We had to have our bag out by 7 a.m. for collection and loading to the bus for our trip to Wuhan. Then, we had our last breakfast on board. I have to say I won’t miss this food at all; it was adequate but not great. Finally, we were ready to disembark and board the bus for the trip to Three Gorges Dam. It was so terribly cloudy and overcast, it was difficult to see anything.
The Dam Project is the largest water conservancy project ever built and is located in the middle of the longest Gorge, the Xiling Gorge, at a site called Sandouping. The dam was designed to serve three main purposes: flood control, hydroelectric power production, and navigation improvement. The statistics are 2,335 meters long, 185 meters high, 18 meters wide at the top and 130 meters wide at the bottom. During the winter months the reservoir water level reaches 175 meters above sea level. In summer, this is lowered to 146 meters.
The creation of the reservoir necessitated the flooding of acres of farmland. Around 1.3 million people have been relocated to make room for the huge dam. The financial costs are estimated to be in the $28 billion range and the dam’s 26 generators are designed to generate 18,200 megawatts of electricity annually. A ship lift/elevator is planned for completion in 2015. The project continues to be enormously controversial due to the displacement of so many people, questions about preservation of historical and archaeological sites, issue of water pollution, accumulation of silt, and even the structure’s stability all remain to be answered in years to come.
Back on the bus, we settled in for our ride to Yichang the capital of Hubei Province for our lunch. Yichang is a large crowded city, home to 10 million people, partly due to the displacement of many natives by the dam construction . There was a wedding going on at our lunch venue; it was very festive and a happy occasion. It’s customary here to shoot off fireworks on the occasion of a wedding.
Then we boarded the bus for our long ride through the scenic countryside to Wuhan, about 4 hours away. This area is known as the “rice bowl” of China with rice paddies and lush farmland. Wheat and rice are grown alternatively with cotton. Sweet potatoes are grown as well as lots of fish farming. Ancient fir trees line the roadway. Land here is owned by the government and farmers get subsidies to work the land; no taxes owed to government either. Many farmers get second jobs as porters or other tourist support jobs. Farming has become a little easier with the use of water buffalo and even tractors.
We stopped at a rest area for a toilet break and then we visited a local farm. Subsistence living doesn’t even start to describe the abode we visited but the owners seemed happy and proud to show their humble quarters to us. I have to say we’ve seen lots of strange things in our day but we never saw a farmer hauling a 300-lb. hog on the back of a scooter. Fittingly enough, Mrs. Farmer had pig intestines boiling in a pot for dinner when we visited the farmhouse.
We arrived in Wuhan, another massive industrial and commercial city. We have an overnight at the Shangri-la Hotel. We had dinner at the Café Wu, a scrumptious array of meats, seafood, salads, deserts, and more served in elegant surroundings.
After dinner, Fred took several people to a pharmacy to get some drugs. A majority of the people on the tour are coughing and sneezing and manifesting other terrible symptoms. We were joking that if the bus had to enter Japan, they would quarantine us. Luckily, we have been escaping whatever it is everyone has so far but it’s inevitable we will get it too.