25th Aug 2009

Horse-trekking in Songpan

Upon our arrival in Songpan, we were immediately struck with the dramatic contrast between it and most other Chinese cities. The city has a much higher population of both Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Chinese. The town felt like a bizarre blend of Carson City and a Chinese village. It was small and divided by a dramatic city wall that stretched out and over a high hill to the west of the town. Surrounded by mountains, the city sits in a valley and the road is equally filled with pedi-cabs, large trucks with loud horns and horses and sheep. It also, up to that point, contained the friendliest people we’d met in all of China.

Our bus was met outside of the trekking agency, by one of the trekking guides. Knowing that the bus from Chengdu would have most of their clients, he jumped on and told us that this was where we needed to get off. The trekking agency was located directly in front of a lodge, which was owned by the trekking agency and next to a massage parlor and a cafe (Emma’s Kitchen), which was owned by a wonderful English-speaking lady, Emma and her brother David. Randomly, we had met their other brother in Chengdu the night before we took the bus to Songpan.

Our first night in Songpan, we were taken to another “hotel” to sleep since the horse-trekking lodge was full. Our hotel was in the bus station. It kind of felt like we’d been locked in accidentally at night, but it was quiet and had more bathrooms than the regular lodge, so we weren’t too unlucky.

The horse-trekking began the following morning. We met our group, which included Tony and me, three English girls on break from university (Joanna, Ayaka and Sara) and Kevin. Our three guides were an odd mix, though great fun and really nice and helpful. The oldest guide was clearly the boss, the quietest was in charge of the cooking and the loudest was clearly in love with the mountains and seemed quite depressed when we returned to Songpan three days later.

The trekking was great. We saw some amazing sights of the mountains. It was wonderful to get into the fairly untouched countryside and away from the car-horns and “civilization” of the cities. The food was amazing, as was the pain we felt after riding horses (or a mule in my case) for three days.

Songpan and Chengdu

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