26 days away
1,700 km / 1,056 miles since last post
20,967 km / 13,028 miles total
I think we both had a pretty good nights sleep. This hotel has been ok. The best thing about it was probably the shower in the morning - it was actually really clean with a nice powerful hot shower. Definitely the best so far. (Stu note: it leaked all over the floor)
We took advantage of the late checkout and free internet and uploaded a few blog entries. I got out of the room just before midday but a woman came upstairs to hurry Stu out of the room. (Stu note: loving the service of this hotel. Nothing says we value your custom quite like shouting 'get out, get out' at you at 30 seconds past your checkout time and you are zipping your bag to leave. Fix the f*cking shower.).
We wouldn't be leaving here to get our bus until later this afternoon, but the hotel kept our baggage for us while we had a look around. We popped over the road to just check out the Walmart supermarket there. I forgot that I was carrying a bag with a bottle of water in it and some cashew nuts. As we tried to walk out the exit the security guard peered into my bag, took it off me and gave it to the checkout lady to put it through the till. We tried to explain that we hadn't got them from this shop, but obviously they couldn't understand. The bottle of water was already open and half drunk, which they didn't seem to notice either! Thankfully when she tried scanning the items she realised they weren't from this shop and let us go. A lucky escape! (Stu note: again, loving the service).
While we waited in the lobby to meet the others we came across another Gap Adventures tour group who were doing the same trip as us but in the reverse order. They started in Hong Kong and would finish in Beijing. They said it had been good so far. They enjoyed the boat trip, which we have next on our tour, but they warned us to take some music to listen to as the Chinese tour guide on the boat can be really irritating. They also said that the Chinese people they have come across have been really friendly (they will get a shock when they travel North!). Apparently a lot of them point and giggle at you. (Stu note: based on what we have heard I think we are doing this trip the right way around).
We met Ricky and the rest of the group in the lobby at 12:30pm and he explained the plan for the day. We were to head to lunch first, then have some free time for a couple of hours or so, and then meet up again around 5pm to get our bus.
First we headed to a local restaurant for a banquet style Chinese lunch. Greg, Louise and Nick had only recently had breakfast and decided to do their own thing, but Tyson, Tegan, Jo, Stu and I joined Ricky for the Chinese lunch.
It was yet another tasty meal with dishes selected by Ricky. We had fried potatoes with onion, beef, lotus roots (which taste a bit like water chestnuts), mixed vegetables, aubergines, sweet and sour fish (this was Carp and tasted very nice) and rice. (Stu note: I enjoyed the meal less than Sarah).
After a great lunch Tegan, Tyson, Jo, Stu and I took a walk down the main road and headed for the bank of the Yangtze River. We took a walk along the river for a while which was nice as the sun was shining and the weather felt really mild - not cold at all as it has been so far.
We came across quite a few locals who did like to stare at us, and some did have a giggle. I assume it is just out of curiosity and the fact that they probably don't see that many white people around here. Ricky told us that generally tourists only really come to Yichang to get the boat to the Three Gorges, and that's about it.
At the side of the river someone was selling ice cream, so we bought one each and sat in the sun while we ate it. It was nice to take things easy. Being on a tour is great because you have someone else organising things for you and leading the way, but now and again it is nice to do your own thing and at your own pace. I am glad this tour has given us a few opportunities to do this from time to time.
Next we took a wander through the park next to the river. We saw some local people playing cards and other Chinese board games like Marjong. We stopped and watched one group of card players as we were trying to work out the rules of their game, but it looked quite confusing.
There were also other local people in the park doing Tai Chi, and some others playing instruments and singing. It was quite nice to walk along and see what the locals get up to around this area as it seems a lot more chilled out here than in the big towns and cities.
Before we had to meet the others we grabbed a coffee at a place called Beaner Coffee next door to our hotel. It is basically a rip off of Starbucks coffee, but without the quality. Stu ordered a tea which came out with frothed milk on top and looked like dishwater. He had to order another drink instead, although my iced coffee wasn't too bad. (Stu note: it was, without doubt, the worst possible excuse for a cup of tea I have ever seen).
We met up with Ricky and the rest of the group just after 5pm and headed down the road to get a few taxis to take us to where we could get our coach. We were sharing the coach with the Chinese tourists and their tour guide; it was packed full.
The coach took around an hour to get to the port, which is where we would catch our boat. The journey to the port was fairly uneventful, save for catching a glimpse of the Three Gorges Dam all lit up in the night along the way.
I think we were both a little anxious to see what our room would be like on the boat. It was actually a really big big boat with four decks plus an open top deck. It is mainly filled with Chinese tourists, although there seems to be a small group from South America too. We appear to be the only Westerners here.
Ricky allocated our rooms, and on first look the room appeared to be ok. We soon noticed the carpet on the floor in our room was filthy - it looks like it hasn't seen a vacuum in years. The bathroom is also quite interesting. It is a small compartment which appears to be a combined shower and toilet, like you would get in a caravan. We arrived to find the floor already wet in ours, and a sink, toilet and shower than looked very old and tired. I don't think either of us was looking forward to using this bathroom at all - especially when we discovered that the toilet leaks water onto the floor when it is flushed! The beds are thankfully clean and fairly comfortable, so that is something. We have only spotted just the one cockroach too (thankfully just a tiny one). (Stu note: yet again, loving the service).
We met up with the others at 8:30pm to go through the plan for the boat trip with Ricky, then we took a look from the top deck of the boat. We had just left the port and couldn't see a great deal, just a few lights on hills and banks. It was also pretty cold outside, so we headed to the recreation area to play some cards and have a few beers with everyone in the group. I think most of us headed to bed around 11:30pm, but some were still playing cards into the early hours.
Our boat moves all through the night and arrives at 7:30am, where we need to get off to get a smaller boat to take us through a smaller part of the gorge.