Cruising on the Yangzi River

December 19, 2017

Our trip went from warp speed-boat to puttering cruise ship in a matter of steps. Once we boarded the Century River Cruise, things slowed down. Our cabin was luxurious and the buffet meals were plentiful. When the government flooded the Yangzi for the Three Gorges Dam, we learned how millions of Chinese were displaced. The cruise manager said, “In China, you get something good, something bad.” This really sums up everything we experienced in China and it is acutely relevant in this case. We didn’t think we could be impressed by this unprecedented man made wonder. We have an overall distrust of dams. Ostensibly they’re good, creating natural power through hydroelectrics. But they destroy communities and river ecosystems. Our fascination grew the more we learned – 2.3km wide, supplying energy to millions, prevents flooding which had killed more than 300,000 people in the past century and with climate change promised to be hundreds of thousands more. Industrial doesn’t begin to describe the feeling of being in the locks. But somehow it felt alive. Like a transformer. Otherworldly. Eerie noise as the locks closed behind us. The hum of the engines. The machinery. Screeches of concrete. Howls. The groaning of the boats together. Against the walls. Metal. Sinking. 20 meters at a time. And then the rush of water out. Though it did fit two huge boats next to each other and in front of each other, it felt narrow and small. It’s hard to understand the scope and scale of this world.

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