The Yangtze: Three Gorges Passage
People's Republic of China
June 25, 2010
My Dear Cruise Aficionados,
After the Nile and the Amazon, the Yangtze is the third longest river in the world.
The Yangtze or Chang Jiang is also the longest river in Asia. That really is saying something when you consider that the Yellow River #2 is 5464 km (3395 mi), the Mekong #3 is 4909 km (3035 mi), and the Indus #9 and Brahmaputra #10 are each 2909 km (1808 mi). Numbers 4-8 are rivers in Russia that run from south to north in Siberia and flow into the Arctic Ocean.
The Yangtze rises in the west from the glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau and empties into the East China Sea The river flows 6300 kilometers (3915 miles) while draining eleven provinces from Qinghai to Shanghai.
It is my good fortune to take the three-night, four-day "Three Gorges Passage" on The President No.1.
I board in the evening at Chongqing. My assigned cabin on the President is musty and small. But Rebecca, one of the "River Guides" is ready and waiting for me and presses me hard for an upgrade. (I had already paid dearly for the single supplement.) We go back and forth but I insist on my price. I save all of 5 bucks! Rebecca escorts me to the cashier - credit card cheerfully accepted.
From Chongqing, we proceed to sail down the Yangtze passing through the Qutang Gorge, the Wu Gorge, the Shennang Stream, the Three Gorges Dam and finally the Xi Ling Gorge. We disembark at Yichang after the 660 km (410 mi) journey.
Most of the passengers are Chinese families or groups of enthusiastic Chinese business colleagues. In the spacious dining room I am seated at a round table with the other Westerners. The Chinese food is plentiful and varied and not too spicy. The kitchen accommodates any dietary needs. (This is no Column A and Column B emporium.)
A couple from Texas had booked an ultra deluxe cabin where we Westerners are invited to congregate . The cabin is at the very front of the boat. It has a comfortable lounge, a bedroom large enough for the captain and half the crew, a bed large enough for the other half, and an enormous outdoor private deck - perfect for viewing, chatting and the occasional adult beverage.
Most of the President staff are young university students working a summer job. They are delightful, friendly, curious and pleased to be able to practice their English. My waitress is the beautiful Shanny, a student at Wuhan University where she is majoring in Maritime Hospitality Management. Shall I volunteer to be a visiting lecturer?
But the River and the Gorges. What mere words would be adequate to describe them?
Modern, architectural giant bridges span the broad river, some more than 1000m long (3280 ft). Cities of millions, small towns and villages peer down on the river from the misty hills.
The statistics for the Three Gorges Dam are confusing. Is it the largest dam in the word? The highest? Does it have the most volume? The most electric generating potential? Is it a curse? A blessing? Regardless, this mammoth structure provides flood control that protects several large cities downstream. It generates a huge amount of hydroelectric power. The locks provide safe and, usually, uninterrupted navigation.
The Yangtze River and the Three Gorges themselves? Majestic? Mysterious? Magical? Mere words. Suffice it to say, this is a very special place. A place to cruise. A place to dine. A place to be.
My friend Larry is a serious traveler...a trekker actually. He has hiked the Appalachian Trail in the Eastern United States, he has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and he has just returned from his second trek in Nepal. He commented to me that for any serious traveler, China is a "must see destination." He is correct, of course.
And for me, the Yangtze and the Three Gorges along with the Three Gorges Dam is also a "must see."
Magical cruising to all,