If you can't beat 'em... join 'em
Trip Start Jul 21, 2006
62Trip End Ongoing
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Some of the magic of the river cruise has been lost over the past couple of years (siigh)though I say this not as a disappointment (huurray), but to introduce what an exciting time this is to be visiting this part of China because of all the incredible things that are currently going on. Whereas the 3 Gorges that gave the tour its name used to be towering sheer cliffs, narrow gullies and raging torrents, the scenery is still pretty though now softer and more sedate, and the water has slowed - on account of the fact that the Chinese are flooding this area by building the 3 gorges dam.. The 400 mile river section that we cruised has been subject to steadily increasing water levels (though due for completion in 2009, the water level has already risen by more than 500ft)
Enough of this woe anyway (which we found fascinating in a concerned but slightly ghooolish sort of way)- about the lovely river cruise....
After a day or so on the boat we took a tour off the main part of the Yangzi, up a series of rivers known as the "lesser Three Gorges"
- this was a lot of fun as it provided some diversion from life on board the big boat and we got to explore some narrower faster flowing sections of river
The following day we left the boat to take a bus to the dam. I have heard that the reason the locks were not functioning is because of routine repair, however we are fortunate that we don't only listen to Chinese people, and it transpires that whilst Chinese politicians and engineers say this is all normal, independent engineers say that the large cracks that have appeared in the dam (the cause of the locks being closed) is a result of cost cutting in the cement used, and that the structural integrity of the structure currently more closely resembles papier mache than the desired impenetrable surface
In order to add to the industrial feel of the area and the construction around it, him upstairs was good enough to preserve the smog and mist on the day we visited the dam, so visibility wasn't that great but definitely added to the atmoshere. It's certainly a mighty impressive structure though, and the locks (the largest such system in the world) are over a mile long and consist of football pitch sized sections that lift a boat 370ft. Unfortunately we didn't get to experience it firsthand, but the process from top to bottom takes about 3hrs to complete. I'll let you all have a quick butchers at each of the photos rather than give you too many spurious statistics on the whole thing. I'm very glad that we went and got to (almost)see it (through the mist).. I hope that it is a success, as it is important that the benefits of the project such as providing a significant amount of power to China (in place of coal and such) are realised, as all of this faff and destruction would be a terrible waste if not.
After seeing the dam we made our way by bus to Yichang, and then after a pause, by bus again to Wuhan.
Wuhan is another enormous Chinese City (8million people), and was intended as an uneventful stop on the way to Yangshou. It was uneventful except unfortunately (following some rather choice street food) I finally succumbed to what is termed in our reference books as travellers' diarrhea
Anyway - after the long train journey it was straight on a bus for our intended haven of Yangshuo.. we had planned to spend some time here in this gorgeous place to relax (hard work all this travelling) - but hadn't counted on the coinciding national Chinese holiday to throw a spanner in the works... But more about that later.
Take care of yourselves and we'll write more soon!!!
PS - Congratulations Mr and Mrs H (thinking of you both)