Three Gorges Dam

Added 30 Oct 2012

This morning we visit the Three Gorges Dam site. From the ship we walk through a small market to join our coaches. No one is interested in buying souvenirs on the way and the market traders seem content to shout out “see you later”, in the knowledge they’ll grab our attention on the way back. The coach drive to the dam is only 10 minutes and our first stop is a security control. We disembark, walk through a modern “airport terminal” style building, using hand luggage scanners on route, and then we rejoin our coaches the other side. Our coaches simply drive around the corner and are subject to no security check whatsoever. Strange! Anyway, we are soon on our way, accompanied by our ship guide and a local guide. The road crosses the main locks that we transited yesterday, and we’re then dropped off to take long open-air escalators up to the viewing hill. Here our guide points out the various viewpoints including the, as yet unfinished, "ship lift" which may come into operation in a few years’ time. The weather is kind to us. It is sunny and relatively clear so we can see the entire dam and the surrounding countryside.

The overall scale of the project is vast. At over 1 mile wide and over 600 feet tall, the Three Gorges Dam plugs the Yangtze at its steepest point, and its China’s largest construction project since the Great Wall. When the construction started in 1994, the government promised to build the world’s biggest dam and manage the world’s biggest human resettlement, while at the same time protect the environment. The dam was built to control flooding, increase river traffic, improve navigation safety, cut transport costs and provide electricity to rural provinces. The dam project actually took 17 years and over £18 billion to build. It is the world’s biggest consumer of dirt, stone, concrete and steel. It created a reservoir with a total area the size of Singapore and forced the relocation of 1.3 million people. Over 150,000 acres were permanently submerged, including 13 cities, 140 towns, 650 factories, 1600 businesses, 4500 villages and 1300 archaeological sites.

Back on board ship for lunch, we sail through the beautiful Xiling Gorge with our river guide, Ben, adding commentary on route. Many guests are on the open deck sunning themselves. Sounds like a good time for a glass of beer or wine. Some keen guests also attend Ben’s Chinese language lesson later and this is followed by the daily briefing and dinner. The after-dinner activity is bingo, but we’ve already invited all our guests to our “B.A.M.” event, which is short for “Bingo Avoidance Meeting”. Arriving in the Emerald Bar on deck six, we mix everyone up, with instructions to chat with someone new. A glass of two of bubbly seems to help. Towards the end of the gathering Richard and Dawn “borrow” a couple of the ship officer’s jackets and attempt a surprise audition for Strictly Come Dancing to live music supplied by the ship’s duo. Being a spur of the moment decision, there has been no rehearsal but the “performance” seems to go down quite well. Clearly we're voted off Strictly and fortunately some more experienced dancers then take to the dance floor!