Down the Yangtze

Trip Start Sep 28, 2005
Trip End Jun 24, 2006

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Yangtze River, May 26

Miles travelled: 76960

We are on a 3-day cruise down the famed Yangtze River. The 4th-longest river in the world has its headwaters in Tibet and meanders for thousands of miles until it empties into the ocean near Shanghai. The most scenic section is the "Three Gorges", where the river narrows and passes through limestone canyons with peaks and cliffs rising up to 3000 feet on either side. We took a 5-star cruise ship and even got a free upgrade to a "junior suite" at the stern with windows on two sides. After embarking at Chongqing, we traveled about 640 kilometers downstream through the three gorges, as well as taking a smaller boat through the "Lesser Three Gorges" -- even narrower canyons on one of the tributaries of the Yangtze.

Unfortunately, the Three Gorges aren't quite as scenic as they once were, as the Three Gorges Dam is under construction which is resulting in a reservoir submerging parts of the gorges. The water level is already 74 meters higher than it used to be, and will rise another 40 meters by 2009. It has generated controversy because of environmental considerations, plus the forced relocation of over a million people and the potential loss of historical & archaeological sites. On the other hand, arguments for benefits of flood control, navigation, and hydropower are also compelling. Regardless, it is quite an engineering feat, including a 5-step set of Panama Canal-size locks to lower ships from the reservoir to the downstream river level.
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