The next part of our expedition took us on a river boat cruise along the Yangzi river, at 6300 km it’s the third longest river in the world after the Amazon and the Nile. The river divides China into north and south, our cruise will take us through the 3 Gorges Dam, (the worlds largest), and along the most beautiful part of the river. Our cruise liner was a large vessel containing mostly Chinese tourists, we were the only westerners.
I’ve been really lucky on this tour as I am the only single guy , meaning I’ve been ab le to have a room to myself for the entire trip, everyone else has to share. The room was small and basic , but comfortable. There were rats spotted in a couple of the other guys rooms, but I was again lucky and had no visitors.
We headed off for the 3 Gorges Dam which was a few hours away. This controversial hydro electric dam supplies over 10% of chinas power, at 2 km long and nearly 200 meters high it’s the largest in the world and it was completed in 2004.
A third of the 20 billion yuan cost went on relocating familes who lived along the river who’s homes are now flooded, the water level has risen 80 meters in 5 years and thousands of homes were bombed and removed for the project. Check out the size of the bulldozers.
In the evening we had to rise up the 80 meters from the lower part of the river, through the worlds biggest ship lock to the upper, (dammed) part. This consisted of 5 separate locks one after another and took2 hours to get from the lower to the upper part. The locks are enormous.. Ever seen a canal barge going through a lock? Well this mo fo can handle upto 10 ships at a time.
The evening was spent getting drunk and playing drinking games and cards, this seems to be the most common way of spending the evenings when we’re on a sleeper train or sleeper boat, there is simply nothing else to do. I’ve been incredibly lucky with my groups, I’m the eldest at 33 but there are a few 28, 29 yr olds and I don’t feel out of place. Everyone is getting along really well, it’s a good mix and everyone is decent, and fun loving and we have gelled together as a unit really well. I trust them and although I’m always vigilant and on guard to a certain degree, I feel both accepted and safe in the unit. I wonder sometimes what big brother would make of it all if a fly on the wall was watching the group bond and get to know each other. There is an alpha male, a kiwi called Rob who is mr sports man and mr competitive, but even though he has the status, he’s really easy going and easy to get along with. The two danish guys are 20, they are the party guys anfd have beer for breakfast, they are great fun and a responsible for most of the drinking games.
In the morning we transferred to a smaller boat and cruised through a one of the gorges. As always in China the mornings are cloudy and cold. This day it was really cold. I’m sooo glad a brought my snowboarding jacket.
When we got to the gorge it really was beautiful. We were surrounded by sweeping green mountains on either side, the sun had come out and it was a really stunning setting.
Soon we transferred to an even smaller boat for about 15 people, were traditional boatmen rowed us through an even more beautiful segment of the gorge. The journey was great fun, boatmen sang songs and raced with the other boats.
Back on the cruise ship later the sun was blazing, we took the opportunity to sunbath and watch the scenery. An irish lad called Porrick introduced us to a drinking game called Roxanne. The rules are simple. We play Roxanne by the Police on the ipod and speakers. Every time Sting sings “Roxanne” the boys drink, every time he sings “red light” the girls drink. it’s a sure fire way to get you pissed. We played it about 4 times that afternoon on deck.
The evening was much the same. 15 of us set round a table playing cards and drinking games, it was great fun and everyone was toasted.
The climax of the evening was when we convinced Rob to perform his Haka dance on the deck, (he didn’t take much persuasion).
The cruise ended the next day and we are now chilling out in Yichang. Tomorrow we embark on a 16 hour train journey to Xi-an, home of the terracotta army. Stay tuned.