Down the Great River
On arrival in Chongqing we made our way to the ticketing offices for boats travelling down the Yangtze River, which the Chinese call Changjiang (literally "long river"). Playing a couple of the offices off against each other we managed to get a bit of a discount. We were starting to learn how to play the game. Everything in China is negotiable. The ticket office also got us into a classy hotel at a considerable discount. At the hotel someone sent a prostitute to our room. Misreading the situation somewhat Rick got her to do his washing for him. Needless to say he got a fairly expensive laundry bill.
Down the River:
"Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream....."
If only it were so simple. The river trip was a bit of a disappointment for me. I know others have taken this trip and enjoyed it very much but I'm afraid it just wasn't for me and I know Rick found it to be a bit of an ordeal as well. I don't know the Chinese word for torture but I wouldn't be at all surprised if it carries some reference to that river. That said, in retrospect I'm glad I did it. The Three Gorges Dam project (see below), when completed, will irreparably alter the landscape. I will however think twice before I sign up for another Chinese package tour. So why was the trip such a nightmare for me? Any number of reasons really, read on.
As well as the "Three Gorges" there is also the "Three Smaller Gorges" and/or (I'm a little vague on this point) the "Lesser Three Gorges". I saw a sign at one point referring to the "Least Small Gorge". Anyway, once again we left the boat, and once more there were hundreds of people milling about. There were red hats (like us) and blue hats, and a new sect, the yellow hats. We were mercilessly herded onto buses, and driven through what may or may not have been the town of Wushan. Wherever it was it closely resembled a bombsite, no doubt in anticipation of rising water levels associated with the Three Gorges Dam project. From the bus we were crammed onto smaller vessels to navigate the Lesser Small Gorges.
The Three Gorges Dam Project:
The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful though we did pass through the site of the dam which when completed will be by far the biggest on the planet. It's due for completion in 2009 though the reservoir will start filling up in 2003. It will be 2km across, 400m high and visible from the moon. We on the other hand were able to see the moon from the dam as it was late at night when we passed through. A pity really as I would have quite liked to have seen it properly.