Three days later I stood where a road crossed a tributary YANGTSE RAPIDS of the Yangtse that I’d reconnoitred. I clambered a short way up the rocky gulley to YANGTSE RAPIDS unfold and inflate my canoe. My intention was only to spend three or four days paddling downriver, just to see how it would be. My luggage was minimal; I’d left most of it at Dali and only carried my sleeping bag and billycan which all fitted under the canoe’s spray cover. After a final check that I’d left nothing behind, I paddled away downstream.

It felt good to be back on the water. From the rocky gulley the river flowed across a flat plain; its current was placid, the day was warm and sunny, and I paddled lazily, being in no hurry. When I’stuck my paddle upright in the river to test its depth, it was only a yard deep but gluey with mud.

The earthen riverbanks were low enough at times for me to see out across fertile flatness cultivated with emerald green rice, and some maize plots that had golden heads of sunflowers showing above the maize plants. I passed near several small villages set well back from the stream; their presence was detectable in advance because each has an irrigation and household water channel branching off the river. I stopped to stretch my legs.


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