We boarded one of the many steamers at dawn and in heavy fog.
The ship, called the East is Red, No. 38, seemed already overloaded with Chinese passengers. But they continued to board for another hour. Most were weighed down with heavy baskets filled with food, clothing, and the tools of their trade.
Then, with the blast of a horn at 7 o'clock sharp, our three-day trip down the mighty Yangtze River had begun. We were heading east - from Chongqing, in Sichuan Province, to Wuhan, the capital of Hubei.
On our second day, all 800 passengers came on deck to see the famous Yangtze gorges - Chutang, Wu, and Xiling. We saw towering mountains that dropped almost perpendicularly into the turbulent waters. High above and almost out of sight we could see well-worn trails. As their ancestors have done for hundreds of years, men sometimes in the hundreds strain at the end of long ropes to haul huge junks upstream through the Yangtze's rapids.
Extensive blasting and rechanneling have eliminated most of the river's dangerous bends, great boulders, and whirlpools. Yet spectacular scenery and great legends of the river still abound, and a journey remains an unforgettable experience.