Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Through the Fog and Mist...

Groaning, I rolled over to see the clock.  It was 6:30 in the morning.
-Why did you wake me up??????
-It wasn't me, replied my husband, someone knocked on our door.

Okay then, let's see what's going on.  I staggered to the balcony window. 
-Yikes!  Get up!!!!  We're in the gorges.  Where's my camera?

I liked that opening.  It kind of grabs your attention, right?  But before I show you those photos, we need to back up one day and talk about the Yangtze River dam, The Three Gorges Dam.
Credit goes to Mao for setting this project in motion over 40 years ago.  He created the political will, but didn't have the financial means to carry it off.
web photo

Today, the Three Gorges Dam is the largest engineering project ever undertaken, anywhere on earth. Opened in 2008, it's 34 generators produce the electricity 25 million tons of crude oil, or 50 million tons of coal can.  Electric production is eight times that of the Hoover Dam in the USA.  That's the good news.
web photo

 The Bad News outweighs it all!

It cost $28 billion to build.

The project displaced millions of people.

Those displaced were relocated to new land (half of what they had been promised) and given a monetary compensation equivalent to $7.00 a month.  They are not happy campers.

Thousands of significant architectural and archaeological sites were destroyed.

Reports are streaming in of environmental and ecological ramifications that are making Mao roll over in his glass coffin.
(Only at night though, when no one is looking, of course.)

Purported to eliminate flooding downstream, which has been disastrous for centuries, it is now causing the opposite problem upstream:  drought, low water levels, famine and disease.

Built to withstand earthquakes of Seven on the Richter Scale, scientists are warning the Three Gorges Dam has the capacity to CAUSE earthquakes, endangering 31 million people of Changqing right next door.  It is built on, not one, but two geologic fault lines!

The seasonal rising and lowering of the water levels in the 405 square mile reservoir undermines the soil at the base of cliffs, causing landslides of major proportions, resulting in more relocations and many more unhappy people.

-Where did you learn all that, you ask?
-The Scientific American news link.
Oh, by the way, did I mention that Google, Face Book and Twitter are blocked in China?  Just saying....

This group of speakers and guides, are from the Miao people group displaced by the Dam.  They portrayed their grief and dissatisfaction in song and in private discussions with those of us who engaged them in conversation.  They were our hosts on the Three Gorges Excursion.

Because of fog and delays on the river, our excursion to the viewing platform of the Dam and Locks was cancelled.  The discrete knock on our door in the early morning alerted us to the upcoming excitement.  Captain B grabbed a coffee and I found something to wear outside and we were ready to document our three hour trip through the five locks.
My photos are on my phone and inaccessible, groan!

Suffice it to say, we were wedged together in the locks so closely, we could have reached out and shaken hands with the crews next to us.  Certainly there were conversations, photo ops and smiles all round.  One lock fed directly into the next, for a total of five, lifting us over 600 feet to the reservoir.

On the other side, the most dramatic scenery bewitched us, calling us deeper and deeper into the fjords of green waters, towering cliffs and verdant peaks.

During our excursion, we saw three "Hanging Coffins", relics from centuries past.  When an important official died, his body was buried for three years, while he was revered and honoured.  Once the body had decayed, the bones were exhumed and placed in these wooden coffins, high above ground.  Many thousands of these have been lost due to the flooding.

Peter pointed this hat out to me and we shared a smile.  Just HAD to post it.
Steadfast and Loyal.

Dressed for another delicious meal aboard and ready to enjoy the company of friendly, happy travellers. The Viking Emerald carries 256 guests and 168 crew.  Large enough to have fun, small enough to meet and get to know new friends.

Next up, farming in China.  Stay tuned.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Down A Not So Lazy River, or, The Slow Boat in China

We woke to our fourth day in China as the Viking Emerald cruised up the Yangtze River.  The third longest river in the world (after #1 the Nile  and #2 the Amazon ), this river sources in Tibet and then extends 3915 miles across the whole country of China, heading east to finish near Shanghai.

We left the glitz and sophistication of the big cities behind us.  Now we were getting a look at life on the river.  Captains and crew live aboard most of the boats we saw, eking out a tough life.

I wondered about the ecological impact of the intense dredging.  We passed countless dredgers and off loaders for days.  The construction of high-rise apartment buildings in every city makes the demand for sand into concrete unending.

This unfortunately dark and dismal photo shows the best example of the preservation attempts to protect what could be saved after the dam caused huge areas of flooding.  This embankment represents the height of the water during monsoon season. 

We never saw a single recreational or personal water craft; no live aboard cruising tourists, like Steadfast is in the Bahamas or on the Inter-Coastal-Waterway in the USA.  This river is a working thoroughfare, channeling goods back and forth across the country.  No lolly gagging here!

 The one exception:  the River Tour Cruises, like the Viking Emerald.
The crew of the Emerald went all out to make our stay a memorable one.
This came compliments of our room stuart.

Each stateroom had its own personal balcony, albeit a tiny one.

 My sister and brother-in-law had the cabin next door to ours.  We were able to keep tabs on each other and share photo ops along the way.  hee hee.

It took a couple of days before we moved completely away from the cities and began to see rural scenery.  The weather was rather dismal--we wondered if we'd ever see the "good stuff" thru the fog.  In the meantime, we had fun and some silliness to keep us occupied aboard.  Did I mention the fresh flowers in every public space onboard?  This regal display of Birds Of Paradise and Stargazer Lilies was magnificent.  It just kept getting better and better as time passed and more buds opened.

We learned how to play Majong, move thru some Tia Chi, write Chinese script, listened to some history of the river, and more.  Of course there were the tea ceremonies...

After dinner offerings were the floor shows put on by crew members.  The wait staff in the restaurant doubled as dancers extordinaire.  The costumes were so colourful and intricate, representing ancient Chinese dress, mostly of the noble classes.

Check out these shoes:  a precursor to high heels???

This is Li Ting Ting (Alice) who was our favourite waitress.  Captain B and I wanted to adopt her and bring her home.

Views of rural China were more what I had expected to see when we had planned our trip.

It rained part of every day that we were on the river, and the fog was so dense at times, I wondered if we would be able to see anything.  In fact, our excursion for day seven was cancelled as "Dungeon Thick'o fog" socked us in, bringing all river traffic to a complete halt for six hours.  Today's excursion was also cancelled due to heavy rain, but Viking brought the fun to us.  Viking sponsors three different schools along the rural areas of the river.  They brought the children to us for a floor show and a chance to talk with them afterwards.

This link will let you hear the children singing and see some of what their schools are like.

Heather was impressed with the food presentation.  She had surprises ahead, when we were offered fried chicken feet, pigs tails, and such!!!

Ambling back to our room at the end of a busy day, our heads full of new lessons in cultural exchange, we were greeted by another gift from Stephen, our attentive room stuart.

Stay tuned for accounts of Xian and the Terra Cotta Warriors, The Great Wall and the Forbidden City.  What a trip!  I am reliving the fun by sharing these posts with you a little at a time.  Questions?  Comments?  Feel free to let me know if you are interested.