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Day 77: Tiger Leaping Gorge

Michael Palin - HimalayaThen I make out some movement on the far bank and a small, steel-hulled boat emerges from beneath the shadow of a colossal overhang and, after taking the current in a wide arc, runs in towards us and docks by ramming its stern hard up between the rocks. Painted lettering on a metal arch at one end of the boat announces it to be the 'Tiger Leaping Gorge Ferry'. We clamber in and a man with a long bamboo pole and the looks and physique of a Spanish gymnast pushes us out onto the Yangtze with a flourish.

The boat seems very fragile all of a sudden. Its two outboard motors do their best but the current seems in control and swings us downstream beneath the overhang, where it's very hot and very quiet. For a moment I'm anxious. The power of the river and the power of the boat seem unfairly matched. The looming rock face above us offers no comfort.

The outboards surge, choke and surge again, but we hold our own against the current and soon we're grinding up onto a gritty beach.

An hour later we've climbed up to where the vehicles are waiting and I look back at the Yangtze, silvery in the twilight and calm and serene now after the trauma of the gorge, and I turn my back on it with a pang of regret.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 77: Tiger Leaping Gorge
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Bendi Wan
  • Book page no: 182

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