As we headed out from Shanghai for Yi Chang I was very excited. Our 4 night river cruise up the Yangtze River, starting with the Three Gorges Hydro Project was the top item on my “To see” list for China.
Our floating hotel for the cruise was the Victoria Jenna, from Victoria Cruises. Unfortunately the start of our trip was less than ideal, which was doubly frustrating because this, for me, was a highly anticipated event. The dam tour was disappointing. More on that later, and our departure was delayed due to high winds which had a trickle down effect on the rest of the cruise.
In fairness, there is no way to do justice to the sheer size and scope of this project. This is the downstream entrance to the lock system.
This bi-directional lock system was designed to keep shipping flowing. Apparently, the Yangtze River handles 80% of the inland waterway traffic in China. This is just a number until you start travelling upstream and actually see the volume it is referring to.
The biggest disappointment for me was the lack of quality information about the scope of this project. There are no real displays or interpretive centre to showcase the truly spectacular accomplishment the Three Gorges Project represents. Having a local guide speaking through a loud speaker while walking through crowds of hundreds simply is not conducive to imparting information.
The ride we had booked in the impressive ship elevator was cancelled due to the high winds. Apparently this device lifts ships that are under 30 tonnes up or down 100+ metres in about 8 minutes compared to the large cargo ships which require around 4 hours to transit the locks.
After spending two nights trapped at the dam due to the winds we finally got underway up the Yangtze. The variety of ships, be it converted ferries, cargo ships, or barges is truly impressive.
A number of car manufacturers are located upstream so we saw a lot of ships laden with new cars heading to their overseas markets.
Despite all you hear in the West about the pollution in China, so far we have been very impressed with the cleanliness here. We asked about this closed down cement factory we passed. The story goes the government was concerned about the pollution to the river so it was closed. Truth or propaganda, who knows. However I will say the Yangtze River we have seen is as clean or cleaner than any other major industrial waterways we have seen anywhere else in the world.
With the flooding that occurred when the dam was built the government had to relocate well over one million people. Stop and think about that. Over a million people displaced and new homes built for them. When the hundreds of apartment blocks were built above the new water line it was found that oranges were a perfect crop for the newly inhabited area. The Yangtze valley now produces around a million tonnes of oranges a year and it is very believable as there are trees on every nook and cranny visible.
Between shipping vessels and cruise ships you are never alone on the Yangtze River. The flow of traffic is impressive. We were told that it is a bit better than normal right now as it is not fishing season yet. The addition of hundreds of smaller fishing boats certainly would make the trip more lively.
Stay tuned for updates on the rest of our river cruise. And check out our posts on Instagram @peterpecksen.
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