Yangtze River and Gorges - China Travel Story
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Yangtze River and Gorges
Sailing up the Yangtze river, several things make an almost immediate impression. The great role this river plays in commerce and transportation and the extensive area of land it meanders through is likely to be the first thing one might notice.
Like the Mississippi River valley, the Yangtze river valley is huge, stretching thousands of miles. The brown color of the river water screams fertility.
Travelling up the Yangtze river early in the morning, sheer cliff faces appear out of the haze on either side of the boat. One wonders if the cliff might fall on top of the boat.
Late in the morning we approached the center of the first gorge where the new Three Gorges Dam is being constructed. After a brief two hour tour of the dam site I am left with several impressions.
My first impression of the project is that it is a huge undertaking. The engineering that has gone into the building of this project is absolutely mind boggling.
Like the Mississippi river, the Yangtze is prone to floods.
The Three Gorges Dam is being constructed ostensibly to control the annual floods, which are costly in both a material sense and a human sense, sometimes killing thousands of people. It is also being built to improve navigation safety as portions of the river are treacherous year round. Finally, it is being built to provide massive quantities of electrical power to much of china.
While the cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing are heavily populated and growing at a phenomenal rate, much of the Yangtze river still appears rural and undeveloped. Indeed, for a country of over 1 billion people, the apparent sparse population is a surprise. Small towns dot the landscape all along the river between Wuhan and Chongqing, our final destination of the cruise. New replacement homes are often juxtaposed over the old buildings which will be submerged upon completion of the Three Gorges dam project.
After this initial impression I was left wondering about the safety of such a huge project. Because the dam is apparently built on a fault line I wonder if the dam would withstand a major earthquake. Barring such a natural disaster as a major earthquake, can such a huge concrete structure withstand the immense amounts of water lapping at its edges.
After passing beyond the dam, I am saddened at the beautiful scenery which will be submerged by the reservoir created by the dam.
Beautiful terraced gardens hug the steep hillsides along the river's edge. Silhouettes of jagged peaks appear out of the haze creating a surreal scene out of a chinese painting.
Incredible, as one of my travel companions exclaimed. The spectacular views don't seem to end. The slight haze adds to the mystery of the gorges and of China. As we approach a sheer cliff face our guide explains the boat is passing near one of the many dangerous shoals of the western portion of the Xi Ling Gorge (First gorge) Pictures do not do these glorious scenes justice.
In consolation, much of this marvelous scenery will not be diminished and other scenery will become more accessible to people wishing to cruise through the Three Gorges area. Still, it is sad that even some of this beautiful scenery will be lost forever. Is this the price of progress? Is it really progress to lose so much of a nations heritage in a massive effort to control a river?
After stopping in Badong City for the night we got off to an early start on day two of our visit to the Three Gorges. We quickly traversed the Second gorge in about 2 hours.
The Second gorge displayed even more spectacular vistas of sheer rock faces, quaint villages and terraced farms which remind me of the terraced farms of the Andes Mountains. As we passed the small rural towns and villages it was fascinating to compare the older villages near the water with the new villages being built above the waterline of the reservoir being created by the Three Gorges Dam. Construction was evident throughout our journey along the gorges.
Near the end of the Second Gorge we arrived at Wushan City, where we debarked and boarded smaller boats for our visit to the Lesser Three Gorges. If I said WOW! on our passage through the First major gorge, all I can say is DOUBLE WOW! Photographs and film cannot convey the majestic beauty of the cliffs and rock formations; a thousand words cannot describe the absolutely stunning scenery. Sheer cliff faces tower hundreds of feet above our small craft. Each twist and turn of the small river presented us with ever more spectacular views. Small towns and villages dotted the steep hillsides in seemingly impossible to reach places.
Small square holes in the sheer cliffs roughly twenty feet above the waterline are the remains of a wooden walkway built hundreds of years ago.
After a half day visit to the Lesser Gorges, we reached the QuTang Gorge. The QuTang Gorge is the smallest in terms of length, but it has some of the highest peaks of the gorges region. The end of our traverse of the Three Gorges is marked by White Cloud City, a city made famous by the great Chinese poet, Lee Bai, who wrote a short poem that about it.
The Three Gorges were truly a highlight of our visit to Asia. The Yangtze Paradise was comfortable, the food was good, and the crew was excellent without exception. I would recommend this four or five day cruise on the Yangtze Paradise to anyone. There are other expeditions up other small rivers and gorges in this area which I am interested in pursuing, but this is one cruise I would do again in a heartbeat.
Story Courtesy to Zengeos