River is the longest river in China & third in
the world. It begins at Qinghai plateau at southwest,
flows through nine provinces and into Yellow Sea after
Shanghai at east, covers total distance of 6300km
& almost 1/5 of China land area. It flows through
some major industrialized cities and makes it the
most important river in China. However, Yangtze River
also floods every year causing lose of lives &
millions of dollars. Therefore, the government decided
to build dams to control the water; and Gezhouba &
Three Gorges dams are born (the latter is still under
Unfortunately, a lot of famous historical sides, cities
& villages will be summered under the muddy river,
which expect to raise 170m upon completion of both
dams. And an ancient pathway along the river used
hundred years ago is also not spared. That why my
friend & I decided to track & experience a
glimpse of this pathway that will disappear next year.
And admire the fascinating The Three Gorges. Of course,
hopefully, bring back some memorable photos.
to the danger of the path & long hike, I have
to limit my weight of backpack. That's meant no tripod.
I limit my gear to D60, Tamron SP 24-135mm, Canon
50mm (never used), monopod (used as hiking stick &
clearing bushes instead), 2 batteries & charger.
Day 1 (9/14/02) Shenzhen
City to Yichang City
from Shenzhen to Yichang took about 2 hours. After
checked in Three Gorges Hotel (yes, that's the name),
we immediately headed toward Gezhouba dam, which situated
within city limit. It was about 5pm, overcast sky,
less than ideal for photography. The dam was huge.
It contained 2 channels that lower or raise boats
to either sides of the dam. Once the gates closed,
the locals used them as a bridge to cross the river.
was dinner again, we just had to check out the local
hawker food center. Typical food was hot & spicy,
with duck tongue, duck legs, duck neck (just about
every part & organs), frog, crawfish, catfish
& etc (you get an idea).
Day 2 (9/15/02) Yichang City
To Qingze Village
destination today was Qingze village with population
of less than 100 people. To reach the place, we took
2 hours of speedboat up the river to Padong town,
then changed to a smaller boat to Peize village that
took another 4 hours.
weather was overcast & foggy with temperature
about 22oC. Good for hiking but bad for photographing.
Speedboat to Padong town left at 7:40am. Not long
after Yichang, we passed through one of the biggest
dam in the world under construction; The Three Gorges
Dam It was humongous. I snapped couple of shots as
we passing beside it.
first of The Three Gorges was 78Km long Xiling Gorge.
Both sides of river were mountains. I felt like going
between a chain of mountains. It was hopeless shooting
from the speedboat in this overcast sky.
got off along with some other passengers at Padong's
port before 10am. The port was basically a big house
boat made of metal that chained to gorge. Passengers
had to climb up a very steep stone stairs to reach
the top (I figured it was at least 100m tall. And
we complain when mall's escalator broke down).
waited for almost 2 hours & no one could tell
us when the boat to Peize would arrive (typical here).
Finally we managed to stop a passing boat (like you
wave to a bus) that willing to take us to Peize for
RMB100 (USD1 ~ RMB8). This boat served as a primary
transportation to local villages live along the river
because there was no road around. Fare was cheap &
it stopped almost everywhere (even without a port).
here began the 4 hours slow boat ride. We met six
more backpackers like us (four young guys and a couple)
on the boat, and turned out we all heading to same
destination. So we teamed up. The sky was partly sunny
by that time. The ride took us into Wu Gorge, which
I managed to snap some more photos. Wu Gorge was 45Km
boat finally reached Peize village at about 4pm. Right
in front of us was an abandon, torn down village.
A new village was built higher up the gorge. Without
wasting a second, eight of us immediately started
our first hike to Qingze that expected to take 3 hours.
Five minutes passing the village, we entered the ancient
pathway. The pathway was nothing but a one to two
feet wide path built with square rocks laid along
the gorge many years ago. As villages no longer using
it, thick bushes, trees and some plants full of one
cm long spikes grown wild from the side. As we walked
along this tiny and full of pits path, we practically
had to push ourselves through the bushes while looking
out for pits (by end of the day, I have no less than
30 cuts on my hands, neck & legs). To make thing
worst, to our right was cliff that at most points,
were more than 150m high from Yangtze River down below.
