Monday, October 24, 2005

The Lesser Gorges and the Mini Gorges

We took got out of our large cruise boat and boarded smaller, open-air boats that held maybe 20 people each. As we left the Yangtze and went down the tributary the color of the water changed from a muddy brown to a green, somewhat like the Atlantic off of New Jersey. Before we got to the first of the Lesser Gorges we stopped in an outdoor marketplace. I don’t think there was any other reason for us to stop than to go to the market… this small village seemed to subsist entirely off of the market. There was a telescope in the middle of the square that you could pay 3 RMB to look through… apparently you could see some coffins high up in the cliffs where these people have traditionally buried their dead. I did not look through, but the people who did said you couldn’t see anything. We were there for a short time, didn’t buy anything, and then got back on the boat to head further upstream.

As we entered the first of the Lesser Gorges, we were treated to the most magnificant sight. I had not been been able to really see first of the Three Gorges, but this first Lesser Gorge was amazing. The rock walls on either side seemed to go one forever up into the sky. As we headed upstream, the guide kept pointing out various rock formations that supposedly looked like a Buddha, or a dragon, etc. I couldn’t see most of them, but there was one formation that looked exactly like a giant woman lying on her back and washing her hair in the river. Very cool, although unfortunately too large to get a picture of.

They were called the Three Lesser Gorges, although I could not determine where one ended and another began… they were just huge. It was making me mad that we had gone through the first “real” gorge when it was dark, because if these massive gorges were “lesser” I couldn’t wait to see what the remaining two “real” gorges look like.

Further upstream we arrived at a floating pontoon where our boats docked and we transferred over to even smaller wooden boats that perhaps held 12 people each. These boats headed down yet another tributary for a few kilometers. Apparently this section was called the “Three Mini Gorges”. I guess everything comes in sets of three here. It was strange… the water and the flora changed so much through the mini gorges that you felt like you were in a tropical jungle. There was even a point were we saw monkeys along the bank, although I think they were kept there by the people that ran the boats. The water had turned to a bright shade of aqua… very pretty. Our guide passed out songbooks to everyone on the boat and we were treated to some Chinese a cappella. This was occasionally interupted but the people on the banks who got paid to just sit there and sing or play an instrument for the boat passengers. Once the boats got to a certain point, we just turned around and headed back to the Lesser Gorges. Then, heading back downstream to the Yangtze, we stopped at a temple that we had passed earlier in the day. There was a marketplace and a giftshop at the base of a long staircase. The stairs headed to a Buddhist shrine and a spring. The story about the spring was something to do with a student many years ago who could not pass his exams. He came to this spring to drink, and he passed his exams. Now, everyone that stops at this temple drinks from the spring to make themselves smarter. I didn’t drink any because I am already so brilliant… hehe… no, actually I didn’t drink any because I don’t want diptheria. I am enjoying a record-breaking stretch of non-food-poisoning-related-relations with my toilet.

Ok, well its time to go home now. I still have another few days of my trip to write about. I’ll try and get to that as soon as I can… perhaps I’ll be able to get the photos online soon too.