Someone opens the door to our room and tells us to get up. It is just after 6am. On a Monday morning. Ah the tribulations of being a tourist.
Nevertheless, we rouse ourselves with some speed, walking carefully around each other in the confined spaces of our cabin. For this morning is our tour to the little three gorges.
A little geographical background: the Liang Jiang (Yangtze to you and me) flows through the Three Gorges along its way to Yichang from Chongqing. After the first of the Three Gorges, but before the second, there is another set of three gorges through which a tributary flows from the north into the Yangtze. One of the main things to do when crusing the (big) Three Gorges is to repair to smaller vessels for a day trip up the Little Three Gorges – one of China’s most popular tourist attractions.
The guy who sold the tour to us charged us quite a lot, but assured us that for the money we would have a tour guide. And sure enough, the Chinese woman who directed us along the narrow dirt path to our small boat spoke good English.
But the same can not be said of the tour guide on the actual small boat. She seemed to speak good Mandarin, which was nice for everyone else though.
The gorges are quite pretty. Not magnificent (New Zealand has ruined me for scenery) but still pretty cool. There are wild monkeys along the shores in places (and also signs that they throw food to them – presumably to keep them around for the tourists). And the places where the current flows fast and the river is low were fun – although the sound of the boat scraping along the river bed was a little unnerving at first.
The boat stops every now and again to do tourist things. But at 8 o’clock on a Monday morning I could not face the people trying to sell me worthless trinkets, so I managed to hitch a ride on a boat (they go around the corner to pick you up after the trinket sellers have finished with you) with a couple of nice Aussies that were on the same boat.
But there are, of course, some things you can not avoid. At the top end of the Little Three Gorges (a place as remote as any I had been in China) there is a large tent city where you can buy lunch, fresh cooked in front of you.
While I might baulk at the idea of sticking a restaurant at the top of the Tongariro crossing, I guess I can understand why there might be one here in a way. There are just so many tourists (it is impossible to take a photo in the Little Three Gorges without it including at least one other boat filled with Chinese tourists), generally of the package-tour variety. And that is what they expect and pay for.
And they get it too. Same story at the top of Huangshan (the mountain I climbed the other day). Big hotels. Lots of them. Fancy restaurants too. And a cable car from top to bottom (which, I must admit, was handy when it was getting late and dark and we were at the top of the mountain still).
There are some great things about it though. Once back on our boat we could eat an extremely cheap (but excellent) dinner at the onboard cafe, and then sup cheap Chinese beer on the afterdeck in the cool of the evening. Mass tourism is not all bad.
I am running out of time to get to Hong Kong. My visa runs out on 30 June, and I don’t really want to extend it (because it is chewing up time that I want to have in Russia). Because I hung around so long in Beijing I have no time for Southern China. I will have to come back on the way home, I guess.
Another thing I realised today. I whinge too much. At least I do sometimes. Whinging to yourself is okay (so long as you don’t get ulcers, I suppose). But whinging at other people is pretty pointless. It just pisses them off, and wastes everyone’s time and energy.
So sometimes you just need to do what the Russians do – just shrug your shoulders, say ‘what can you do?’ and deal with it.