Day 37

Trip Start Sep 14, 2006
Trip End ??? ??, 2007

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

We got up on time at 6.55am as our bus to the hydrofoil port was at 7.40am from a different hotel we were in. Skipping breakfast we were soon in the bus and on our way. We had heard that the hydrofoil port was only 5km away but the bus continued for much longer than that. I figured out that the bus was taking us beyond the Three Gorges Dam construction site and dropping us off at our hydrofoil there. I'd hoped to have a good look at the dam but we were only able to see limited views of the massive project from the bus window.

The hydrofoil boat was ok, a bit old and shabby but it was pretty cheap so I was happy. There were three sections for passengers front, middle and back. Our tickets were for the seats in the front where the best views were. By far the best option was to stand by the boarding gate and view from there - no windows between us and the scenery outside.

The boat departed and I was impressed by its speed - we had maybe five hours in this boat and the distance covered is pretty huge. Practically the whole route will be submerged once the dam opens. This has massive implications for the country. Beijing will get a new water supply as water is diverted north, and the hydro-electric plant at the dam will generate 10% of China's total electricity supplies. On the down side some of China's most beautiful scenery, the three gorges, will be lost forever and over 1 million people are being re-housed in other cities in the province.

The boat was about 60% full and most of the passengers were using this as transport rather than tourism. That meant we had near enough unrestricted access to the best viewing area on the boat. The scenery is breath-taking, many sheer cliff faces lined with trees plus the odd wild goat wandering about. Despite the challenge of farming on this land, many shacks were dotted through the area and all were working the land around them. That meant cutting into the soil to make level steps that could be farmed. The mist was still evident but it started to clear for some even better views.

I felt privileged to see this area before it's all drowned in Yangzi water, but it's an absolute shame that it's being covered up at all.

We reached Wanzhou at around 3.30pm and got off the boat, we had been sold onward bus tickets to Chongquing so followed the tour guide onto a luxury bus. That bus took three and a half hours to get to Chongquing so we were pooped on arrival. Steve suggested something that I'd been thinking during the journey - that we should try for train tickets to Chengdu that very night! I was up for it as long as we got a sleeper accommodation. That would mean travelling the 1000km from Yichang to Chengdu in 24 hours by bus, boat and train! Our thinking was that Chongquing didn't look like a great destination according to our guidebook. But travelling through the city it looked ultra modern as if we were in Shanghai! If there were no train tickets available I would have been happy to stay here for a night.

We had a successful session at the ticket office in the train station. The girl's English wasn't great but we got our sleeper tickets to depart in less than an hour! We rushed some noodles from a smelly restaurant near the station and got on the train. We were delighted to find out our cabin was actually a soft sleeper - better than we'd expected. We chatted and drank in darkness as the two other passengers in our cabin slept, it had been a busy day and we were still restless. We tried to find the train's restaurant carriage but it looks like there wasn't one. The carriage attendant would be waking us at 6am for out 6.30am arrival in Chengdu so at 1am it was time for bed.
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