Part 1 can be found here.
After we had explored more of the Chinese Sturgeon Garden than we needed, we were taken to our cruise ship. Actually, it was just a boat: ship is too grand a word. That’s not to say that it wasn’t nice or anything, just small (as far as cruise ships go). Before we even got onto the boat we had staff there to help with our bags. Arlo and I chilled out on the couch while Geoff did all the checking in. But there was a problem. He had the booking receipt and all, but we weren’t on the check in sheet. They even asked our Chinese name to see if we were registered under that. We don’t have a Chinese name.
After a stack of phone calls we were told we had been taken to the wrong boat, and our boat was docked about 50 metres away. This was no problem, but the refusal of everyone to help us take our bags off the boat was, somewhat. Still, we managed to get to the other boat, with me muttering that we’d better get an upgrade after all this. Check in here went smoothly and we soon had someone showing us to our cabin. On the way she pointed out one of the superior cabins, which we had booked. Note that the superior cabin wasn’t superior to anything else, except perhaps the staff quarters. It was a basic room with twin beds and a small bathroom. It’s like Starbucks calling a small coffee “tall”. It’s not tall, it’s small and should be called that. Gah!! Anyway, we were then told that we were meant to have one of those cabins but we had been upgraded to a deluxe suite. Joy, joy! This was twice the size of the cabins, had a king-size bed, full bathroom (with bath), couch, big flat screen TV, desk, cupboard, fridge and massive balcony. Exactly what we had hoped for but didn’t want to pay the extra for (yes, we’re cheap!). It was perfect for Arlo to roll around and for us to make a mess, and also became a sanctuary away from the chaos of all the other guests. We were so glad to be in a room that we were happy to come back to, rather than just somewhere to sleep. In hindsight, if we were to do the cruise again, we’d pay extra to ensure we got a suite (maybe we’re not so cheap after all), and we recommend that anyone considering doing the cruise do the same. Here’s the deck plan to show the difference.
The cruise we chose was a 5 day/4 night Yichang to Chongqing trip. Saying it was 5 days was a bit creative – we boarded the boat from 5pm on Day 1 and the itinerary said we departed at 9pm. Actually, we didn’t leave the dock until 5am on Day 2. Likewise, Day 5 saw us getting off the boat by 9am. So Day 1 we met Campbell, our river guide. He told us that the boat would be full of people from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Germany, all on large tours. We were to share our table at meal times with five other independent travelers, all of whom were from Basel, Switzerland (it was all coincidence that they were all from the same town, which is also the same town where Michelle (my sister) has family). We got along fabulously well with a young couple, Pascal and Esther. Arlo took to Esther faster and more completely than she has ever taken to anyone. They were quickly best friends! All of the Swiss folk had also been upgraded to suites, so I figured it was because the basic rooms were needed for the tour groups.
After breakfast on Day 2, having traveled not very far at all, we got off the boat to check out Three Gorges Dam. Understatement of the year: it was big. Too big for us to see across the entire 2300+ metre length (though the fog may have had something to do with that).
Below, the ship locks that we would sail through later that day.
Never let it be said that the Chinese don’t seize every opportunity to sell junk. Here they sold everything from pictures of the dam to paper weights to toy ferrets attached to balls!
Arlo spending some quality time with Esther at the dam.
After seeing the dam from the ground we got back on the boat to see it from the water. It took more than three hours to get through the series of ship locks, which was fun for a while. We hung out on the top deck to get the best view.
Making friends with Campbell.
In part 3, cruising up the reservoir (otherwise known as where over 1.3 million people had to be relocated before their homes were drowned).