July 7, 2012
By far the best part of the river trip was our visit to the “Small Three Gorges” today. The locals loaded us onto these big wooden boats and rowed us upstream to see the small gorges. The gorges themselves were nice—I think the fact that they are narrower than the other gorges makes them appear a higher—but my favorite part was the boat ride itself.
Men of all ages work on the boats side-by-side. The oldest man rowing today was 86 and has been working on the river in one way or another for most of his life. The younger men appeared to be in their late teens or early twenties. Five men operate each boat, three in the front and two in the back, and it looks like very hard work, especially going upstream. In addition to taking tourists on rides up the river, they seem to use their boats almost the same way we use cars, and the river (and navigating the river) is an integral part of their lives.
The best part of this short ride was seeing the men on the different boats compete with one another. With knowing glances and smiles they would try to overtake each other in their respective boats, sometimes crossing paddles, but careful not to splash their passengers. They seemed to thoroughly enjoy their task and the camaraderie involved.