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Monday - 21 May - It is light by 0415 - arose from hard bed at 0545 - the cabin has a built in safe as do the hotels. The ship provides a fine breakfast buffet. The cruise ship is underway by 0630 and immediately enters a gorge with high walls and stratigraphy much in evidence. There are many barges and ships on the river. There is a cool breeze and the ship is moving well against the strong current. We arrive at Sandouping, the site of the Three Gorges Dam and debark for a bus tour of the dam area. The dam itself is complete, but the locks area is still under construction. The river is already rising north of the dam, but will rise much more during the next several years. The dam is about 18 miles upstream from Yichang. We arrive in early morning with plenty of time to tour the dam area. Busses are waiting at Sandouping.
The dam is the largest of its kind in the world. It will provide flood protection downstream as well as a huge supply of electricity - claimed to be 10% of China's total requirements. The raising of the river level behind the 185 meter high dam has already submerged many villages whose population of millions has been moved. Major towns are being rebuilt much higher up the hills on either side of the river. The river has already submerged its famous rapids so the cruise is much less exciting than in past years. Even so the movement through narrow gorges is impressive. Sandouping itself has an interesting looking temple, but we don't have time to visit. The street between the town and the bus parking lot is lined on both sides with stalls where the vendors are desperately trying to attract everyone's attention. Of course they are there because of the crowds of tourists, again mostly Chinese, who pass by every day. Evidently they make at least a meager living from sales, but our group does not stop even to look. There is another tourist sales area at the parking lot below the dam and a more upscale, fashionable store right at the dam site. This is attached to a fine, lighted scale model of the whole area. Everyone lines up around this to listen to the dam-site lecture. Back on board we have lunch as the ship enters the lock around 1115. The buffet lunch includes chicken, pineapple, beef, beans, chocolate mousse, and banana cream desert. We clear the lock upstream at 1330. Each lock can hold 6 ships at a time.
Now we enter the Xiling Gorge, the former most dangerous location of rapids. In times past ships had to be towed across these rapids by gangs of laborers using ropes as they struggled along narrow paths cut into the river bank. All that is now under water. High above us along many sections of the sheer cliffs we see corniche roads with bridges across canyons and side streams. There are tunnels also. Zigui is the only major town between the Xiling Gorge and the next one, the Wuxai. Zigui was the birthplace of Qu Yuan, a famous poet in ancient China. We reach Wuxai, that narrow stretch of 20 some miles around 1700. Hi above us are the spire- like peaks where the goddess Yan Jio and here 11 sisters fought the river dragons before becoming mountains. During the afternoon there is a lecture on Chinese medicine. The ship captain has a reception, and then we have a fine, multi-course, sit-down dinner served by very attentive personnel. At night there is a 'fashion show' with the crew doubling as models dressed in elaborate Chinese period costumes from medieval to modern. And so to bed.


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