Thursday, July 24, 2008

Excursion by Sampan to River's end

Soon, our cruiser arrived at the heart of "Tujiaren"..that is, the native people who have lived here from ancient days. They are mostly farmers and they live along the slopes of the mountains or along the river banks. The menfolk are also good fishermen in their sampans. The waters of the Shennong and its tributaries teem with fishes.

But the most famous thing about this place and their culture were the legendary " trackers" in the past. These were men who literally used their full body and muscle power to pull ships of all sizes in the more dangerous and upper reaches of the river.
The upper reaches are usually very shallow and the land around there is very rocky, flat and muddy.
These "trackers" use long ropes attached to the ship and coiled over their upper back....and it would require many, many men working together as a team, on both sides, to pull it off.

Each of the sampan is manned by about 4 Tujia men. In addition, on our boat, we have a young and pretty Tujia girl who was assigned to us as guide since she was able to speak rudimentary English ! Her name is also "Shirley".
Here you can see "Shirley" facing us standing up, describing the history and culture of her people and place.

Shirley surprised all the 12 of us in the boat when she started singing a love song in her native" Tujia" dialect.
When she was singing, her sweet and melodious voice echoed through the gorge as the menfolk paddled the sampan with the big, single oars.
It was really good...her singing!
And was a perfect setting in that place.

This is the point where we alight from our cruiser and board the sampans.

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