We were on the bus to Songpan by 8.30am. Trusting our lives with a driver with cross eyes on the mountainous roads that awaited us…
The journey actually went surprisingly quickly! Leah was asleep within the first 30minutes and I had the window seat so I just got lost in the view for a few hours. Once we left the built-up area around Chengdu we broke into far-reaching fields and passed through little villages with wooden houses.
1. Someone pee’d in the rubbish bin on the bus (15minutes after we’d left a service station for a toilet break)
3. Leah and I both had to use a road side public toilet… Literally two long ditches cut into the ground running parallel with women squatting over. The ‘cubicles’ were concrete pillars up to waist height- without a door. There wasn’t a waste bin so instead people were throwing their dirty tissues into the corner of the room. AND when Leah and I both went to the toilet we had women standing opposite us watching as we pulled down our underwear…it was really weird!
4. We were stuck in a traffic jam for over an hour at the hottest point of the day (1-2pm) and the driver turned off the engine – no aircon
5. All along the roadside there were stalls selling food, scarves and thick winter coats… We weren’t prepared for really cold weather at all and the sight of so many winter coats being sold was a little unnerving…
All that aside we made it to Songpan fine! Once we were off of the bus we began heading in the wrong direction to our hostel by turning right instead of left at the bus station (our directions were coming from the opposite direction) but was luckily re-routed the right way by a lovely Chinese guy on a motorbike who had a thing for leah!
We had pre-booked the hostel recommended in the lonely planet called Emma’s guesthouse and because we were only staying one night we booked the four bed mixed dorm. We’d be sharing with two Chinese guys; one about our age, the other was in his late thirties/ early forties.
We dumped our bags on our bunk bed and then headed out to get our bearings of Songpan
Songpan is a really beautiful, mountain village. The village is made up of an old town (within the main walls) and a few little streets running off of it. There’s not much in the surroundings areas aside from a few smaller villages and fields so the air is a lot cleaner than we’d experienced in the rest of China.
As soon as we began our afternoon walk we could tell that we were quite high above sea level. For the first time since leaving England I was actually a little chilly in shorts and a vest top at 5pm- everyone else in the town either had trousers, a long jacket, or both on…
We found the horse trek office that was recommended at Emma’s kitchen and after speaking to the manager for a while decided to book onto the 3 day horse trek leaving the following morning. We were told what ‘kit’ was recommended: warm clothes, gloves, hat, scarfs, rain jacket… We were so unprepared but the guy said that we’d be fine with what we had… It was also recommended for us to bring 2*1.5 litre bottles of water for the whole 3days as there would be tea available.
We both drink a lot of water during the day and have even been avoiding the sun a lot lately so we weren’t sure that this would be enough!
We’d been told that all of the food on the trek would be vegan/ vegetarian but we weren’t sure if we’d like it so wanted to have a big, good, nutritious dinner the night before we left. We looked at a few restaurants and they were really disappointing. When we asked to see the menu we were given a separate English translated menu with only a few dishes on that were really highly priced. The dishes didn’t even sound appealing!
All we really wanted was a few vegetable dishes and rice so we went into a small but busy Chinese restaurant and ordered off of the Chinese menu, matching up the symbols to the vegetable dishes that we wanted. It was a success! We ordered aubergine, greens, cabbage and rice!
After practically in-hailing the food we asked for the bill (which came to about the same price as one of the dishes would have been off of the English translated menu) and before we’d even put our change away another family were making their was to our table.
We bought our water for our trek on the way back to our room and stopped off to buy some fruit for breakfast along the way. I don’t know if a lot of rich white people come to this town but people here so far have expected us to pay a lot for things that should actually be quite cheap. I tried to buy 2 bananas from one stall and the women vendor tried to charge me ¥6 (over twice what I usually pay). I refused saying it was too expensive and she practically chased me down the street, shouting at me, trying to get me to pay for them. I went to another stall a little further down the road and paid ¥2.5 for them both!
After our eventful evening and long day travelling all we wanted to do when we got back to the hostel was to chill but we had to pack our day bags for the morning. It’s quite hard thinking what things you’ll need on a horse trek through the mountains when you only have a small rucksack to carry it all in!
The hostel room was freezing cold by the time we returned and we could see Mosquitos flying around. The older guy had the window open so we asked him to close it. Within half hour it was back open again. It was pretty annoying for me but leah has really bad reactions to mosquito bites so she was pretty worried that more would fly in! We tried to explain it to the guy (who was sitting on his bed in trousers and a big jumper) but he didn’t seem to care.
I tried to ease the tension a little when Leah went to have a shower by talking to the younger guy as we were on the top bunks next to each other. The language barrier was really difficult but the hilariousness of our failed sign language and miming actions (I tried to explain that we were going horse trekking in the morning) lightened the mood a little.
At 10pm the older guy wanted to turn the main lights out so we all got ready to go to sleep. We weren’t that tired so were whispering to each other (from 10-10.30pm) but kept getting sshhhed by the older guy. By 10.30pm we gave up and laid there in silence for a while before we fell asleep.
5.30am wake up
At 5.30am we we woken up by the older guy turning the main bedroom light (which was directly above my face on the top bunk)! The guy was being massively inconsiderate to the rest of us in the room so we all had a big argument that no one really understood. There was just a lot of shouting in Chinese and English and a lot of turning the light switch on and off…. Not the best night sleep before we’d be camping in the mountains for the next few nights…