April 30
Day One on the Yangtze

My 20 British companion guests and I were roused from sleep with a 7:30 wakeup call of the Butterfly Lovers. Breakfast would be served at 8, and then we would be gathered on the sun deck to pass through the first of the two gorges scheduled for today. I have to say that the Yangtze is in fact incredibly beautiful, but for the ever-present ochre coal smoke reducing much of it to a dull hazy scene. Places far from population, as the interiors of some gorges, remained free of smog and one could see a bright blue sky -- though I suspect that could also be attributable to rain a day or two before.

And there's a pang of sadness that much of the charm will be lost to the dam and rising waters. At almost every turn one finds the markers of fate: huge signs with numbers such as "135" and "175.1" -- the former being the anticipated water level after one phase of construction scheduled to complete in June 2003, and later for the eventual lake's level once the dam is completed in 2009.

Everything below the 175.1 meter point is being systematically dismantled, and the carcasses of residences can be seen in various states of destruction. High on the promontories, bright new buildings, some simply utilitarian, (though many quite modern looking,) have sprung up; these will be the new residences for those relocated nearby. Many farmers will be located to other, more arable lands farther away.

And everywhere, ships ply their trade on the river: sampans catching fish or ferrying goods from one side of the river to the other, barges hauling coal or container trucks or any number of other goods, or rusty passenger vessels moving people up and down the river. Well-used hovercraft, "Meteors," race by with regularity as well, darting in and out, passing where other ships simply don't have the draught to go.

Later in the afternoon we would weigh anchor in Wushan for a four-hour excursion into the Lesser Three Gorges, another adventure altogether.

Entering the Gorges

A beautiful day, and impressive scenery, though a little difficult to see through the haze.

Industry on the Water

Sampan, sometimes motorized, sometimes not, are almost everywhere. An assortment of other sized vessels also struggle against the river's current, or are tethered to the shore.


A factory, clearly above the 175 Meter level, is situated far away from the river's edge now, but will be right along the shore in several years. For now, trucks move goods up and down along temporary roads, or roads not yet completely dismantled.

Getting Narrow

This part of the gorge gets pretty narrow (though before the first dam it was even narrower!) After the water rises, the channel will obviously widen.

Soon to be Lost

Many smaller gorges such as this will soon be hundreds of feet under water.

Make a Wish

One sight, happily high above the high-water mark, is Goddess Peak. It's said that after gazing upon the feature, you may make a wish. (It's not clear if that comes with any promises, though!)

The Goddess Herself

The mystical character that appears in much local lore, the goddess is said to have turned into stone so that she can continue to look out over the river. She's the slender pinnacle in the middle of the picture.

Today's Catch

Fishermen haul in their nets.


A fisherman scurries out of the way of the approaching cruiser.

Afternoon in Wushan

We arrived in Wushan for a side excursion up the Lesser Three Gorges in a powerful ferry that none the less had to struggle to make its way up the tiny, nearly pristine tributary.


Looking Back

The President 4, moored in quiet waters beneath Wushan is framed beautifully by the gorges through which we had just come.


Laundry Day

We can understand if these three young women were too busy to wave back at a bunch of sunburned tourists.

p4304784 (enh).jpg

Enjoying Life

Our local guide, Zhao Ling, clearly enjoys her work. She did an excellent job telling the local lore and showing points of interest up the little tributary.

Hanging Coffin

Yesterday on the main river, we saw the place where a hanging coffin used to be kept, but it really wasn't too visible. Here, as we rounded one corner, a huge rock face high above us revealed an actual coffin in situ. Tomorrow we would see a Hanging Coffin exhibit.

Coffin Close-up

This is just a close-up of the Hanging Coffin above.

Monkeys Ho!

We got very lucky today that we saw the monkeys; often times they're not so cooperative to be sitting out like that.

Landing Party

Monkeys sighted, we put ashore at a small pier where the monkeys were seen. Add to that a perfect vantage looking up to a hanging coffin, and I'd have to say we had a good trip.

Driven Back

A little uneasy at the brightly-vested tourists, the monkeys retreat up the hillside until we leave.