Our boat actually stayed put last night as this morning we got off again to visit the Three Gorges dam. We had a great local guide, Laura, who lives in the new city of Zigui. Like many other cities along the Yangtze her old city is now underwater and she was relocated to a brand new city above the 175 metre watermark. She explained how she and her family are much better off, with a bigger place that they only had to pay the difference for the extra square metres of the new place. She did say that her grandparents were quite sad to leave, and when the actual flooding of the valley took place her grandmother sat on the top of a hill with just some bread and water for the fifteen days it took for the water to flood over the old city, and then she came back quite sad for a long time after that. The story brought tears to my eyes.
We visited two sites overlooking the dam, but getting through the checkpoints was probably more interesting! Only pre-organised groups can visit, which consisted of a process which seemed a bit of a farce - we all had to get off the bus with our day bags, go through security and xray, and the bus met us on the other side. I'm sure you could have left something on the bus and got away with it. The bus then had to stop at a checkpoint with three very scary-looking Chinese soldiers. I would have loved to have taken a photo, but again, didn't dare. One of them held a gun-like machine with a big antenna sticking out the front of it - I think it was some sort of radar or similar. He walked along the length of the coach, looking like he was going to zap us, but deemed us fine, and off we went. There were a couple of other checkpoints with big whiteboards, all with the bus licence plate numbers of the buses that were allowed to enter. Felt a little overkill!
We stopped twice to look at the dam wall - the first quite close to the back of the wall. The wall is basically all finished, with just one ship lock to go. Apparently the Three Gorges dam (including the locks etc) has the most amount of concrete in it for any man-made project in the world.
We then went over to the island which is inbetween the dam and the huge five-step ship lock. There was a big model of the whole dam project, and outside a viewing mound to climb. Unfortunately it was pretty hazy, and though you could see OK, I think the photos will come out looking like snow. It was still pretty awesome though, standing there marvelling at such a huge engineering feat. A nearby town was created to house the 10,000 workers who worked there during the peak construction phase, including shops, restaurants, police station - everything, but no schools! Now it stands fairly deserted, with just 1,000 workers occupying it, many now employed to plant trees and work on establishing gardens and other peripheral projects.
After driving back and re-boarding our boat, we actually began cruising up the Yangtze. At first the scenery was just fairly hilly, with scattered farms and a few terraces. One of the Canadians, Monica, and I sat on the deck up the top, eating our packed lunch and seemed to have the boat to ourselves while everyone else ate lunch downstairs in the restaurant. Mind you, everyone was pretty jealous by the nutella that I'd brought from home, and we did think that we had the best view.
The scenery soon grew more beautiful as we journeyed through a 45km long stretch of the Wu Gorge, extending from Guandukou (Badong County) until docking time at the entrance of the Da Ning River in Wushan County. The cliffs towered above us, and we sat there pondering what it must have looked like before the dam filled with more than a hundred metres of extra water, as it is still very impressive. It was such a lesiurely afternoon watching the scenery pass by, that I didn't want it to end.
In the evening the captain welcomed us to dinner (Monica and I had "special" seats, as we ordered separately from the buffet). I had my now favourite dish, Gong Boa Chicken, with stir-fry greens and a bowl of rice big enough to feed half of China (OK, slight exaggeration there!)
Afterwards we all went to the bar, where some people entertained us with karaoke, and the staff organised games such as limbo, balloon races and musical chairs. Some of the competition was fierce, but it was a fun evening.