We visit the spectacular Three Gorges Dam in a thunderstorm, spend a wet afternoon in Yichang, and catch an overnight train to Xi’an
1 June 2016
It has been pouring with rain overnight and we can hardly see anything out the windows in the morning (we’re told that the biggest dam in the world is just outside!). After an early breakfast, we are allocated into tour groups and set off in the rain for a visit to the dam. We get onto buses in Sandouping Town and the rain gets heavier and heavier as we head towards the dam. It is a restricted area and we all have to pass through security before getting back on the buses to drive closer. We get a somewhat hazy view of the locks that we passed through during the night and see the new ‘ship elevator’ that is due to open later this year – it takes one smaller ship at a time and lifts it vertically up or down the full height of the dam. We also get a glimpse of the 3 sections of the main part of the dam: a central sluice gate and two flanking banks of turbines.
Just as we get to the part where we have a 40 minute walk up to a look out and then a 360 degree viewing area, we are hit by a thunderstorm with thunder, lightning and torrential rain. We get a quick very damp look and then the viewing area is closed due to the danger of lightning strike. We are absolutely saturated by the time we get back to the bus despite our raincoats and umbrellas. When we get back to the boat docks, there is total pandemonium as passengers from 4 cruise boats all try to funnel down a single escalator juggling umbrellas and in torrential rain. I was heading in the right direction but then followed the instructions of one of the crew and ended up on the wrong boat and had then to try to get out again against the tide of people pushing and shoving their soggy way through (others in our group had followed me as well).
Time for a quick shower and to pack our bags before we have to take our bags down ready for disembarkation. My clothes are so wet that I wash them but have to put them in a plastic bag to take with me – it will be 24 hours before I can dry them as we are catching the overnight train to Xi’an. We all put our soaking shoes back on. Some people have tried drying them with a hairdryer and shorted out power to their cabins! After depositing our bags as instructed we sit in the bar watching the final gorge go by (Xiling Gorge is much less impressive than the other two) and we dock at Yichang.
We have a private bus and a local guide in Yichang, but it is still wet (although considerably less so than before) and we have an afternoon to fill in before our train departs in the evening. We go to a lovely restaurant for lunch but our local guide ordered as we drove in so the food was waiting for us – so much for taking our time over lunch! We have the option of hanging out at the mall or having a massage; no prizes for guessing that I went for the massage.
The three of us having a massage were dropped off on the way to the mall with our local guide Fay. We were all in a room together (4 beds/chairs) and were given some massage pyjamas to put on. We had 2 men and a women to do our massages: firstly sitting up for neck, shoulders and upper back but with our feet in a rose scented water bath. Then we had our feet washed and oiled, and we lay back for a wonderful foot and leg massage – like no other I have had before. It was finished off by an interesting percussion performed up and down our legs and bottom of our feet with a couple of plastic hammers applied with incredible speed. Our legs were certainly energised by the end. We had tea and fruit supplied as well.
We then took a taxi to the Wanda Mall which was extremely crowded because it was International Children’s Day (which is a holiday for kids so most adults also take the day off) and the mall has masses of activities for kids. Anu and I try to find an ATM and end up trying quite a few before we manage to actually get any money. The first few are only in Chinese; the next a helpful lady shows me how to select English but the machine declines to give me any money; the next one has an obvious English button but will only give Anu money and not me. We eventually txt Jing to ask what bank we should try for our best chance as there seem to be an awful lot of banks (interspersed with the Welfare Lottery??). Finally the Bank of China gives me money on the second card I try.
We meet again at 5.00 and our bus takes us to a silk embroidery place run by a minority group who have been relocated to Yichang (a small city of 4 million people!). The work is just exquisite and many buy embroidered pictures but I have the one I bought at Zhou Zhuang. Some of the pieces can take months to complete. Finally we arrive at the railway station and have a bit of time to eat the snacks we had bought earlier.
Many of the trains have been delayed due to bad weather but thankfully ours departs on time at 7.40pm. We are in allocated soft sleeper cabins and they are the best cabins I have encountered on my travels. We are all very pleasantly surprised. We four single women share a cabin and after a bit of hilarity manage to get all the bags stowed in various places and sort ourselves out onto the bunks. A walk along the corridor shows many different cabin styles: one group all eating noodles, another with snacks everywhere and the ‘boys’ with their wine. We are the calm and serene cabin – everyone writing up journals or reading. It will be an early night but we’re not sure how much sleep we will get as there will be lots of stopping.
For this and other similar tours see:
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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