The Yangtze


We were met at Chongqing International Airport by our guide, Andy, and driver, Mr Wong. We were taken to an old house where we tasted the 16 century life style of the rich and wealthy Chinese. Much of the display was devoted to beds and bedrooms. Apparently the wealthy baron of those times had to host his wife, parents and several concubines. Beds were styled according to rank. Interestingly the man of the house did not have his own bed. He didn’t need one as he would be sleeping with his wife or one of his concubines. On a sadder note, Chongqing has grown so rapidly in the last 10 years that this house is one of the few remaining historical buildings, according to our guide. Most others have been subsumed by progress. Chongqing now a a population of about 34 million people, just slightly greater than Canada. After dinner we proceeded to our boat, the Victoria Rose.

We set sail around 9PM with 95 crew and 25 passengers. A sad side effect of the earthquake, many tours had been cancelled impacting more than just the immediate area of the quake. The sister ship of the Rose, Katerina, was sailing up river from Yichang (the end point for our tour) with only 17 passengers aboard. We were told that this boat would be returning to Chongqing empty.

The morning came with relatively cool weather, in the low 20’s. It was misty and there was some question as to whether the mist was due to pollution or not. The mist cut visibility dramatically, but even with the limited visibility is was possible to see the amount of construction going on. It is quite incredible.

Some facts about the Yangtze River:

  • It is the longest river in China, third longest in the world at 6380Km
  • It is the third largest in the world by volume of water
  • The river basin is one fifth of China’s area
  • 450 million people live in this basin or 1/12 of the world’s population.
  • As a transportation route it transfers the equivalent of 40 railways
  • 1/2 of Chinese crop production comes from the Yangtze basin
  • 80% of inland shipping.

The water level was down about 20 meters to make room for an increased flow from upstream. I wasn’t quite clear as to the reason for the increased flow but it was either related to increased run off due to the coming rainy season or reducing the levels in upstream dams as a result of the recent earthquakes.

The first day’s agenda had us stopping in Fend Du. Fend Du is called the “Ghost City” not because it is a ghost town but because of the temple located there. The temple located at the top of Mount Minshan depicts the various instruments of punishment one might expect to suffer according to the sins committed during one’s life. A nice place to visit ๐Ÿ™‚ Half way through this stop-over the mist turned to rain. We got wet.

Fend Du is one of those cities along the Yangtze that was moved as a result of the Three Gorges Dam project. The old city, now flooded, was on the north side of the river. The new city is located on the south side of the river. The tour guide, born in Fend Du said that the move was a good thing. They now live in larger accommodations (previously about 80 sq meters now 120) fitted with modern features, notably plumbing, and appliances. A second group from the boat went on an alternate tour, meeting with a displaced family. This family too was quite happy with the way things turned out. They reported the same message: they now live in larger accommodations (previously about 80 sq meters now 120) fitted with modern features, notably plumbing, and appliances.

The evening offered a fashion show of ancient and current attire.

The second day’s formal agenda started with a 6:30AM entry into the first gorge, the Qutang Gorge. However, we got up earlier to see the sun rise, but it seems this is a non-event on the Yangtze: the mist just gets lighter. Prior to the Three Gorges Dam the Qutang Gorge was one-way, alternating direction by time of day, narrowing to only 50 meters. Now it can support two-way traffic.

At 8:45 we disembarked from the Rose and boarded a ferry boat to go up the Daning river and later the Madu River.

Returning to the ship we proceeded through the Wu Gorge, or in English the Witch Gorge. The Wu Gorge is considered the most beautiful of the three with the highlight being the Goddess Peak.

Finally we entered the Xiling Gorge, historically the most treacherous followed by the locks at the Three Gorges Dam. As a result of the lowered water levels only four of the five locks were necessary.

The evening was capped off by a variety show put on by the staff and crew of the Rose.

Our last event of the cruise was a tour of the Three Gorges Dam. Some facts about the project:

  • First conceived in 1919
  • Construction period lasted 17 years, from 1992 to 2009
  • Project cost about 23 billion US$, of which 40% was for relocation costs
  • Benefits: produces 15% of China’s electrical needs; reduce impact of flooding
  • Impact: 632 sq km land submerged; 13 cities, 140 towns, 1352 villages, 647 factories submerged; 1.4 million people displaced
  • When completed it will be the world’s largest hydroelectric station producing 84.7 billion kWh per year
  • At the peak there were 30,000 construction workers
  • 3000 soldiers on site
  • Truck ferries are not permitted through the locks for security reasons.

After docking in Yichang we were met by our guide, Christine, and driver, Ms Shiu. An all girl team. Their primary function was to get us to the airport for our flight to Beijing, however they did take us to a small park situated along the Yangtze so we didn’t have to spend the whole afternoon sitting in the airport.

Water Lilies
A Water Lilly from the park we visited in Yichang

Click Slideshow to see more picture from the Yangtze River Cruise


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