March 12. 2014
Our travels until today on the Yangtze have been interesting but not the reason I looked forward to traveling on this river. The Chinese Mother River looked a little worn and homely despite the industrial vigor. Today we were rewarded with scene after scene from the Chinese schools of painting with Watercolors.
The Three Gorges section of the Yangtze includes 3 main gorges. After easing our way over the Three Gorges Dam in the night, we passed through the Xiling in the predawn hours before reaching the spectacular Wu Or Witch’s Gorge after breakfast. The omnipresent fog or mist inspired the Chinese artist like the Scottish moors were to the Victorian Romantics. For folks from California, it can be frustrating to not see the sun in the midst of mountain vistas. To the Chinese, less is more in a Taoist way.
The pre-dam river was actually 5-600 feet below the surface we were traveling on. The views must have been even more dramatic but then we would not be traveling in comfort on a big ship either. This 400 kilometer long man-made lake makes it possible for ships to carry goods from Chungking to the ocean.
As we passed through the Wu Gorge, my neck became bowed and I hope to have a number of pictures worth enlarging. I was not alone as Peggy and I took turns with the camera and the binoculars. We reached Fairy Peak where Princess Yaoji, the daughter of the Western Queen, came to Earth to help farmers and gather medicines. She is atop her mountain in the form of rock stele that sits next to the mountain peak.
We continued upstream to the ancient town of Wushan. The original town is submerged under several hundred feet of water. The residents were some of the 1.3 million Chinese displaced by the construction of the dam. The 100,000 current residents live in relocation houses and flats that we see overlooking the lake. Our Wushan resident guide feels the modern flats are a big improvement over the homes at the bottom of the lake.
At Wushan we boarded a smaller excursion boat to venture up the Lesser Three Gorges that lie on a tributary of the Yangtze. I found these gorges to be even more wonderful that our first two on the main river. Besides, these gorges had monkeys. Our poor guide was eager for us to see the archeologically important coffins that were in small caves perched on the cliffs. We Americans quickly forgot the wood coffins when a tribe of monkeys appeared on the opposite shore. Three pictures of coffins and thirty of the monkeys. They were in the Misty Gorge which renamed Monkey Gorge.
All of the homes and farms that you see are newly constructed. The old homes, temples and graves are at the bottom of the lake. Some things were moved but most was destroyed by the rising waters. After our three hour venture up the Daning River to see the lesser gorges, we returned to the boat for a late lunch. The last of the big gorges had to wait until around three. By then we were pretty much gorged out but hung in there.
While the day is not over, I can say that the Yangtze fills its original billing as a unique adventure. I even have to admit that the peaks, cliffs and escarpments were in the same league as Yosemite. However, this place will never get the name of “The Range of Light”. Mysterious and murky are more fitting.
A note on the pictures. Sorry that you can only see these limited pictures. The monkeys and whether the swimmer is wearing clothes will remain a mystery until we can do some enlargements.
Back in the summer of ’98 I saw slides of the original Wushan and at the time heard all the controversy surrounding the real cost of building the dams.
I remember reading about the relocation of the villages, and feeling so sad that all that history was being flooded. Nevertheless, the views are obviously spectacular!
Big Hill news: David went to get the mail on Tuesday, and discovered Jorgensen’s woods on fire! He called it in and 9 fire trucks arrived, along with 2 inmate crews who were on the south side of Telegraph. Jorgensen’s guest house burned. I think Richard himself is responsible: we drove by on Saturday, and he had 3 huge bonfires burning, right behind the house, and I commented to David that they were too close. Then we had a BIG wind, all night, and I’m guessing the sparks blew up onto pine needles on his roof. If David hadn’t called it in, who knows what might have happened?