Just made it to Leshan after a terrible 6hr minibus ride from Chongqing. A treturious journey over concrete craters and dodging insane motorbike riders. At one stage, I suddenly woke to the screetching of rubber to concrete as we were sliding down the wet freeway into a Chinese Army troop carrier. Lucky miss, and i was wide awake for the next 5 hours of the journey.
The last 4days and 3nights was spent on the Yangtze River. A polluted river the colour of Willy Wonka's chocolate river (no time for taste testing). The cruise was incredible as we ventured upsteam from Yichang to Chongqing. It took 4hours to climb the Three Gorges Dam through a tedious 5 mega huge locks. The Three Gorges Dam is the biggest civil engineering project in the world, and very impressive.
Second day we docked at the entrance to the little three gorges (yep, three big and three small). We boarded a hydrofoil and cruised through the tight river to a small farmer port. At the port we boarded a small wooden boat with 5 farmers dressed in their uniform...bright big bog-catchers. Traditionally the farmers did the full monty, but due to the influx of tourists, and in male interests, their formal attire is the $2 supermarket jocks. They paddled us upstream with small bamboo sticks, then jumped over board and pulled the boated by rope along side the creek bed. It really looked inhumane, as they tried to pull us fat heavy westerners over the creek bed.
By the way, we shack-up (four bed berths) with a couple from the UK, Zoe and Steve. A great combination to battle the drinking contest (read on).
Third day we cruised through the 2nd and 3rd gorges. Mammoth is the key word. That night we sang kareoke resulting in drinking duels with the locals. The custom is to start on fermented rice, then skull beers with your chinese challenger. None spoke any english, just beer language. It was the quickest to skull, but, if your overturned cup spilt one single drop (an inevitable result), you must take a penalty. One more beer in shame. It got quite messy and the challenge between west vs east was down to the last drunk'n round. Our tatic was to eat the paper cup after the skull (no drops). Well this humiliated the chinese and we never saw eye to eye with the locals on the boat again.
By the way, our tour leader got drunk which made any attempt in translation impossible. He had to be carried to bed, spewing along the corridor of the boat (absolutely hillarious).
Forth day we spent at Fendu. It's a ghost city, due to the relocation of locals due to the final rise in water in 2009 (flooding from the Three Gorges Dam Project). It was the first day it rained, but we had a great time venturing through an empty city.
Anyway I must go, we meet for tea soon. I'm hungry but also not looking forawrd to the meals as we are in the sichuan province. Rumour says the hotest food in China. I've already had ringsting every day of the boat cruise.
Tomorrow is the big buddha, then the Panda research station.
Thanks again for the emails, it's good to hear what's news.