A 230k drive to look at the 3 Gorges Dam.
The day was bright and cloudless. The sky as blues as it gets for this part of China and the air dry. A cool start but it quickly warmed up.
We could have sworn we were driving through the alpine areas of Europe. Flowing expressways and towering mountains. We were wondering whether China should be renamed the Mountain Kingdom. Tea grew on more impossibly steep slopes, some give away that we were not in Europe.
This all came to an end when we pulled off the expressway turnoff to the 3 Gorges Dam. The road became a construction site and we crawled from one pothole to the next with large dump truck providing navigation markers. Other cars whizzed down between the 2 lanes of opposing traffic, oblivious of the potholes and that they were headed for other on coming traffic. A blast of the horn usually fixed the problem.
Security at the dam is controlled by the military and you need to get a special permit to visit. After escalating our request to the President (or so it seemed) we were allowed in. Along with a few bus loads of other paying tourists.
The dam was until recently the largest hydo-electricity dam in the world. It displaced 1.5m people, covered historic sites and a lot of farm land. The displaced were resettled in new cities and towns. The historic sites still sit at the bottom of the dam and I am still unsure what the displaced farmers are now doing, as farming the banks of the Yangtze was prime land.
The dam is big, but for some reason it does not do much for me. Maybe its because it stretches back for hundreds of kilometres. In reality its somewhat like a weir rather than a dam as the amount of water below the dam is huge. The Yangtze does not seem to be in any way diminished by its damming. Container ships still ply its waters up and down stream and use locks to get up and over the dam wall.
The visit to the dam also ends our isolation. There are other Europeans (and Africans) sightseeing. Unlike us they are fat, old and crotchety, looking for the escalators to take them to the viewing platform rather than take on the challenge of the 288 steps. And there is also an electric cart to take them from one location to another (about 500 metres). The electric cart is another example of the Chinese value add. Your entrance ticket does not cover it. Another RMB20 thanks.
In town we are no longer the centre of attention, that is reverting back to the cars. Clearly the locals are more accustomed to seeing Europeans in their midst. Although the tourists we saw at the dam, were not evident wandering the streets of Yichang.
Yichang, whose only claim to fame is the dam, houses 4m people who all seemed to be on the way home in their cars in the evening when we were trying to make our way to the hotel which we reached after 90 minutes of stress to cover 10k. In the process one of the MGs was run into by a Porsche whose driver was too busy taking photos of the MG to worry where his car was headed down the road. Luckily the damage was superficial (to the MG anyway).
The evening meal of yabbies (the locals called them prawns) was a treat, but I had forgotten how small the tails were in comparison to the bodies.
Off to bed for a 0700 start the next morning to Jingdezhen. A drive of 700k.