I wasn’t sure how I felt about riding a horse for three days. The poor animal carrying myself, food, tent equipment etc. across mountainous terrains and only being paid for in food which enables it to live. Even after the three day trek I’m still not sure how I feel about it. The animals seemed fine under our weight and were running around happily in the mountains when we set up camp.
I was trying to make my horse have the easiest time the whole way – trying to position my body on it so it would appear light ie. Leaning forward on the uphill and leaning back on the downhill (my abs were having a good workout too!) but I don’t think that I’ll be getting on a horse again anytime soon…
The first day was both epic and truly frightening at the same time. I’ve only ridden a horse once in my life (last summer in the Camague, France) and so has leah (on a beach in India) so we were a little optimistic signing up for the three day trek.
The last time I road I had a horse called tequila – she was so independent that she didn’t listen to me at all when I tried to direct her, she was also really clever because when ever I turned my go pro on she knew that the beeps meant that I only had one hand on the reigns and would throw her head forward and stop for food – I’m still in awe of this!
The horse I was given this time – I’ve named sambucca- because this horse was even more independent/ a bit of a rebel! Within the first 10 minutes of us setting off, my horse had broken away from the rest of the group, running up a hill (with me on its back). One of the guides on the trek (a Tibetan we’ve called the ‘horse whisperer’ because he was so good with the horses) had to come and walk my horse back down the hill.
This independence/ rebellion continued for the rest of the day – I was told to control her more/whip her with the stick they gave us but I didn’t agree with either…
When we reached a way with a few paths to take, all of the horses simply followed behind the lead horse, sambucca would look for the most challenging but shortest route, usually uphill, run up it and then wait for the other horses that she’d over taken.
When we came to a river crossing, all of the other horses simply walked through the river nice and calmly, sambucca tried to jump across (almost knocking me off)! I loved the fact that she had so much spirit!
The views from the top of sambucca were incredible! There were 9 of us on the horse trek plus 4 Tibetan guides and we didn’t see another human being for the whole 3 days! All we saw were unspolit mountain ranges, heard’s of yaks, rivers and fields. It was so peaceful!
Once we arrived at our base camp, the guides emptied our horses and set them free, set up our tents and made us some lunch.
The food provided by the guides was all vegan and was actually flavoured really well- we’d brought lots of snacks on the trip encase the food was grim but we barely touched them. It wasn’t the most nutritious 3 days of my life (the only fruit we ate was the dried fruit we brought with us) but I was definitely not undercarbed at all (there was so much bread and the guides kept trying to get us to eat more food at the meal times).
There was a few sketchy/ frightening moments that happened on the trip. We hadn’t expected the trek to be as mountainous as it was – we descended down steep, thin paths which had a few hundred metre drop to our sides, the paths always bent a few times on the decline and the horse had to manoeuvre rocks and stones in its way. Being on an independent horse right now wasn’t the most enjoyable because sambucca seemed to love walking right on the cliff edge!
The days were filled with a mixture of horse riding and hiking. We dismounted the horses every few hours to give them a break from carrying us and hiked the trail for an hour or so. It was nice to get off and stretch my legs as I really like hiking, on some of the ascents all I wanted to do was to run to the top myself not ride a horse! We were always back at base camp by 2pm so the horses had the rest of the evening to play in the nearby forests and fields as we explored the surrounding area by foot.
There was a good mix of people on the tour with us; there was a family (mum, dad and daughter – all only spoke Chinese), a couple (Chinese but the women spoke amazing English), two girls from the Netherlands and leah and myself from England. It was great having english speaking people on our tour as well as someone who spoke amazing English and Chinese- who helped us talk to the others.
At night we’d all sit around the camp fire to warm up as the temperature dropped to 5-10 degrees, eating dinner together (which had been cooked on the wood fire using water from the nearby stream to boil our food) and drinking numerous cups of yummy tea (one lunch time leah and I got through 6 cups of tea each!).
The guides would sing traditional Tibetan songs for us and the Chinese girls sang us northern and southern Chinese songs. We were shown how different the music is- the southern is more relaxed and soothing, where as the northern is faster and in a higher pitch. Us English speaking girls were asked to sing for them also… we’d realised earlier in the day that our nursery rhymes were the same in England and the Netherlands so we provided the group with a rendition of the song ‘ba ba black sheep’ in Dutch and English simultaneously – it didn’t sound as good as the Chinese!
The temperature dropped even lower after 9pm when everyone was back in their tents. Everyone’s aim was just to be warm enough to sleep and after wrapping up in two sleeping bags, with two layers underneath us and a blanket on top we finally got to sleep for a few disturbed hours.
Being up on the mountains with all of the animals is great during the day but gets a bit scary in the night time. Leah and I could hear something sniffling around our tent in the night and the horses would sometimes go crazy near by. We were too scared to check what it was but told ourselves that it was probably a yak or a wild pig (we’d seen lots of them) only when we were back in our hostel in Songpan were we told that there were wolves in the mountains!
On the last day we descended back down the mountain and passed through a few cute little Tibetan villages. We noticed that some houses have pictures of Mao on show above their front doors or on their front gate, as well as numerous houses with the Chinese flag flying. It was a little odd because of the bad relations between China and Tibet!
All in all we had a great time on the horse trek but next time I would prefer to compete the trek as a hike instead. It was so nice to get back to nature for a while after sleeping in hostel rooms these past few weeks (even if the toilet and shower facilities consisted of hiding behind a bush and havin a quick dip in the ice cold river….)