The Dujiangyan Irrigation System, which I wrote about in my last post,
is quite close to the capital of Sichuan, Chengdu. We stayed in Chengdu
for three days while we visited Dujiangyan as well as some local sites
of interest. Naturally we went to the Giant Panda Research Station to
see the Pandas and Red Pandas, and we also visited the Jinsha Site
Museum, which details the history of the Shu kingdom, which existed in
the Sichuan plains.
The next stop on our trip was another major river-taming project at
Dujiangyan in Sichuan. Yes, Sichuan is the land of killer red peppers.
In fact, some of the nearby provinces, including Hubei, where the Three
Gorges Dam is located, also host the killer red pepers. My father met
those his first night in China.
Dujiangyan was a system of weirs built on the Min river 2300 years ago.
Like many rivers in China, the Min was subject to alternating floods and
droughts. With this system of weirs, the flow of the river was divided,
and after blasting through a small mountain (before the invention of gun
powder) the overflow of the river was used to irrigate the Sichuan
plains. They even buried iron ‘logs’ in the irrigation channel so that
people cleaning it out would know how deep to dig in order to maintain
the correct proportion of flow in each part of the diversion. There
haven’t been any floods on the Min river since, and the system is still
in use today.
I was here last year and was really impressed by this ancient feat of
engineering. I’m impressed again.
In northwestern Xinjiang, a few hundred kilometers from the capital
Urumqi, is the Pole of Inaccessibility. That is the point on land that
is furthest away from any ocean. Every continent has a pole of
inaccessibility, and the Eurasian Pole is the global extreme. We’re not
going out to the Kazakh border, but in Urumqi we’re already further away
from any ocean than is even possible on any other continent. How about that?
Also, about 50km from Turpan, where we are now, is Lake Aydingkul, which
at 154m below sea level is the third-lowest point on earth. Turpan is
30m above sea level, and since the tour guides refuse to take us to the
lake, we won’t get anywhere near that extreme.
We were wandering down the street in Turpan yesterday and my dad saw
some guys polishing shoes. He decided he wanted to have his work books,
which have only been cleaned once in their lifetimes, to be polished.
They did a pretty good job.
I’m very lucky on this trip because my father was able to travel with me
for a few weeks. I was also supposed to meet my sister, Madeline, in
Turkey back in September, but unfortunately that didn’t work out. One of
the main things my father wanted to see is the massive Three Gorges Dam,
so we started our trip together in Yichang. I saw the dam last year at
the end of my Yangze River cruise, but it’s no less impressive the
second time around.