One of the highlights of our month long China Odyssey was definitely the 3 night cruise on the spectacular Yangtze River. The first morning our ship anchored and we boarded a small ferry that took us deep into the Lesser Gorges. It was a very hot and humid day out but the breeze on the ferry made it bearable, unfortunately the haziness in the air wouldn’t go away which made taking photos a bit difficult.
After an hours ferry ride we boarded small peapod boats that would take us down the Shennong Stream. These little boats used to be rowed by 5 guys but they have now reduced it to 3 rowers and one guy to steer the peapod boat. They all have amazing six packs as they spend most of their day rowing. It takes them a few hours to row from their home village to the Shennong Stream where they spend the day taking tourists up and down the stream before rowing all the way back home again.
Shennong Stream is a left tributary of the Yangtze River, located in the Hubei Province of central China. Originally the Shennong Stream watercourse consisted of a wild river flanked by almost vertical limestone cliffs; however, since the beginning of the construction of the Three Gorges Dam downstream on the Yangtze, the water level has risen approximately 155 metres at the mouth of Shennong Stream.
The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. It was an amazing experience being in the small boat on the river with the cliffs rising up on both sides of us.
The banks of the Shennong Stream have been inhabited since at least the Han Dynasty. Early history of settlement in the Shennong Stream Gorge is evident by the hanging coffins stowed in clefts on the high vertical limestone cliffs. It is a puzzle to modern man as to how the heavy coffins were stowed on such steep, ostensibly inaccessible places. The coffins themselves were typically carved from a single layer section of a tree trunk, which was approximately 90 cm in diameter; although the lid section was split off to be separate. The coffins are typically 30 to 150 metres from the bluff top above and 25 to 70 meters above the river surface. Most commonly a coffin rests on two sturdy hewn poles that have been wedged within limestone cleft or cave to form generally level platform
The scenery of the two riverbanks was amazing and at some places the banks are only seven meters wide in the narrowest part.
When we reached these shallow-stream places, the rowers jumped out and had to tow the boat upstream by rope. This scene has made the whole experience a unique one.
We had a lovely local guide who even sang us some of their traditional songs as we floated down the stream. I did end up buying the CD as her singing did create a very tranquil atmosphere I would love to remember.