The Horsemaster

Songpan Travel Blog

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'Good Morning, you wait here ok?' 'Ok' I reply. I instantly notice the worn leather hats of the horsemen snugly fitting their heads like the shells of african tortoise. Now I realize how stupid I must look in my tourist-trap cowboy hat perched like a swaying kestrel on a ledge. Shit I can't stop shivering and the altitude seems to have scrambled all my thoughts again. Ok so the company is nearly ready to go, horses lined up being manipulated into order by the horse-masters, in their hippy horse like clothing, matching the saddles and the bridles of the horses and the bleak mountainous landscape all around. It hits like a bullet how like this town is to the perfect american western movie scene, just much much older, with a trillion times the amount of dust and cold. Through the dust the frenchmen from last night appears, staggering across the uneven ground on his crutches, his legs lagging slightly behind. He becomes in conversation with the chief and several of the other horsemen. It appears he wants to trek with us but they say its to dangerous. I feel bad, I'm the only tourist on this expedition and it'd be kind of auspicious if this guy could come too, but alas the chief shakes his head and begins to walk away. 'There is much walking on hard terrain' he explains to the surrounding crowd. Someone shouts something I can't make out in mandarin and everyone standing takes their horses. From my left side the horse-master gives me hand up on to the horse with a cheeky smile. I know I don't look steady at all and the whole company watch with thoughtful smiles upon their faces. I feel like a hobbit on a pony with a party of dwarves to lead me out into the wilderness.
Before long we found ourselves winding our way round the narrow paths of a bleak utopia, time begins to fade out being and for a while we just let the horses follow their favorite routes through the dusty rabbit paths - could rabbits survive here? We begin to climb the snowless peaks of the lower mountains paths unraveling at each and every bend. The landscape was two tone, beautiful and yet eerie at the same time, like a pallet of yellow and brown and green immersed half in sunshine and half in shadow. Several more hours pass like a dream as we begin to steer our way down a path winding like a great snake towards the river. Trees began to spring up all around and soon we found ourselves in a small valley, fresh and mystical. We cross the shallow river, letting our horses take their fill, It was fine to just sit and listen to the lap lap lap of a horses tongue upon upon the river as it flowed like music through the midst. We climb a small verge to our left and camp on a great green plan that already shows signs of habitation. 'Wow perhaps we know where we are, or at least someone does' I thought.

My mouth is watering like a melon as food cooks in a makeshift teepee as the sun goes down. All the 'dwarves' seem to have chores to do and so i was left to sit and gather my thoughts, which was just fine with me, i mean, come on we've been riding since It appears we're camped in a valley somewhere between Songpan and Ice Mountain, it seems thats where we're headed. The horses are wicked and getting the hang of the whole Cha Cha Cha thing with a little slap in the ass for encouragement.' Where did I have breakfast? I must have smelt the scent of the food or something. A bar owned by a girl called Emma? or Sarah? or something like that anyway they were nice there, the food was nice there, or at least it was hot and it was food which would be nice right now. They seem to have a collection of european tourist coming through that place , I will return in 4 days, That is if my neck and back and legs don't break on the way. I'm in the middle of nowhere, have no food, no compass, and not much water, so doesn't look like I have in a choice in the matter now, I begin to wonder how the fuck I manage get myself into these situations? which has lately become a favorite topic of mine.
These are decent people, and that food is really smelling good. I watch it cook from a solitary position on the grass like several meters away like a slick unsure house cat having being let into the great outdoors after years of confinement. I wonder how much colder it will get now the sun has sunk below the mountainside, It was hot up there on the peaks in the sun earlier

So we eat and sit round a campfire and I get showered in hot rocks from the campfire - several times.
'Be Careful' The horse-master says smiling. He seemed less astute and more relaxed as it had begun to get dark and as the shadow of the moon fell upon our shoulders I saw his spirit, strong and wild like the horses he reared and i understood why the horseman showed him so much deference and hung on his every other word. We become to overcome the language barrier which has stood between us as we road through the day and laugh and sing the night away.

I reluctantly withdraw to a tent that the horse-master had erected for me several hours ago. Although most of the wood was burnt the fire was still the only warmth in this wilderness. Every step I take away from it feels like a great bolts of ice passing through my veins. I crane my neck to one side as I fondle with the zip on the tent, taking in a single glance of the stars as i zip myself up into darkness. All the talking had hushed and I listened to the rivers mini rapids and the crackling of the fire as they complimented the place with a real aurora of natural beauty. Its freezing now even with my ski jacket, sleeping bag, and yak skin coat. Maybe i'll just follow the river, time doesn't seem to exist here, only light and dark, so up at dawn I imagine and back on my horse. Slowly I shiver myself into a dream, and hope for the best it all turns out alright. Goodnight!

Rivers run and horses whine
From the climbing mountain side
Body aches and still defies
This hardened new and funny life
Food cooks, its aroma sweet
Tasting good, with MSG?
Breathings hard to do up here
Wish I could come down a bit
Sky is blue but it aint warm
In this valley all so calm
I long for something i barely know
I long for something lost long ago
Is blue or green my favorite shade?
I just can't find the bed I made
Destroyed, crashed and burned
to chasing wild birds
or changing writen words
what cannot be unsaid?
I'll fly, I'll said accross the sea
I'l walk for miles in the breeze
That brings a scent across to me
And what is this? Dynasty?

like ice I rise, moving like a frail old man, slowly unlocking my joints one by one. The sun appears to have risen although I can feel none of its heat. We get the fire going again and warm our insides with the leftovers from the night before. From here we follow the river through the valley, sometimes wading through the shallow water but more often along winding paths cut into the rising bank. Twisting our way upwards, the forage becomes thicker and the journey slower. I admire the strength of the horses, as they pull themselves and their riders up the 40 degrees slopes ahead, gripping the jagged rocks jutting out here and there as they go.
At last we reach the pinnacle where a withered tree with strips of colored cloth hang from the leafless skeleton of which that was the tree. On the pinnacle we dismounted and stood and gazed down into the next valley. The horses gnawed at the grassy verges at the paths edges and the we felt a dynamic breeze streamline around our ears.

To be continued...
williamsworld says:
I felt as though I was right there with you. Thanks.
Posted on: Aug 21, 2008
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photo by: Kathee