Thursday, July 29, 2010

Yangtze River Diary Day 10 & 11 Three Gorges Dam

Welcome to this week's edition of our China trip! Today we continue with Day 10 night tour and Day 11 shore excursion along the Yangtze River.

We left Shen Nong Stream and ventured into the last of the Three Gorges, Xiling Gorge at night. After dinner our ship went through the 2-way 5-steps ship lock. One of the locks is pictured below, just imagine the water filled with ships, we were 1 of 6 ships and cruised straight into the second gate as the water drained. Water decreased about 20 metres at each ship lock as we traveled downstream towards the Three Gorges Dam.

There were numerous staff members on deck, we later found out they were university students majoring in Tourism and were friendly folks from Yichang, Wuhan and Xian. Soon to graduate they assisted guests with questions as part of their practicum. Our visit was cut short as our throats began to hurt from the smoke generated by the tractor on an adjacent ship so we retired to our rooms for the night.
Day 11 began bright and early at 5:30 AM with breakfast at 6:30 AM. Guests were then split into smaller groups for a bus ride to the dam. Pictured below our view as we crossed a bridge towards shore.
Below a small house boat anchored to shore while its owner rinsed some vegetables on the river bank.
The long line-up as passengers waited to get on the bus.
On shore there was another short wait which gave us some time to wander about. Nearby 3 ladies sold local oranges, the one on the right tied them into neat little bunches as the middle one looked on. I admired the unique shapes of their woven baskets, the tall one on the left is a knapsack.
Around the corner more stalls, the lady below was roasting chestnuts. A most marvelous aroma filled the air, it was a good thing we had breakfast.
The buses arrived at the security checkpoint, all bags were x-rayed, guests and buses were carefully checked over before continuing.
Finally we arrived at the Three Gorges Dam! The first stop was the scenic point below. Construction was ahead of schedule, some of the turbines were already in use.
Close up of the red huts situated above the concrete structure, apparently they were maintenance cranes equipped with lifts that reached the machinery below. They slid along the structure side to side and stayed off to the sides when not in use. To me they looked like little red houses, I like the one on the left with the 4 big windows.
To the right, 4 pillars stood out amongst the still water, they looked as if something was missing, construction seemed incomplete.
Further to the right, more pillars against the background of buildings.
And continuing to the right, an empty 4 lane road curved around a grassy corner decorated with the Olympic rings to welcome 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
We returned to our bus and arrived at the tourist centre that housed a mini model of the dam pictured below. The bright blue lines indicated the pathways of the ship locks. Numerous visitors crowded the room as their guide explained in Mandarin. We were assigned an English speaking guide but he did not say a word to us! Other passengers shared bits of info they gathered from other guides as they wandered around. It was very noisy, the room felt humid and hot so we headed outside.
Ahhh... a beautiful park for guests to relax and stroll along the paths to enjoy a panoramic view of the dam.
One of the lookouts below was another ship lock, a nicely manicured garden occupied the middle section. On the hill to the right billboards displayed various company names that were involved with the dam project, Alstom a French company was one of them. China had consulted experts from all over the world to learn the technology and built the dam.
Another viewpoint showed the Three Gorges Dam again, this time we were on the opposite side.
More little red maintenance huts were seen through the morning haze.
Power lines carried electricity that was generated.
Cables by the river side, they carried power to the people.
One of the last viewpoints pictured below was of a ship lock occupied with cargo ships.
Our main goal in China was to see the Yangtze, the cruise was great fun but the sights were bittersweet as they signaled the end of our river journey. The Three Gorges Dam, a sign of China's mighty economy and advanced technology, came at a great price. As I looked on I thought about the 1.4 million people that were relocated because of the rising water. My heart goes out to them. Though without the dam, downstream areas suffered devastating floods every year. At the moment China is facing some of the fiercest floods in decades, click here to read. Things could have been a lot worse.

