12 September 2009

Cruising the Shennong Stream

Our second shore trip was to another river! The Shennong Stream in Badong County is famous for its small boats and the way that they travel, but first we had to get there.

We left our large river cruiser for a smaller one and headed up one of the many tributaries of the Yangtze.

The reason for the smaller boat was soon apparent as the gorge narrowed and the hills crept closer to us as if determined to refuse us further passage.

The smaller slower boat and the quieter waters gave amble opportunity to savour the passing geology and the angled rock formations betrayed the results of India's relentless move Northwards, the same movement that created the Himalayas.

An hour or so later and the gorge finally defeated the ferry and we all had to decamp into "pea pod" boats.

These boats were manoeuvred up the increasingly narrower gorge by a crew of six locals who used to ply the river for trade but now do it for tourists.

There was friendly rivalry between the crews and much jolly banter was exchanged when a boat overtook ours despite their significant difference in age.

The paddles used look a little like oars but they are not used in the same way. Instead they are kept in the water and swished from side to side like a fish's tale.

Eventually the gorge becomes too shallow for even the sampans to be rowed and our valiant crew had to get out and pull.

This is the traditional way of moving the boats past the shallow stretches though things have changed a little, the crew who used to go naked to keep their clothes dry now keep their shorts on to stop the tourists' blushes.

And we were tourists so this was just a short pull to show us a little of what things used to be like before we retraced our steps back to the small ferry and then to the Yangtze where the large ferry was waiting to take us to our next destination.

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