We got up at 6 am and all met for breakfast at 6:40. NOODLES.  I love noodles. Which they pronounce “nooders” which is how I will be saying it from now on. Also they don’t say mouth as the th is very hard for them to pronounce, so it’s mouse. So that is the only way I will be referring to mouth in the future. Mouse. Therefore-the saying at every breakfast is- “put the nooders in my mouse!!!” At which Nicole and I CRY laughing, and Gary and Chris roll their eyes and pretend they don’t know us.  So after we put the nooders in our mouse we left for the boat tour!!

We all leave the river cruise boat and board another 2 story boat with an open top deck for standing. Off we go for a 1 hour cruise down a magnificent gorge. This is the closest quarters we’ve been in gorge wise. The boat occupies most of the river, leaving maybe 50 feet on either side.  We are able to see some of the most green mountains I’ve ever seen-and again I’m reminded of Newfoundland.  For those of you who have been to Newfoundland – this boat ride is like the fjords at Western Brook Pond-only Chris says he can understand the locals stab at English here better then home.  Insert eye roll here.  We are told to watch the shore line for monkeys!! Which we do like it’s our job.  We are able to glimpse one jumping into a cave-and the tour guide says “monkeys to the right!” And the ENTIRE boat lists right.  All approx. 200 people on board come to our side of the boat and the announcer quickly panics and says “Um…. hey crazy white people….could you not all do that at once…. we’re going to need some of you to cross back to the left side of the boat so we don’t sink.  They’re  just monkeys. No ones giving away babies over there.” -or something to that effect- and EVENTUALLY everyone listens and the boat is righted.  And my non-swimming husband needs to be changed.

After our one hour ride, we stop and get off the boat  in groups of 16.  Our tour guide is “Linda” and she’s adorable-tiny and beautiful and so polite.  We walk through the obligatory venders, and when we reach the rear of the unloading dock we see our ride for the next 45 minutes of our journey.  Omg.  Wooden boats, about 25 feet long…5 feet wide.  There are 2 boatmen on each end.  And benches.  And I can only assume that all 16 of us are meant to go on this boat.  China, when will you learn that we are gigantic in Canada?  Between the fact that I take an XXXXL here, and I clearly take up at least 2 seats in every boat you’ve put me in, I’m starting to get a tad self conscious.  We all climb on board, and I just happen to be the first in line.  I’m gently shown my seat, with all 4 men holding my hand as I walk down the very tipsy boat. They are all so sweet and kind-each one reminding me of my grandfather with their kind eyes and the way they treat each of us women like treasures.  We all sit 3 on a row, and then another bench is placed in front of us for the next row.

Oh and along the size issue lines- I’ve been given a seriously small life jacket and now look like someone stuffed a winter panda in a cat harness.

Until less then 10 years ago the boat men of the Shennongxi river gorge pulled the boats along the stream with ropes- completely naked. Yes. Naked. And these are generally 70-85 year old men-the oldest being 89.  So thank god for modernization.  The clothed men begin to row and off we go. They grunt and chat while our guide tells us some of the history of these men and their villages. With the modern advancements and the Dam-they have all been relocated from their original villages, and although I’m sure they have shiny new houses-and less rope burns in awkward places, I can’t help but feel like these  hard working men must have been devastated when their whole lives changed 8 years ago. I don’t see them being the type that wanted new homes that were never lived in by their ancestors- or wanted tourists in their sacred land. But they seem to be thankful for our appreciation of their homes-and we make note that we need to be sure to give them a fantastic tip as we leave-which I hope is taken as a heartfelt thank you and not an expression of superiority.  They row while our guide sings to us and I feel so extraordinarily out of my comfort zone.  Like when I rode the donkeys in Santorini…like I’m making a crazy memory that I won’t even be able to fathom until it’s over.   A life lived. Like I promised myself. There is no peace  on earth I feel as deeply as when I feel I’ve really experienced something.  Does that make sense? I don’t need to try any harder-I am living this event to its fullest.

We get back to the shore after a 45 minute ride and again our boatmen  help us off the boat and onto shore.  Back to the other boat that will take us to the other boat. So many boats.  On the way back we are shown the famous “hanging coffin” high up in the mountains along the shore placed there 2000 years ago. I will have to do more research about this on the future-I’m not sure of the history here-but it is super creepy -so we take a ton of pictures.

We get back to the boat nice and early and still have a little time before lunch – and unlimited drinks- so we pick a cabin and relax for a while.  All four muppets, beer in hand talking about our morning and the craziness of this whole trip so far.  There are lots of giggles and full belly laughs. Lunch is the usual-and we have become quite fond of a couple on our tour (GASP! Look at us gettin a people-y) named Janet and Terry.   We knew they were our people when a man at our table the first night said he had been scratched by a monkey on a trip a number of years ago.  Someone asked him if he had any infection or lasting effects from the scratch-to which I answered-“not really-although he throws his feces when he’s angry now…”-and Janet near chocked on her nooders.  She was in.

So we chat with Janet and Terry and enjoy our lunch-and make our way to the top deck for an afternoon of sightseeing and tanning. It’s 32 degrees and sunny, but the top deck gets a nice breeze so we are able to successfully burn ourselves without even realizing it. Perfection!  We order beers-and I’ll be honest-there is a hidden reason for this.  We are technically not allowed to have our own store bought beer on deck, but when you order beers from the bar they pour it into a ship issued large beer glass for you.  So, we order the beers, get the glass, and refill the mug with self bought shore beers from our fridge all afternoon. Don’t judge. The shore beers are approx $.60 a can, and the ship beers are $5 a can.  We’re just saving money to buy more souvenirs! So it’s a win win for everyone.

We continue this way until the evening dinner, and head down to the restaurant.  Dinner is always served family style-and tonight is the same. However there is one huge difference.  Pizza. PIZZA.  P.I.Z.Z.A.  Nicole and I squeal with delight when it’s brought out and can hardly contain ourselves to wait until it’s actually placed on the table. We quickly do the math and it works out that if we kill everyone else at the table all the pizza will be ours.  All we have is chopsticks-so that’s not likely to work for any successful murder scheme-but we eye up the pizza until it’s acceptable to pounce and we have at it. So we’ve learned well here in china. We found a weakness in the group. Terry is eyeing the brownies on the table. The same look in his brownie eyes that Nicole and I have in our pizza eyes. SO, we traded all the brownies on the table(total crap) with Terry for his portion of the pizza.  Now we only have to kill 7.  And let me tell you….ah. Maze. Ing!! It’s not just the rice for 2 weeks speaking!! This pizza is absolutely delicious.  We devour it and eye up the other tables.  Contemplate yelling fire. But decide to just be satisfied with our portion-and tip our waitress-in hopes she’ll notice we pay good money for Italian.

The evening we skip the show, pick our party room-Nicole and gary’s for the evening-and go outside. We didn’t realize there was a whole monsoon happening outside!! Thunder and lightening and HAIL! But it’s still crazy hot, and we are nicely shielded on our balcony. So we sit back and enjoy the show for a few hours with some wine and more giggles. The heavy weather finishes about 15 minutes after it starts and we move out of the storm and are able to watch the lightening from afar.

Off to bed! Tomorrow is another glorious day aboard this floating city ❤️