find it awkward, but not impossible. Not unlike getting into heaven, one imagines.  Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

Crossing the Bridge of Heaven. One must do it in odd-numbered steps, 3 being the most advantageous. Those of us with shorter legs find it awkward, but not impossible. Not unlike getting into heaven, one imagines.
Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

Allan, our enthusiastic Cruise Ship Director (like Julie from The Love Boat), who will encourage us in all things fun onboard the Sinorama Diamond. Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

Allan, our enthusiastic Cruise Ship Director (like Julie from The Love Boat), who will encourage us in all things fun onboard the Sinorama Diamond.
Photo courtesy of Sameer Kamal.

And finally, the Passenger Talent Show…aka Bus #3 Got Talent (all photos courtesy of Sameer Kamal).

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