One wrong step you could say hello to St. Peter in
no time. Taking picture was next to impossible.
walked fast despite the danger. We had to get to Qingze
before dark. The only motivation came from shouting
to passing vessels far below to get their attention
(kind of showing off). Eventually, exhaustion set
in and we took a first rest at about 6pm. This allowed
me to snap couple of photos.
was disappearing behind the mountain. It was totally
dark by 7pm & still no sign of settlement within
our sight. Since no one planned to hike at night (unless
you're crazy enough), only half of us brought torchlight.
With no other choice, we proceeded with even greater
care of every single step we made. No one spoke a
word other than "watch out for pit". However,
exhaustion caused lost of focus. My friend stepped
on a pit & fall. Luckily, he managed to grab on
the edge of cliff and we pulled him up quickly. He
told me the next day at that moment, he thought he
would die & felt sorry for his parents & girl
friend. We laugh.
8pm, we saw Qingze village. Everyone was so happy
& released, the four hours of hike from hell was
over. It was another 170m up the stair to the village
(darn!). We stayed with the farmers for a small fee
(RMB25) including dinner & breakfast.
Day 3 (9/16/02) Qingze Village
To Wushan Town
air was cooling early in the morning, clean &
unpolluted. We separated with another team and went
our own way. Our next stop was Wushan City, which
took another 2 hours of boat up the river. This city
was a transition point to the famous Lesser Three
Gorges. I saw big vessels carry thousand of tourists
parked near a port. City limit below 170m was abandon
as any other villages & cities. From a distance,
I could clearly see a new city was being constructed
on top of the old one.
had a quick simple lunch at a nearby open restaurant
(the last one remained in this abandon old town) while
big trucks & buses passed by less than 7m away,
blown up cloud of thick dust from the dry mud road.
I had the dustiest lunch in my life. Unfortunately,
we later found out boat to our next destination, Dachang
was no longer available until next morning. So, we
checked in the best hotel in town (still cheap), Wushan
International Hotel up in the hill in new town. Construction
was everywhere. There was practically a new building
being build or under renovation within 50m range.
This was the dustiest city I ever been to.
At night after 10pm, a girl called and asked if we
need any "special service". A minute after
we declined & hung up the phone, next room's phone
rang and after a while, the next. Apparently, she
called every room looking for business (we encountered
same thing for next two nights at different hotel).
Day 4 (9/17/02) Wushan Town
To The Lesser Three Gorges
Lesser Three Gorges referred to Longmen Gorge, Bawu
Gorge & Dicul Gorge located along Daning River,
a tributary of Yangtze River with 50Km in length.
Unlike Yangtze, its water was clean, clear and green
in color. Most gorges grown vertically from the water
and peaks were in odd shapes. The only way to visit
this place was by boat, designated for tourist where
they charged RMB75 as entrance fee. Because the river
was much narrow and the gorges were mostly more than
100m (my guess), 24mm on D60 was pretty much useless
to capture a decent scenery, not mentioning sitting
in a crowded boat.
were two mysteries unexplainable until today along
this river. First were the suspending coffins high
up in the gorge. No one could explain how these dated
more than thousand years old coffins were placed up
there. My longest zoom was 135mm, way too short to
capture the coffins. The second mystery was the square
holes located at different stretch along this 50Km
river. The holes were about 4X4 inches, one foot deep
and total of three thousands over. They were lined
up in two rows (top & bottom) with a fix distance
between two holes. It was believed they were used
to support bridges, but we could only guest why &
how they were built.
reaching a smaller tributary, called Madu River, we
shifted to another 15 feet long wooden boat that could
carry 10 persons. Something special about our next
journey up river by this boat was neither by motor
nor by rolling, it was by pulling & pushing (the
river was no more than 2 feet deep). Three men worked
in synchronization; one push from behind, one used
a rope pulling from riverbank and third navigated
the boat. Their equipment was four long bamboo &
a rope. They shifted & changed position, also
sang at the same time according to river depth &
contour, working in perfect synchronization. They
did this for almost 2 hours & rested only 5 minutes
in between. Most of them were already in their late
40s. I impressed by their endurance & pure energy.
