The Yichang Travel Card has been a real success story. A day after I saw the Yangtze Sturgeon Research Centre, I went to the dam. And this time, I saw it! Nizar, Anoop and I did have some trouble getting there but all in all it was a pretty good trip.
I guess it is a huge blot on your travel credentials if you haven't seen the most famous place in your city. The Three Gorges Dam [SanXia DaBa - literally Three Gorges Big Dam] is the largest hydroelectric power project in the world and possibly, the only claim to fame for our humble little city of Yichang [other than our university, of course!]
Even though the weather wasn't the greatest on Saturday - rainy and foggy - our little team braved the cold and set out to conquer one of the modern wonders of technology. After my visit to the Sardar Sarovar dam last winter, I must say I appreciate dams more and I was looking forward to the trip. More importantly, I didn't want to repeat my failure the last time I tried a similar trip.
I had never really cared about the dam [before last winter] but I did want to give it a look-see as it was really famous. So, when Brad's students were looking for travel companions to the dam, I put my hand up. The students had signed us up with one of the tour groups operating in the campus for the holidays. Our little group comprising Brad, 5 Chinese students and I met one fine morning to board a bus which I presumed would take us to the dam.
It took us to the GeZhou dam, the smaller, older and almost unknown cousin of the Great Three Gorges. They told us that the rest of the journey would be on a boat, which sounded even better. We had an up-close view of the single-stage shiplock at the GeZhou in action. I had heard that the shiplock at the Three Gorges was a 5 stage one and now it sounded more than impressive.
I was a bit worried about the time though because it felt that we were already running late. But the boat soon shoved off on its pleasant trip up-river. This little tourist boat had its own in-house souvenir shop and the sweet lady running it and I, got talking on whatever topics my limited Chinese allowed [which weren't many]. We also met other people on the boat, including another one of Brad's students [no surprise there] and a group of University students who had come down from Wuhan just to see the Great dam.
It was around lunch time when we got to our next stop. Even though we were getting worried about the limited time left to see the dam, the extra scenic spot wasn't bad. It was themed around one of the great poets of ancient China and the place was pretty pleasing to the eye.
Once we were done with this stop though, our patience was beginning to wear thin. It was getting really late and we were relieved when the boat started again.
And then it resumed its journey - downstream.
This was surprising because the dam was just a little way off - in the opposite direction! Our friends Rick and Steve found out that we were not going to the dam afterall. This wasn't the news we wanted to hear but our fellow passengers didn't seem to mind. I went and talked to the lady at the souvenir shop and that's when I learned that a trip to the dam by this tour company would have cost more than what we had payed. It seemed that the tour agent at the university had tricked us. We were just getting the trip we payed for, which, was not the trip to the dam.
Have you ever been in a situation where you were planning to go to one place and end up in a totally different one at the end of the day and someone tells you - Oops wrong bus... that's how I felt! We tried talking to the tour guides on the boat who said there was nothing they could do about it - "We can't reach the agent right now", "We can't reach our boss right now", "We can't turn back the boat, its too late in the day for a dam trip now". Our friends were feeling miserable because they were the ones who had arranged for our tickets and so it didn't seem fair to vent my frustration just yet.
What did seem to be the right time was when I found out that all the other people in the boat had also been under the impression that we were on our way to the dam; the agent had duped us all! But now that we were not, they were all sitting around dejected. Just sitting!!
Wake up people!! You've just been taken on a wild goose chase! Been cheated off your time and money!! Oh... umm... *talk**talk**take pictures**talk more*
We figured that's why some people here like to drink the nasty baijiu. They had just been cheated off a day but they didn't want to do anything about it - except get back on baijiu that night and drink to "We got ripped off - again!" You need something strong to take away your sorrows I guess...
The poor girl from Wuhan started crying because they had just spent the night in Yichang so that they wouldn't be late for the trip! This ignited some fire under the other boys with her and they found some sympathisers in the group to go and talk to the man in charge. For a minute there, I thought they might just get the boat turned around and restore some sanity. But the guy who was driving the boat just came out of the engine room, won a quick victory in the shouting match, and continued on his way.
I just could not believe all the rest of the people on the boat! I even took a picture of all of them just sitting around - it was one of the strangest and saddest sights I've ever seen. People without the will to fight for their right.
After that experience behind me, I was glad to see the dam yesterday, the whole enormity of it, and things got better when I ended the day with free pizza courtesy of Amitha, a treat for the house-warming back in India.
A wish come true and a full stomach, what more can you ask for?