Day 11 to be continued next week as our China adventure continues!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reflection

On the surface a blade of leaf, underneath the water so still a more complete reflection was composed.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Perception

A walk along Victoria's Antique Alley, the chain link fence interpretation. Are we looking in or looking out? That is the perception on the situation.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Garden Cool

It is warm this Saturday evening, rain has not been seen in weeks. Some soothing garden pictures in perfect May temperature, I searched in vain the name of the tiny pink flower, some healthy clumps of moss on roof tops and questionable but likeable green formation on the fence. I wish for rain.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Yangtze River Journal Day 10 Badong

Hello Thursday! I am so excited and am so glad to share one of my favorite parts of the cruise! As promised last week, we continue with the shore excursion on Day 10 of our China trip along the Yangtze River.

As our little boat with the orange roof neared the shore, several wooden boats even smaller in size materialized. Pictured below, by a long row of tourist shops, groups of men gathered and waited on the boats.
A closer shot of the waiting men, some of them chatted away but most were in smaller gatherings, engrossed with a card game of some kind.
Our guide Jessica divided the guests into smaller troops of 11, here she was below holding the number 4. The men quickly assembled the chairs as we boarded, lifejackets were given out and hastily put on.
Leaving the shore, we noticed more tourist guides dressed in pink as they led more passengers. Eventually all the boats were full and the shore was empty as everyone left for the day's adventure.
A quick row in Badong along Shen Nong Stream, our guide Jessica told us the water rose 1 meter per week with another 70 meters to go. The scenery was prettier but with the water so shallow no big boats could get through. Only small wooden boats with the help of stream trackers could journey on as we were shown very soon.
The wooden vessels began to scrape against the river bed, the men got out and started pulling the boats with long ropes made of local grass.They ran alongside the small boats against the backdrop of concrete residential high-rise. Jessica said the government had compensated the locals to move to higher ground, housing is better now compared to their little wooden huts. With the rising water came the influx of cruise ships and tourists, which meant additional income for the locals, their economy and living standards had improved tremendously.
I caught this sight of the stream trackers below, the men were visiting amongst themselves and smiling as they worked. They seemed happy and looked very fit, only muscles and bones. Note their shoes, Jessica said their wives made them out of a local grass to prevent slippage. Each pair would take 1 day to make and last only 6 days.
Traffic jam on Shen Nong Stream as more boats were being pulled by the stream trackers.
Gradually everyone made it around the corner and we returned to deeper waters.
A glance at one of Badong's countryside, it is so very pretty. Did you know one of the buildings was a school, the children came out to wave at us when we arrived! I was so busy waving back I forgot to take a picture. Then, led by their teacher, the kids began to sing at the top of their lungs for us!They were not the only ones that sang. Shown in action below, Jessica with the boat captain demonstrated 2 local folk songs. Guests were instructed to join in a tune about friendship which I enjoyed very much. Another melody was about courtship, Jessica told us she is 26 years old and too old to marry, most girls are married by 18.
A race ensued amongst the boaters, passengers were encouraged to cheer their crew on. There was a lot of shouting which then led to great laughter, everyone was enjoying themselves.
A peek at one of the crew members as he smiled broadly when we raced. The boat captain stood behind him, there are 2 captains, one is at the very front.
Back on shore, a shot of the returning boats as we waited for the rest of the guests to arrive.
Below a tourist shop keeper negotiated her price with a buyer. In the foreground some stream tracker shoes for sale.
On the way back to the cruise ship, we continued to chat with Jessica. Her English is very good, she mastered it on her own with the help of language tapes for 6 months. Wow! If only all our guides spoke English like her! She said only certified English speakers were hired as tour guides, there was a shortage so they decided to try her out. She felt at ease when we told her we understood her perfectly, we were delighted to learn about the area and the people from a Badong native.

Below a bush covered cliff with one tree that grew sideways.
Jessica pointed out a hanging coffin, a local custom is to bury ancestors at great heights as a show of respect. The caskets can be viewed closer now that the water has risen.
A peaceful scene of a fisherman as he gathered up the catch of the day.
The lasting image of Shen Nong Stream on that late afternoon. Time flew by quickly that day, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves with our stream tracking adventure. But... there is more to come as Day 10 continues next week!

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Moment of Peace

A visit to Spanish Bank early Saturday morning, people were running walking cycling with family friends and dogs. I could hear the birds singing and smell the scent of sea salt in the breeze. Wide open spaces grew warmer and busier as the sun rose higher in the sky, I was glad to have my quiet little moment.