Across the Middle Kingdom

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9 August

30 July 1998 - Yangtze River (Xiling Gorge)

Kat helped me stagger into bed, fed me some medication, and we went to sleep. We awoke about three hours later to join the excursion to the Three Gorges Dam Project. Yes, my temperature was elevated, but I was damned if I was going to let a minor illness keep me from seeing the Dam-in-progress.

The scale of the project was truly amazing, of course. At the time of our visit, the shiplock channels were only roughly cut out, and there were three sections of the dam completed-- one on each shore, plus one in the center. And it was all huge. The channels, for instance, are probably a kilometer long, if not more. The dam itself, when completed, will be as high as the Golden Gate Bridge, and twice as long.

As we looked out over the site, I had to keep reminding myself how big it was. We couldn't even see men working on the floor of the shiplock channel, because they were too far away to be anything more than moving dots. There was a suspension bridge just downstream from the dam site. We'd crossed it the night before, and it was huge-- probably longer than the Golden Gate, though its deck is much closer to the water. From where we stood, just the finished parts of the dam made it look like a toy. It was hard to believe that it was the same massive bridge we'd been on. The dam completely dwarfed it.

On the way back, we stopped at the Phoenix Pavilion. It was 200 steps up, but I didn't go, much as I wanted to do so. I was starting to feel pretty bad, and Kat was becoming concerned. Once we returned to the ship, I dragged into the cabin and collapsed into sleep. Well, not quite. I was headed for sleep when the boat began to move.

With my temperature now 101.2F, I had little choice but to remain in my cabin and watch the riverbank slide past. Oh, but I was upset. I did manage to set myself up in a chair next to the window, and at least see some of the sights. I couldn't sleep, not now. I had travelled too far to miss this. So I only saw the port side of the river. That was impressive enough. I shot a roll of film over the course of that day, all from that chair.

As we entered the first gorge, I was almost literally shocked by the mountain we passed. The slope rose out of the river and just kept going to the peak, as tough the river had been cut next to a pyramid on a scale the pharoahs could never have hoped to attain. I kept looking at the hillside and reminding myself that it was not a grass-covered hill-- it was a tree-covered mountain, and the scale of it overwhelmed me. I thought the dam was big before, but not any more. And this was just the first mountain, sort of like the guardian at the beginning of the gorge. Well, actually, the end of the gorge, given that we were headed upstream. No matter. There was very definitely a sense that one had passed through the gates and into another world altogether.

As the day and the riverbanks slid by, each turn in the river revealed another peak, and another wondrous sight. It was everything I hoped for, and much more. I was frustrated by my confinement, yes, but also elated that I was really here, really seeing the gorges with my own eyes. Even if it was just half a river, it was so far beyond anything I'd seen before, I was glad to get what I could. I suppose this all sounds rather silly if you don't find landscapes interesting, but I can't describe it any better.

Early to mid-afternoon, we docked at Zigui, and I went to bed; since we weren't moving, I wouldn't miss much if I slept. When I awoke, Kat was ashore with Brenda and some of the rest of the group in the Zigui Free Market, where she took quite a few pictures and bought a few things which interested her. Meanwhile, I was very sick-- chills, tremors, fever-headache, the works. I don't know how bad it was, since I was unable to make myself cross the room for the thermometer. I suspect that my temperature, at its highest, was between 103F and 104F, because as I cooled down a little and felt better, I retrieved the thermometer, which read out at 102.3F. I lay there and wondered if the weather god(s), displeased by my offering at the Temple of Heaven, had decided to grant my request for good weather and take advantage of the fact that I hadn't thought to request good health, as well. For it was a beautiful day. What little of it I could see through the window, that is.

Kat returned soon and immediately set to caring for me. I can't begin to describe how truly wonderful she was through all of this, medicating me, sending meals by room service, fetching things for me, and so on. Sometimes I get very lucky-- meeting and marrying Kat were obviously two of those times.

Very little else of note happened to me today, since my evening was spent either trying to find something interesting on TV (it was dark out and I was confined to the cabin, so I didn't have much else to do) or sleeping. Kat headed ashore to see a cultural show of folk dances and music, which I was sorry to miss, but I didn't really feel up to an excursion. I was starting to feel better by the time we went to bed, however.

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