Monday 23 May Xiling Gorge, Three Gorges Dam

We woke to a misty/foggy morning and it has been raining overnight. While we were eating our delicious buffet breakfast, the ship slipped her moorings and we headed up the Yangzi River towards the Xiling Gorge, which is 76 kilometres long. We were surprised at the number of vessels using the river – there were other river boats, barges and ferries. After having travelled for about an hour and a half, we tied up alongside other riverboats and 15 of us disembarked for an extra shore excursion.

Our local guide, Rosemary, from the Tu Jia Minority Group led us along a boardwalk, which followed the river bank for quite a distance, walking through scenic points and pergolas built out over the river. Rosemary told us that our ship is the most luxurious on the river but certainly not the biggest – our ship has a capacity of 132 people – she showed us a river ship that holds 500 people and told us that there were approximately 42 tourist ships on the river.

Eventually we followed the Lon Jin stream inland, still on a well-maintained rustic walkway to visit the Tu Jia families. Along the way we saw people from the Minority Group dressed in traditional costume and portraying scenes from their past. We saw a woman sitting by the stream washing clothes, men repairing sails using an old sewing machine, a young woman sitting on a boat while her boyfriend played the flute to her, a young woman playing a zither, a man working with his fishing cormorants and other fisherman with their nets. The further inland we went, the narrower the stream became with small waterfalls and waterwheels made from bamboo.

We watched a short performance of a courtship and marriage ceremony to the background music of a band playing traditional musical instruments – drums and trumpet-like instruments that sounded like bagpipes. From there we continued our walk to two hanging coffins high up in the cliff face – they are believed to be 2,000 years old, but no-one knows for sure how the Ba people managed to get them up there. After another short walk along the path, we came to a beautiful waterfall, Lon Jin Waterfall and also Yellow Dragon Waterfall. There were also several monkeys there that live in caves in the cliffs. One of the monkeys had a baby that was clinging underneath her as the mum moved from rock to rock in the stream. Apparently, a lady from the Tu Jia group feeds them corn and sweet potato, using donations from the local people. The monkeys also eat leaves, flowers and roots and are protected by the government.

Our return walk was along the other side of the stream, through an area with a few local houses built into the hillside. We returned to the mouth of the stream and then were taken back to the ship by local ferry. Along the way we had a wonderful view of the pavilions and pergolas that we had walked through at the beginning of our walking tour.

We thoroughly enjoyed our three and a half hour shore excursion this morning – the scenery was spectacular and the weather was very kind to us. Once again we are unable to put into words how awesome it was to wander along the pathways beside the stream, under trees and bamboo to the sounds of the running stream and flutes playing and amazing vistas on the water.

After lunch, we arrived at the Three Gorges Project Dam Site Exhibition Centre and we went on a tour of the complex. Our bus, with local guide David, took us through the local township of Sandoupng before taking us to the Museum, where we gained some understanding of the construction of the world’s largest engineering project. Commenced in 1992 and completed and fully operational by 2009, the dam is the largest dam on earth, generating 22,500 megawatts of hydroelectricity. The dam is 2,335 metres long, height is 185 metres above sea level and has a maximum water height of 175 metres.

The Three Gorges Dam also has a ship lift for small ships and a double-way Five stage Lock system for larger ships. As well as producing electricity, the dam project was able to increase the shipping capacity and reduce the potential floods downstream by providing flood storage space.

The afternoon was fine but visibility was poor so we were not able to get very good photos of the dam wall. We arrived back at the ship at 4.00pm and the ship started its progression through the gravity fed locks at 6.00pm – we watched from the top deck until the Captain’s Welcome Reception at 6.30pm where we met the Captain and had drinks and savouries. We had a most enjoyable Welcome Dinner with our usual table of eight, chatting and laughing and enjoying life on the river!


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