Thursday, May 7, 2009

Songpan Horse Trek part 6 Camp life

Day 1...DJ Latoison just as the rain turns into snow. DJ road his horse all the first day up over the ridge and down to camp but unfortunately got altitude sickness later that evening and had to return to Songpan with a car that we called up to camp. Our camp was at about 3300 m and we had ridden over a pass that was around 3800 m. Songpan is a little lower at just over 2800 m. DJ returned to Chengdu the next day by car and is feeling just fine now. You never know who will have a problem with altitude sickness, it can hit anyone. It felt good with so many children along that we had easy access to the main road and a quick escape back to Songpan in case of an accident. 
Emy uses her mother (me) as a big, comfortable camp cushion. 
Life at camp was - I suspect - a large part of the fun for the kids - not just the awesome horseback riding. We spent three days on the trek, riding for an average of 4 hours a day, just enough to keep everyone excited, have their fill of riding but also not get too bored for the youngest children. Or too tired for the horses. The rest of the time was spent poking about at Erdaohai (Day 1), lazing about in the sun at Wuzuogou (Day 2), making bows and arrows, whittling sticks to roast marshmallows on, exploring the surrounding woods, playing cards, playing Chinese shuttlecock (jianzi),  joking about etc etc. Time flies when you're having fun!
Burton, Emy and Charles hanging out with the horsemen (conversing in Chinese!).
Quote of the day: "We are going to go hunt horse chickens!" Isaac and Burton with their homemade weapons. Horse chicken, maji in Chinese, Capercaillie in English, tjäder in Swedish, Lat. Tetrao urogallus are protected in China. We saw them in the woods and crossing the paths. We saw quite a number of beautiful birds: common pheasant, dove, quail, common kingfisher, ruddy shelducks (Tadorna ferruginea), Lammergeier, eagles, blue-eared pheasant, river chats (Chaimarrornis leucocephalus), blackbirds and crows. As for mammals we only saw pikas, small chincilla/mouse-like mammals with very short tails. Not a panda in sight of course, hihi!
Paddy, the tea expert himself with a handful of macha, "horse tea" (and of course his preferred drink a bottle of beer in his left hand). We were served horse tea ( a very poor quality tea that is almost tasteless and upon which the Chinese have since the Song Dynasty built an entire trading economy with the Tibetans) until the horsemen realized we actually preferred boiled water which we could use to make coffee or chocolate or whatever we liked. 
Maya, Emy, Isaac and Zoe playing a fierce game of WAR! All the while shouting expletives like "camel puke!", "horse turds!", "goat farts!" and so on.....
Everyone shouted Hurrah! when rice was served on day 2. Emy's rice-eating record is seven bowls in one go in Chengdu.
Mifan laile!
Charles and Burton chow down. Later in the evenings we roasted hotdogs and wonderful sausages we had brought up from Chengdu. Fantastic!
Sausage time, big interest on the part of the kids. Meat and marshmallows seems to be what kids prefer most. 
Evidence of adults having fun too, we preferred wine, whiskey, coffee, crackers and sausages over the marschmallows ;-)
Mesmerizing heat from the campfire kept us warm in the evenings before we had to crawl into our cold tents. It also thawed us out in the morning and coaxed the reluctant kids out of their sleeping bags. 
Emy Booz tucked into her sleeping bag for the night. She is sleeping in full clothing because of the cold in early May  (0°+). The trekking company provides very basic sleeping bags, pads, blankets and tents for all trekkers but the sleeping bags are: 1) very thin  2) very dirty 3) possibly full of ticks (Paddy killed one) 4) very smelly. The tents are small and short (ok for me!) but keep the rain out. Because it was still early in the season and we had a transport vehicle that could drop off stuff at camp most of us brought our own sleeping bags and extra pads. In summertime the equipment provided by the trekking company should be enough for those staying in the Munigou area (most going to the Ice Mountain complain bitterly about the cold, even in summer, if you're planning on heading that way bring a bag, the trekkers provide Tibetan coats). Those who are picky about hygiene would do well bringing a sleeping bag liner. You can make a pillow out of your clothes and stuff them in a t-shirt. (22 years ago they didn't have tents. I slept out in the open and in my own sleeping bag and woke up covered in snow. Little did I know then that one day I would have a great daughter like Emy and that she would sleep in the very same sleeping bag that I had used all that time ago!)

Maya L playing with her DS by the fireside. Remember to keep those camera batteries warm or the cold will quickly zap all the umph out of them!

All photos ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

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