Fourteen weary Jules Verne tourists climbed off the coach that had taken them from the city of
Shanghai to the River Port of Zhenjang on the Yangtze to board their cruise ship the MV Victoria Rose and their eight night journey upstream along the Yangtze River in China ending at the river city of . We shouldn’t have been that weary. Six intriguing days and nights spent in Chongqing Beijing and finally had been fascinating. Our minds were full of the exciting images we'd seen. Our bodies were weary with the walking and climbing wed done, but our weariness was more to do with a coach journey that should have taken three hours from Shanghai Shanghai to the The fact that China is under construction meant that the motorway from Shanghai to the River Port was still being built as we drove on it, resulting in the journey taking nine hours. The road was so rough that we spent the entire time either hitting the roof of the coach with our heads or jarring our spines on the seats. All of us were dreaming of a relaxing cruise with the highlights being our visit to the new Three Gorges Dam site and to see the magnificence of The Three Gorges before the completion of the Dam in 2009 submerges The Three Gorges leaving just the peaks as islets above water. But how relaxing was this cruise going to be? River Port.
The Yangtze River in
The MV Victoria Rose was comfortable and spotlessly clean and a very welcoming sight after our long coach journey. The cabins were a reasonable size with very sleep inducing beds and adequate bathrooms, complete with a wet-room which I loathe, television, telephone and efficient air conditioning. I stress the importance of air conditioning in
So much for the anticipated rest though. The MV Victoria Rose set sail from Zhenjang some time during the night and docked at
The next day was even more threatening. By this time we were calling our Cruise Director Herr Flick! With great joy he told us that breakfast was at 5.15am as we had a full day shore excursion to the
To reach the top of the Yellow Mountain we boarded a cable car that held one hundred people and took almost fifteen minutes to ascend on what looked to me like a bit of string. We were all more confident when told it was Austrian technology and engineering that had designed and built the whole system. Looking down as the cable car smoothly soared upwards we passed over peaks and gorges and deep ravines, which was a breathtaking and scary experience but stunningly beautiful. We then followed a pathway downwards past the Cloud Gathering Pavilion and then to a mountain restaurant for lunch. This pathway was narrow and steep with nothing but an iron railing on the edge to prevent anybody falling through and into the terrifyingly sheer drop to the valleys and ravines below. At stages along these pathways there were thousands of padlocks on chains on the iron railings. Lovers declare their undying love for each other by locking the padlock onto the rail and throwing the key into the gorge, so expressively romantic? After a delicious Lazy Susan lunch in a restaurant perched high on the mountain we had to climb back up the very steep paths and steps to the cable car station for our descent. The afternoon sun was very hot and immediately after a large lunch we were uncomfortably out of breath but all considered ourselves very lucky to have seen the
It was some relief to discover we had two days sailing upstream with no shore excursions but for one brief evening tour of the city and river
The Dynasty Restaurant served excellent hot and cold buffet style breakfasts at the respectable time of 8.00am with selections of food from traditional Western taste to Chinese style. Lunch was a hot buffet, again with choices to suit everyone. Dinner was waiter service as dish after dish of Chinese style foods arrived and was placed on the Lazy Susan so let the spinning begin! Early bird tea and coffee was served from 6.00am in the Yangtze Club and tea and cookies at 3.30pm every afternoon. I never made the early bird coffee and somehow I never made, or needed, the afternoon tea. Fortunately there is no dressing up on board. People were wearing the same casual clothes to dinner as they had worn to breakfast. The onboard laundry service was so reasonably priced that if I did this trip again I would only pack one set of clothes, wear the other set, and have each laundered on alternate days.
I was disappointed that we couldnt walk right round the MV Victoria Rose outside decks as they were both too narrow and sealed off for access. Although all the cabins had large picture windows overlooking the outside of the ship the cabin doors opened into internal corridors. This made any length of time spent on board feel restrictive. There were two sundecks fore and aft and an observatory top deck. Two online computers, a hairdresser and beautician, a masseur, a library and a doctor were on board. The MV Victoria was non smoking apart from the bar, in the lobby and the outside areas.
The weather was warm enough to sit on the decks in spite of the persistent mist and fog. The Yangtze River was a deep yellowy, muddy colour, probably because of the tons of sewage and industrial waste that is dumped in it all the time as well as the enormous amounts of silt that are deposited in the flood season. Only three weeks prior to our visit unseasonably heavy torrential rainfalls had caused extensive flooding with the loss of many lives from people who lived in the villages along the banks of the river. As we sailed along some pleasure was gained from the intermittent breaks from riverside industrial plants and their smoking chimneys allowing us to see more clearly and enjoy the landscapes. Rice fields worked by manual labour with the help of water buffalo were scenes that I'd expected along this part of the Yangtze.
The upstream current was very strong so it took us twenty seven hours to travel just 295 miles up the river to Wuhan for a brief two hour visit where we saw yet another Buddhist Temple and led into yet another shop selling yet more Chinese arts, silks, jade, pearls, kites, Mah Jongg sets and calligraphy tools. Although this was just day four on the River Yangtze it was day nine of our visit to
The distance from
When you're on a river boat it is very exciting going through the ship-locks on a river and the Gezhouba Dam was no exception. From the moment the back gates closed behind us it took about twenty minutes for the water to pump into the lock to reach the same level as the outside and for the front gates to open, but this was small fry compared to the Three Gorges Dam. The Three Gorges Dam has five ship locks. Each lock can hold from five to nine ships. Our passage through each of these locks took a total of four hours. As well as flood prevention the new Dam will create a reservoir over 350 miles long. At the same time displacing almost two million people from their homes and their land but also providing electricity for 80% of the country! Many people are leaving the rural farming areas altogether and taking jobs in the fast expanding industrial areas in the cities.
So how much of the Gorges would we see now that the drowning has begun? The Three Gorges Dam is built in the forty seven mile long Xiling Gorge which was once a dangerous part of the river to navigate because of the currents and the rapids, but not any longer because the water levels have risen as the Three Gorges Dam nears completion. We entered the twenty five mile long Wu Gorge, often described as the most sombre of the gorges because of the steep cliff walls bordering the winding river and the sunlight sometimes breaking in shafts through the splits in the rocks. Then onwards to Wushan where we were to board a small ferry and sail along the
Finally, the five mile long Qutang Gorge where the river narrowed to a matter of a few hundred feet with sheer precipices either side and then onwards to Fengdu The City of Ghosts. It looked like it too as it was shrouded in mist but we had a pleasant on shore visit to the
Along the cliffs and the precipices that bank the Yangtze through all the Gorges as well as on large stretches of the Yangtze are huge signs in metres showing where the water will stand in 2009. This had a huge impact as we saw the houses, villages and even cities which will be underwater or demolished when the dam is finished. They say that the deep waters will allow ocean liners to sail all the way to the huge city of
Our two part visit to
But this wasnt the end of our