Last known location: London, England

The Three Gorges

We crawled out of bed at 6am to catch minibus to Chongqing for our river cruise, which was a bit of a struggle after 4 hours sleep and a few too many beers the night before! We’d arranged it through our hostel, who’d booked everything with a local travel agent. The details were all a bit vague, but the plan was that we’d be taken to Chongqing, where we’d meet up with the cruise company who would then transport us to Wanzhou to board a boat which would take us through the Three Gorges to Yichang.

We got on the minibus in a bit of daze, to find it full of luggage and locals – there were no seats so we plonked ourselves on the floor, which didn’t seem too promising for a four hour journey! Five minutes later however, we stopped at the side of the road and our driver pointed us towards a coach that was parked there. We hopped on to find it again full of locals. They seemed to be made up of two tour groups, and as Gem went straight back to sleep I had to answer all their questions; whether they understood the answers or not I have no idea.

After some terrible traffic we finally arrived in Chongqing at about 1 o’clock. Thinking we were now part of one the tour groups we approached each of their guides but were shooed away and ended up standing in the street with no idea what to do. One of the locals who we’d been talking to us on the bus pointed us in the direction of a man hanging around the bus who then claimed that we were to go with him to get on the boat. He seemed a bit fishy though so after a call to the hostel we were told to ditch him (it turned out he was trying to sell us another tour) and stay where we were. Eventually someone from the shipping company showed up with a big sign saying ‘Allkins x2’ which was a welcome sight!

The itinerary for the tour said that we’d have a few hours to explore Chongqing before we moved on, but we had to skip this due the slow bus trip earlier. I don’t think we missed much; all we saw on the way into the smoggy city of 10 million people were row after row of high rise flats being built, to add to the hundreds that covered the city centre already. After a quick lunch we were sent down to board another coach, which was carrying our actual tour group. We were now part of what we’d so hated in Beijing – a huge group of tourist with badges round our necks, all following a guide with a flag! It was quite nice to have someone to follow and tell us what to do at this point though!

After another four hours on a coach we arrived in Wanzhou and boarded our little cruise ship. I say little, it could probably sleep about 400 people!  We had our own room, which was comfortable enough and had a little balcony.  We set sail at about 9 and, despite a lot of chattering and commotion outside, managed to get to sleep relatively early!

The next morning we woke up pretty early – this was partly due to the fact that we were due to cruise through the first of the Three Gorges first thing and we didn’t want to miss it! Qutang Gorge was pretty stunning – sheer cliffs shooting up from the green river.  There were low clouds and it was misty and not quite fully light so the whole scene was very atmospheric.  There was a running commentary in Chinese but unfortunately we’re not quite fluent so can’t provide very detailed information!  At midday we got off our big cruise ship and onto another smaller boat to visit the Little Three Gorges.  The trip was about 4 hours long and, again, we saw some beautiful scenery.  The rock face was quite green in some areas and there were groups of monkeys climbing around the bottom of the cliffs. Further down the gorge we got onto even smaller boats with a local guide in traditional garb chattering away, singing songs and pointing things out on the river bank, which included people in another boat singing and someone playing some kind of horn. All the Chinese found it hilarious but it was a bit lost on us – entertaining all the same!

Being a Chinese tour there was a packed itinerary, and our guide would track us down every hour or so to tell us about something or other we should be doing! As soon as we were back on the main boat she hurried us out onto the deck for the second of three gorges, Wu Gorge, which was again spectacular, and very eerie in the twilight. We were living on a variety of flavours of dried noodles from the supermarket, which people seem to eat anywhere and everywhere. Very spicy and fine for a couple of nights but we were a bit sick of them by the time we got off!

We were up early again the next morning for more activities! This time we boarded dragon boats which were motorised (although there was a half hearted rowing race at one point), and sped down the river to a little jetty. This had a stage where we were treated to a slightly odd musical theatre show, and there was also a walkway down a narrow gorge through a cave and around the cliffs back to the boats. We suspect the stage show might have had something to do with the cave, but you can never tell!

That afternoon we passed through the last of three gorges, Xiling Gorge, and arrived at the Three Gorges Dam, which we then had a tour of. It was impressive in scale but not much to look at, and all the plaques and displays at the visitor centre were very much focused on the engineering achievement and pride of the Chinese people rather than the environmental damage and the millions who’ve had to leave their homes. Still, interesting to see!

That was the end of the cruise, and we had a fun afternoon of coach travel on to Wuhan to follow. The second coach we had to get wasn’t in the best of states and could just about manage 50mph, so we arrived very late and in completely the wrong part of town! It was straight to our hostel in a taxi, and off to bed. We left Wuhan the next day having seen nothing off the place (there isn’t much by all accounts) and are currently speeding along on a very fast train towards Suzhou, about an hour or so west of Shanghai which is famed for its canals. Hopefully we’ll be able to do a bit more relaxing and a bit less travelling after a busy couple of days!

  1. John 6 Nov, 2010

    I am pleased Gem is keeping up the Allkins family tradition of being able to sleep anywhere.
    It sounds exhausting as an itinery but something you will never forget.
    The gorges look a bit the same, could you have gone in a circle?
    Enjoy shanghai, it’s very modern mostly but you should try to get to the Bund, to see the old concession areas.
    Hope it’s warmer now, but the river looked cold.

  2. Rose 8 Nov, 2010

    The beds on the boat looked rather narrow! All looked very interesting. So pleased you ended up on the right cruise. Think Pam and Bob Britton went on a cruise before the dam was built and many vilages flooded.

    Shanghai should have some interesting old Colonial type buildings.


    Mum x x x

  3. Belinda 10 Nov, 2010

    It all looks very lovely but could I please have more information about the meat on sticks? (I love dodgy meat on a stick!) Also, is that you and Dan on the tightrope? Keep it up! Bx

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