Shennong Stream is a special shore excursion for you while on your Yangtze River Cruise. (Century Cruises, Victoria Cruises, President Cruises, Yangtze Explorer and OTC Victoria Cruise will go to Shennong Stream.)
You will disembark from your ship, and switch to a smaller ferry boat, which will sail about 20 minutes and carry you to the Shennong Stream landing. Then, each group will don life jackets and switch again to several traditional sampans (small wooden boats that hold approximately 12 passengers and 6 boat men). Local people call them “peapod boats” because of their appearance.
But how much do you know the boat trackers on the small sampan? Let’s listen to their stories together!
One way people along the Yangtze River have made their living for centuries, is by boat tracking. Even today with diesel engines, boat trackers are the only way for a boat to travel on the river. Originally boat trackers worked all over the Yangtze River, but now they are primarily located on the Shennong Stream.
When one of the small river boats gets stuck on a sandbar, it is time for the trackers to jump into action. Only a few feet above the ancient waterline a thin ledge runs for several miles. It is barely 60cm wide it was cut by hand from the solid rock walls. The trackers climb onto this ledge and, by using ropes connected to the boats, tow the boats off the sandbar. Then they jump back into the boats and the boat is now free to travel on until it gets stuck again. It is backbreaking work that has remained unchanged for centuries.
This is impressive but you may feel a little bit guilty. These boat trackers, who keep the old tradition alive, are local farmers who do this to earn some extra money and supplement their income. In the summertime, because of the heat and to keep their clothes dry, the boat trackers used to do this naked. Now they wear shorts, shirts and also woven rope sandals to prevent slipping on the smooth rocks. The long ropes are made of braided bamboo strips, which are soaked in water making them very strong.
Sometimes they sing in unison as they pull. The singing, which, of course, you will not be able to understand, is not beautiful but loud. It contrasts sharply with the quiet stillness of the gorges. Maybe they are singing just to alleviate their tiredness. After traveling quite some distance up the Shennong Stream, and passing through many beautiful gorges, the boat trackers will run the sampan aground on the rocky shore. There you will leave the sampan to stretch your legs, explore the beach in search of some beautiful weather-worn rocks. There are many in all shapes, sizes and beautiful colors. You will then return to the cruise line which is waiting for you and set sail for your next destination.