Monday, June 06, 2005

Songpan Horse Trek

How is it that every time I go horseback riding I end up on the stupidest beast alive? I swear I am never getting on one again (but I do this every time too). Actually, it was a pretty good trip. Bre was in heaven, horses and cowboys, what more do you need?
Okay, so we headed up to Songpan, some 8 hours north of Chengdu on a stretch of road very much resembling heading up the fraser canyon but with a lot more road chaos, where we got on a 4 day trek into the mountains. We had a very hard time remembering that we were in China as the scenery inspired us to name the area BC2 and the people don't look Chinese. Again they are tribal people of Tibetan(?) descent and wear very colorful traditional costumes about town.
So off we went, 1 guide for each tourist (our group totalling 16), up into the still freezing mountains. We actually had a few snowflakes fall on the first day and in true Canadian I was dressed in only a fleece pretending not to be cold while turning into a lump of frozen flesh on top of a horse. The girls brought their warm clothes from Chengdu and were faring much better than I. The other days turned out to be cold and wet as it rained quite a bit. Fortunately the guides were prepared with yak coats and rain ponchos so we were not too uncomfortable.
Picture mountains covered in mist and cloud, green like home, (trees not as tall), numerous rivers and streams, fields of white, yellow, violet and pink flowers, little villages, wet ground, and us on horses. Camp was pretty basic. Tarps overhead. Pine branches for padding on the ground and lots of blankets. Water from the river for tea and cooking. We'd arrive at camp and the guides would disappear into the bush to go chop down trees for tent supports, firewood and bedding. I think they lost the horses twice a day and would have to wander off to find them. This could actually take quite a while at times. We rode anywhere from 2 to 5 hours each day. We would ride up the mountains and then walk down the other side because it would be too steep to ride down.
And the guides. Ha, oh the guides. Bunch of weirdos that didn't speak much english if any at all but they were really nice. What kind of cowboy wears converse shoes, a cowboy hat and a suit? But they knew their stuff.
On the third day we got to the Ice mountain view point at 4300m. Wow was that cold. We could definately feel the altitude up there and also while we were walking around camp though it was only just over 3000m as far as anyone could tell. As with Emei Shan, by the time we got to the view point we were in the clouds and could not see any of the mountain. Chinese mountains are very shy I guess.
We were all looking forward to getting back to Songpan on the last day after riding for 5 hours in the rain. Massages for the girls ($4/hr), and the decision to come back to Chengdu today and forget about Juizhaigou because the weather is so bad and it all looks like BC up there anyway.
So why are we here then?
It's for the little things that you don't think about before you come and forget to write about. The things you can't take pictures of but last as memories just as long. It's the traditional dress of the people walking down the streets, the old toothless ladies working on the side of the highway trying to fix the stretch of ditch outside their homes, or when they chase you down the street (or attack you in Savannah's case) trying to sell you their food. The look of wonder in the eyes of a child that can barely walk as it stumbles toward you to say "hello" then babble on in Chinese, riding a bus at 7am and seeing all the kids walking along the highway to get to the next town and go to school, 20 men lifting a piece of temple roofing and walking it up a mountain path to the construction site. Monks walking down the streets, the gasps of astonishment from people as I stand up to leave a restaurant as everyone realizes just how tall I am and taking a picture at a famous tourist site just to have a Chinese tourist take a picture of you moments later. There's just something about it all that you just have to be out here to feel....
Ammon

4 Comments:

At 10:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, it sounds like China is going to be the best part of you trip. Wish I could have been there not instead of later.
Paul

 
At 10:58 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey ammon, you're getting sentimental in your old age. sounds great though and after reading all of your thought so far i have decided china may not be such a bad place to visit. i have never considered asia for a travel destination as i prefered to go to europe but some day i may give it a go.
just a small update on goings on at home, stuart and jane and lisa and i bought a condo at sun peaks so we will be able to get some good skiing in in the next couple of years.
take care and all my love to everyone.

gord

 
At 11:56 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh, you have your pictures up! It looks so cool over there.

Paul

 
At 12:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm convinced. Asia as a destination looks amazing. Unfortunately Austin will not be coming to China. Long story and not a petty picture. Seems his friend had a game in mind and Austin didn't want to play it. His Mother and I are feeling the biggest loss. Details later or maybe never. I'd rather talk about you all! Keep the pictures coming! YFAP

 

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