Blue Skies, Horses and Campfires

Yann, me, and our two new friends, Londoners Naomi and Gary started met our three guides and horses early Sunday morning on the dusty streets of Songpan. The only English speaking person, who we had dealt with the day before made a 30-second appearance and the guides were eager to get us hoisted on to our horses. We left without so much of a mention of how to control or ride our horses.

The horses were of course calm and followed each other in a line up the small trails, when they slowed down our guides would yell something out in Chinese and they would speed up a little bit. They were always well behaved except when one of them would try to pass another in line. This was a nasty affair that usually involved horses biting at each other. In my case, it involved me and my horse running high speed through a bunch of trees with branches flying at my face. This was great amusement for those not involved.

The first hour or so of our ride was giddy excitement with alot of laughter at the constant farting of our horses. My horse had an particular affinity to the backside of Yann's horse and I endured three days of farting in my direction (it made me laugh the whole time, although sometimes I had to keep the laughter inside to avoid embarassment, I was thinking about Yann's horses feelings). We climbed six hours the first day to 3400m where our fourth guide was waiting with our food cooking over the campfire. The ride to the campsite was through valleys and streams and over mountains on small trails. We passed countless yaks grazing on the mountains. I went a little yak happy with my camera and have spent the past day organizing my collection of 50 yak photos (don't worry you will see them all!).

We spent the evening at the campfire eating our vegetarian cuisine which was pretty decent and playing cards and laughing it up with Gary and Naomi, who are absolutely hilarious (I have this theory that everything is funnier with a British accent). The guides chain smoked by the fire and were excited to learn that someone had brought them some fire water. One guide seemed to like me alot and asked Yann if we were married. When Yann said no, he spent the rest of the night cuddled up beside me. My bike accident proved useful as my red cheek was a great hit. Tibetan women have big red cheeks and he pointed at my cheeks saying "good, like Tibetan".

Naomi, Gary, Yann and I shared a tent together. Each of us had a thin summer sleeping bag, two blankets and a yak's hair jacket. We went to bed wearing every single piece of clothing that we had brought (minus our boots), including toques, gloves, two pairs of socks etc... It was the coldest night I have ever attempted to sleep through. I thought our attempt at sleep was brave, but the guides were heroic. When I woke up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, they were all huddled together in their thin jackets with various horse saddles and a few rain coats strewn on top of them lying beside of the dying embers of the fire.

At the first sound of a morning fire (about 5 a.m.) we were out of the tent and thawing in front of the fire along with our guides who had visibly had a rougher night than we had. At 6 a.m. it was -10 C. We had a long breakfast with fresh fried bread made by the guides (they even made the dough fresh that morning). It was quite lovely. We then mounted back on our horses for the journey to "Ice Mountain".

The trip was amazing, mainly because we passed through very tiny traditional Tibetan villages and breathtaking scenery. We had snowy mountain peaks surrounding us and we passed to my great excitement lots more yaks. We had a few scary moments in the morning as the trails were narrow and icy and the horses fought for their position. But whenever we got on a straight flat road the horses would take off as fast as they could, which was a pretty crazy experience for new riders. The two Chinese people who were on the trek with us that day found it so exciting that they tried to get their horses to run for the next 12 hours of riding, including when we were on the sides of cliffs. This unfortunately caused me to swear quite a bit.

The arrival at Ice Mountain (for which we had paid a 10Y "admission fee") consisted of climbing up to the top of a peak and the guide pointing away at the distance and proclaiming "ice mountain, take picture now" before he turned around and headed back down the mountain. It didn't matter though, because everything was spectacular (and we had forgotten that we had paid an admission fee). At this point we were at 4500m and our poor horses seemed exhausted. We walked down the mountain to give the horses a rest and headed back to our campsite. The night was warmer, so we got a little bit more sleep, but we were still up early to warm up by the fire.

The ride back to Songpan on the third day was again peaceful and beautiful, although it was clear that our guides wanted to get home. We heard alot of "hallo hallo faster faster", especially when getting ready in the morning and when we wanted to stop for a bathroom break. We stopped at a Tibetan village for about an hour that day and explored the few pagodas and watched the elders spin the hundreds of prayer wheels and saw young boys training to be monks reciting their prayers. After the village we rode on quietly taking in the last of the quiet scenery and the stunning blue of the sky. The quiet was occasionally interrupted by me getting mad at the Chinese couple who were again trying to get their horses to race with mine.

We felt proud to have made it through the cold and to have seen such an isolated part of the country (and I personally felt proud not to have fallen off my horse). As we entered Songpan (which had once appeared so small) it now seemed overwhelming. It turns out, we are among the last people to do the trek this year. In the summer they have about 20-30 people depart every day. We were told that when we arrived there were only 5 foreigners in town (including the 4 of us). So we dealt with the cold and avoided the crowds, it worked well for us.


Super-Mario said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Super-Mario said...

J'ai bien aimé lire votre aventure "TINTIN au Tibet". La narration que fait Émilie c'est comme si nous y étions. J'ai même senti les gaz que les chevaux faisaient même si j'ai perdu l'odorat. Oup! c'était Nicole ...

Je vous aime

2par4 said...

I'm starting to get Photo withdrawal symptoms. Can we get the photos??? Please????? Hurry!!!!! Oh man...I NEED photos!!!

2par4 said...

How about ONE little teeny weeny photo? Ok, half a photo?

2par4 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mom said...