Their parent & grand parent did this job for living
in real river, risking life. Today, they still continued
their ancestors way of life, but did it just to entertain
tourist at non-life threatening river.
Day 5 (9/18/02) Wushan Town
To Fengjie Town
get to Fengjie Town, we had to take a two hours boat
up Yangtze River to Daxi village, hike for three hours
to Baidizhen (City of White Emperor) and then took
half hour bus (the only road transport we used in
morning, we missed the boat to Daxi. The boat left
30 minutes earlier than we were told. Instead of wasting
four hours waiting for next one, we hired a fisherman
boat for RMB140 after some lengthy bargaining. Half
way up river, our boat was stopped by River Patrol.
Soon we realized it was illegal for fishing boat to
carry passenger, And worst still, the fisherman did
not have valid fishing license. The policemen confiscated
his fishing net but offered to bring us to Daxi (we
thought we're in good hand. Boy, were we wrong!).
Later, a police approached and said they had to charge
us RMB200! Being in unfamiliar place and in their
territory, we played by their rule. We paid half of
that after some negotiation.
glad we got off the pirate ship. People said you got
what you paid for, and next thing we found out that
we were not dropped off at correct location. The ancient
pathway was the only road around that able to lead
us to Baidizhen, but it was no where to be found.
We lost in middle of no where. In order to proceed,
we forced ourselves climbing up a 100m high and 60-degree
slope, hoping to find someone asking for direction.
Free climber might found doing that was an easy task,
but for us that spent 8 hours sitting in office daily
and carried 12Kg load, that climb was too much &
stupid. We did that & survive. But damn, where
was the path? When we were about to give up, luck
was back on our side, a woman carried a 2 years old
appeared from no where and was kind enough to show
us the ancient pathway.
We were in Bellows Gorge at this point. This was the
shortest among the three gorges with only 8Km long,
but the most spectacular. Perpendicular walls grown
directly from the river. The sun was cooking us as
we proceed. This path was not as dangerous as one
before but careless could still get you killed. It
was still one-foot wide path with a steep drop next
to walk further after reaching first rest area, we
hired another boat to Fongxiangxia. Fongxiangxia was
a famous tourist spot with big cave and suspending
coffins high up in its cliff. From there we walked
for an hour or so (feel like walking in a park after
the previous experiences) to reach Baidizhen. From
there, we jumped on a local bus to Fengjie town. The
bus ride was terrible. Fengjie suffered same fate
as Wushan, anything below 170m from water level was
abandon. Did I say Wushan was dusty? Wait until you
see Fengjie. But the new hotel we stayed was a bit
nicer though. At this point, we had walked The Three
Gorges via the ancient pathway, well, tiny part of
Day 6 (9/19/02) Fengjie Town
To Chongqing City
took another 8 hours speedboat's ride up Yangtze River
to get to Chongqing, which was the biggest city around
this region with population over 30 millions.
waiting for our speedboat to Chongqing, a vessel pulled
in the port to drop off some passengers. Some remaining
passengers rushed to deck and buy food from a hawker
stall on port. For those passengers that stayed in
level 3 or 4, the hawker had a long bamboo stick with
net at one end to bring up food they ordered. They
put money inside the net after receiving their food.
whole day was wasted in the speedboat, but it was
worth it. Chongqing gave us a homely feeling of big
Day 7 (9/20/02) Chongqing
City Back To Shenzhen City
much happened today. We checked out an old village
& The People's Great Hall (a landmark of Chongqing)
before taking night flight back to Shenzhen. Home
have mix feeling about this trip. It is full of adventures
to me with a lot of new experiences, mostly bad but
some are good. Regardless of what, everything that
has happened during this trip will remains in my memory
for a long time. The most important thing, I have
been to Yangtze River, The Three Gorges and walked
the ancient pathway that will disappear forever. OK,
been there done that.