Aboard our ship, we eat sumptuous meals and last night, we danced the macarena. Our guide is obviously a political person. She tells us that the employees aboard the ship work horribly long hours. They get up before dawn and begin breakfast, cleaning and all those things that make our trip a smooth, seamless adventure. It is the army of workers that, after their toil, stay up late to entertain us. The costumes, the music, the dance. It is a sobering experience and for our group, not unwelcome information. Today, we offload from the ship and are delivered to a landing where we take a motorized sampan ride up one of the canyons.
Many fishing families live on their sampans, most are motorized like this one. At one time they were hand paddled or poled along the river. The boatman demonstrated the woven rush garment the old-timers once wore when it rains. Now they have plastic tarps and jackets. Several members of our group were invited to try out the rain coat and pole the sampan.
We happen upon just such a family as we continue up the gorge. Like the subsistence farmers, these people live hand to mouth. They have no medical care. We see a few monkeys and birds in this gorge and our guide tells us the locals kill and eat them. In fact, it is eerie to realize that you hardly ever see a bird except domesticated ducks. You see no insects or animal life of any kind in the “wild”. The monkeys are the rare survivors in this steep canyon where they cannot be hunted to extinction-yet!
This entrepreneurial fellow has positioned himself in this cliff house to take pictures of the tourists in sampans. Then he scurries ahead to the ship and has the pictures posted for sale before we leave the following morning. Our guide says he also catches sturgeon and delivers it to the back-end of smaller tourist boats that serve meals. Fishermen below the dam love it. Sturgeon get three feet long. There are no fish ladders and they cannot get past the dam. Their environmental problems are still ahead of them.
The next morning, we stop at a newly built city with modern apartment buildings where many farm families have been relocated. Farmers have few city skills but many of their wives work as maids. This is part of Hubei (hoo-bay) Province. We stopped at a brand new beautiful tourist center only to find the worst awful pit toilets on the trip so far. It kind of boggles the mind, this newly built center, in a newly built town has pit toilets? At the tourist center we saw a fight between two bus drivers from two different tours. We wondered if the Mau Zedong government had somehow erased every human emotion, but this proved it had not.
This is a view of the unfinished “front” of the dam. Our guide told us the power generated here will only supply 5% of China’s electrical needs. Seems kind of a shame to have displaced 1.24 million people, over one thousand villages, and I’ve forgotten how many cities for 5% of their power.
The visitor’s center did a good job of explaining the dam, its building process and design. They had a mock-up of the dam in a reflecting pool of water and it was all very interesting. And this sculpture on the side of the overlook? I was disappointed that it didn’t have one dragon sculpted in the stone. In fact, the dam has been a very controversial project. You can read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Gorges_Dam
There were many sites on the internet covering the controversial issues of this dam if you wish more detail.