To get to Songpan we had to take a bus or rent a van. The only bus leaving the next day didn’t leave until 2:30 in the afternoon; normally, there is a bus leaving at 8:00am, but it was running illegally, so the government suspended its running time for one month…that makes sense, right? (Oh, China) Since we wanted to have the entire day to horse-back ride and explore the small town of Songpan and the illegal bus was on suspension, we opted to hire a driver and his van; we would depart at 8:00am for the 2-hour journey.
Emma the woman who organized our Songpan hostel, our van ride, and our horse-back riding excursion decided to ride to Songpan with us to pick up some fresh ingredients for the Juizhaigou hostel. One main ingredient that she needed to get was yak meat for their yak burgers…mmmm, delicious! It was very convenient having her with us because she directed the driver straight to our hostel and spoke with the guides for our horseback-riding excursion.
At the beginning, the horse-back riding was lovely. The sun was shining and we were ascending up into the mountains with gorgeous views. The only mishap at the beginning was Spencer’s horse taking “the path less traveled” or never taken before. At first, we thought we were supposed to follow him, then we thought that the horse would come back, then we ended up having to stop and wait for about 10 minutes because the guide had to chase Spencer and his horse up the brush-covered hill. Later we found out that he fell off the horse because it was being a bit crazy...Yikes!
While we were waiting for Spencer to return to the group, it started to rain. Luckily the guides were prepared and covered us with large, rubber-like, rain ponchos, but not until we were good and wet. In fact, just wet enough to be freezing for the rest of the journey (yes, this was about 30 minutes into our 5-hour excursion). However, it was absolutely gorgeous.
Had it been sunny, the pictures would have been a lot better. The horses on the left were just a few of many wild animals we saw roaming the hills we traveled on.
Although it was beautiful, it was the scariest horse-back ride I have ever been on. There were times that we were walking on the edge of cliffs with a what looked like forever long drops, going down steep hills that also had cliffs, - one wrong step by that horse would have either killed us or hurt us badly - and my crazy horse that fought with Molly's the whole time (my horse did not want anyone else leading him, so we got to expereince all the horror first). While a lot of the fright came from the fact that the path was muddy and slippery from the rain, I still think that it would have been scary without the rain in a few places because of how narrow the path got. There were times where I was literally, out loud, talking to myself telling myself that I was okay...that everything was going to be fine...to take deep breaths. At one point, we came to a spot where on the left of us was the wall of the mountain, to the right of us was a steep drop, and the front of us was an extremely narrow part of the trail that included a sharp left turn at the bottom. As soon as my horse saw it, he turned around and started galloping (not walking--galloping) toward the rest of the group which caused a few of the other horses to freak out. The guide had to hit my horse in the face to and block his path to stop him. This was one of those times I was just talking about where I began to talk to myself out loud.
Besides the rain making the ride cold and scary, it also ruined our lunch. The tour included a stop in a little, remote village near the top of the mountain where the locals would cook us some food. Since it was raining, and there had been landslides lately, there was no one in the village. Not only was there no one to cook for us, there was literally no one in the village at all. We walked around the whole thing, and we did not see one person. It was a cute little place though.It was filled with small alley-ways and channels that led to other passages or people's houses. Entrance doors and windows were left open just enough to peak in to see the decor of Tibetan inhabitants. The atmosphere screamed zombie movie! I am not a huge fan of zombie movies, but I have seen my fair share: small group of people enter a village where no one is to be found. They wonder for a bit and all of sudden zombies come from the litte alley-ways or channels, out of the open windows and half-opened gates. I hate to admit it, but it made me a little nervous. It was too quiet to believe that anyone inhabited the place at all, but it was clear that there were familes living there.
After the horse ride, we all took much-needed, long, hot showers. The temperature in the evening dropped significantly, so significantly, in fact, that Molly and I went and bought fleece pants and hats. I also bought a fleece jacket, and Jake and Spencer bought pants and even gloves. We had just come from Chengdu where it was scorching hot, and now we need winter clothes. After our purchases, we scoped out the town. Molly and I had some drinks with about 10 Tibetan guys. One of which spoke excellent English. None of the other guys new any; so as it goes, "gombay." Which means drink all the beer I just poured in your glass at once.
Next stop, Langmusi!