Last night, after the Captain’s Welcome Party wound down, I finally got some sleep. Amazing how restorative a good night’s sleep can be! And finally, we are cruising on the Yangtze River.
Today’s shore excursion was a quick float down the Shennong Stream. Our boat (and several others) docked for a couple of hours. We were loaded onto smaller boats that took us down a small gorge for some scenic cruising. We had a local guide that told us a little background about the area. Most of the farmers that used to live here have been relocated to larger cities. The handful that are left live a fairly meager existence. It takes from 20 minutes to an hour of walking down a steep slope from the local villages to reach the river. From there, they must take a boat to reach the nearest city in order to purchase goods. Children must walk from 1-2 hours in order to reach school. By the time they reach high school, they move to the city in order to attend school. The villages do have electrical power but no tv or computer access so are pretty cut off. Parents here do not want their children to be farmers; they want their children to have more opportunities. One thing is for sure – the dam has changed life here dramatically. Now, only the very old and the very young live here.
Because many of the people here are ethnic minorities (as well as farmers) the one couple, one child rule never applied to the villagers. We asked our guide if she was only child. She said she was, but that she had a brother and a sister, LOL. Like in Shanghai, parents plant two trees when their daughters are born but when their daughter marries, they are cut down and fashioned into a table and chairs for her to take to her new family. The mothers cry for up to ten days when their daughters marry. It is an expected behavior and would be bad luck for the couple if it did not occur.
The water level on the river is fairly low right now. It gets raised during the winter. Before the dam, the water was so shallow in spots that the boats had to be pulled through certain areas. Naked men would pull the boats through (our guide showed us a picture of this); now with the dam, that service is no longer necessary.
We passed by a cave on one of the hills. Our guide explained that there were hanging coffins inside. I was picturing coffins dangling, but she showed us a picture and basically it was just coffins pushed into niches in the cave walls.
Partway down the stream the boat stopped at a dock. We all disembarked and were treated to a short performance of local music. Apparently, Old Lang Syne is a local song because that is what was being performed! I am not sure what the instrument was but it was some form of horn. When all of the smaller boats had docked, the local guides all got up on the stage to sing for us. Again, not sure what the song was, but it sounded more like a Chinese rap song than a traditional song! What was funny was the number of Chinese tourists that hopped up on stage during the middle of the performance to have their pictures taken with the performers (while they were performing). Cultural differences!
We hopped back on the boats and were taken back to our ship to continue our journey down the Yangtze. Right now, we are floating along but I think there will be one more stop today because there is a ship-operated optional tour this afternoon. Otherwise, it is nice to have some down time after all of the touring that we have been doing.