October 13, 2011

October in Amdo, Part 3

The weather got better day by day. In the afternoon the countryside around Taktsang looks like a painting:

The town mosque, which serves the Hui Muslim minority:

Later it was my turn to play photographer, catching these Tibetan women who were taking a break from spinning prayer wheels. After I took it I showed it to them, prompting them to break out into laughter and make jokes about each other:

In the afternoon we decided to hike up to the top of the red cliffs which tower over the town. It ended up being quite a hike, with the altitude and steepness of the first part catching us off guard. Luckily the view was worth it:

Wildflowers on the top:

The cliffs from halfway down the slope. Note the large herd of sheep in the middle right of the picture for scale:

That afternoon we were approached by a man who introduced himself as Sonam and offered us a chance to go horse-trekking for what seemed like a suspiciously low price. Two and a half hours for 100 RMB? Huh… Still, one of my travel companions was excited by the idea and we decided to go for it. We showed up at 9:30 the next morning after a surprisingly authentic apple pie breakfast and were somewhat surprised when Sonam actually showed up, blasting down the road on a motorcycle. He beckoned for us to follow him, and we walked a short ways out of town to find two guides and five horses milling around. Apparently the fact that we aren’t all experienced equestrians wasn’t communicated to them, because the extent of my training was being thrown up on the horse and told to go for it.

It worked out alright- although I was never sure how to make him stop walking and instead relied on his gluttony to give him pause eventually. Our guides were friendly guys from the town who may as well have been born on horses, it seemed. This is where the weather finally turned over for good- the rest of our trip would take place under brilliant blue skies. The one picture I took of my horse, who earned a nickname I shan’t repeat due to his predilection for gassiness (alright, it was ‘Captain Fartsalot.’ He earned that rank):

Trying to handle my camera while also dealing with aiming the horse in a generally acceptable direction was a bit nerve-wracking, but I got a few more of the grassland we went through:

During a break our guides relaxed a bit:

It was a fun two hours, for sure. When it was done we checked out of the hostel and were walking to the bus area when fate finally made up for all the ticket nonsense earlier in the trip: a cabby from Labrang had just dropped off his fares in Taktsang, and wanted to rustle up some passengers for the return trip in a hurry. We ended up haggling him down to a mere ten yuan more than the price of bus tickets would have been for the three of us. As an added bonus, he even suggested taking the scenic route instead of the main highway. Pictures from the trip tomorrow.

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