The next part of the trip involved going on a cruise on the Yangtze river. It was a herculean effort to get from Xian to Yangshuo that included two sleeper trains, one boat and numerous buses but the amount of beautiful scenery on the way made up for it. On one of the first buses we were on took a little detour into a wayside in the mountains. From there we hiked through bamboo and vegetation to reach a waterfall in the wilderness. After the giant cities and grey skies, it was the first real greenery I had seen in weeks and it was a welcome sight.
In the evening I boarded the cruise ship. Naively I thought it would be a boat full of chickens running loose and farmers with their livestock but I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was quite luxurious. It was early the next morning when Jade knocked on the door of me and Andy’s room to let us know we were approaching the first gorge. With the low mist moving across the river it was a fantastic sight. The boat slowly drifted through the ravine with cliffs on each side. Just like the Shanghai night cruise…it was bitterly cold.
I may be skipping in time a bit here but let me take you to surroundings of Yangshuo. The Xian bike ride of the city wall was the first time I had gotten on a bike in many years but fortunately it was a flat road with no obstacles, the Yangshuo bike ride was a different story. We all chose our bicycles at the tour shop, Gina and I were the only ones who decided to take a helmet.
As you know, safety first. The next minute I was thrown into the chaos that was the open road with reckless Chinese motorists but I somehow survived. It was worth the risk as we went out into the flat rural area surrounded by awesome limestone mountains, making it look like an alien world. There was a soft roar of thunder in the distance and the clouds thickened up above. Rain was in the air. We cycled around the puddles of mud on the floor at a quickened pace and the clouds opened and the showers came. We all huddled in a shed waiting for it to die down.
Once it started to clear we all jumped on bamboo rafts and drifted along the river that meandered around the limestone mountains. The drizzle of rain and light fog over the water made for a scenic boat ride. I had an interesting driver called Mo who navigated around the river who had excellent English. Poor Rob and Gina who had a newb of a driver kept getting them stuck on each small waterfall.
One stage we had to go back and help them get on track. I do not like to throw the word ‘hero’ around. Afterwards we enjoyed a tasty meal at a farmer’s house (this place DID have wild chickens running around).
On the ride back it started to rain again, this time it was relentless and did not cease. For over fifteen minutes we rode hard back into town with the rain soaking my shoes and trousers. Town was chaos with rush hour traffic scattering all over the place and pedestrians running anywhere they may. I closely missed some cars as I dodged through some puddles but after some crazy maneuvering I reached it back to the shop. It is a good thing my shoes are water proof.