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Traveling The Friendship Highway

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

I had one more adventure near Lhasa before heading out on the seven day trip to Nepal. On Wednesday morning Greg, Kera, and I, along with four other people, were shuttled by van to the Denchen valley. There I met up with the first of the three horses that I would ride that day. Before continuing, I should say a little about Tibetan horses and riding styles. The horses are smaller than western horses (more the size of a large pony). The stirrups on the saddles tend to be non adjustable, and the saddles are not cinched as tight as on western horses. The saddles are also a hodge podge of styles including wood, steel, and old British calvary saddles. You can imagine what happens when someone of my height gets on a short horse with short stirrups. The ride though fun left me cramped and bruised. After meeting the horses, we mounted them and went on our way riding through several small villages and along an arid mountain valley. My first horse (the Toyota Corolla of horses) responded well to commands but was very thirsty. He stopped at every watering spot and drank copious amounts of water. I could feel him swelling up like a balloon. I had to constantly hurry the horse along to catch up with group. After lunch, we switched horses. This time I ended up on a grandma horse (the Buick of horses) with graying mane. She couldn’t be hurried and was content to stay in the center of the pack. She appeared to have a male admirer who wouldn’t leave her side despite repeated attempts from his rider. At one point another male horse appeared to show some interest but was dismissed with a kick from my horse (while I was on her). My last horse of the day was a male (sports car horse). This was the first time that I have ever galloped (or very fast trot) on a horse. At one point I almost fell off the horse sideways due to the loose saddle but managed to right myself. The saddle of this horse was very male unfriendly. It had a foward lean that squished me against the saddle horn. Not good when going fast on a horse. During the ride we were accompanied by a young colt whose mother was part of our pack. The colt was constantly backing up to convenient trees to get a good scratch on his rear. It was also interesting to see the ruins of the fire stations high on the hills. The Tibetans used a system very similar to Lord of the Rings to alert neighboring villages of imminent invasion. They would light fires atop tall hills. Each within sight of the next station. [read on]

Up, Up, and Away

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

Ivone and I caught a taxi to the Xining train staion around 9:00 pm. I would have thought that the train station would be a little less crowded at this time of night, but I thought incorrectly. We got in the “line” for the metal detector and proceeded to be pushed, knocked, and corraled toward the metal detector. Once there, we placed our bags on the x-ray conveyor and went through the metal detector. One of my bags appeared to not make it through. Understandably concerned, I peeked into the x-ray machine. I couldn’t see my bag. I walked around the metal detector and found that the string on my bag was caught. Ignoring a policeman telling me something (he probably didn’t like me on his side of the detector), I undid my bag. We then proceeded into the waiting room. We sat down. On my side was an older Tibetan couple and next to Ivone was a Tibetan family consisting of two sisters, a child, and the grandfather. Ivone spoke with them with the help of a monk who spoke some English. I entertained the older couple on my side with my digital camera. This soon turned into a mini daycare session as someone brought over a screaming infant in the hopes that my camera photos would help calm the baby. It apparently worked. Other participants soon joined my slide show. It soon came time to board the train. Ivone and I were traveling hard seat (third class) as no other tickets were available. [read on]

Ever Closer to Tibet

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007
After writing the last blog entry, I left the Internet cafe to head back to the hotel. While enroute, I was distracted by what looked like an orchestra setting up to play in a paved square by the river. I ... [Continue reading this entry]

Leshan and General Observations

Monday, September 10th, 2007
After going to the police station, I decided to wait until Monday to extend my visa. Unlike last time in Guilin, I was told I would actually have to get a new visa which will cost me another $100 (instead ... [Continue reading this entry]

Leaving on a Jet Train

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007
On Wednesday I was dropped off at the main Beijing train station by Chen. I found the waiting area for the train and, well, waited. When it was time for the train to board, everyone in the room decided to ... [Continue reading this entry]

China – A Dichotomy

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007
(Dichotomy - a division into two mutually exclusive or contradictory groups. Not a medical procedure that involves sticking cameras into various bodily orifices. That just wouldn't make sense now would it.) This past week has shown me that China is definitely ... [Continue reading this entry]

China – Leaving the British Commonwealth

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007
On Wednesday evening, I caught the ferry from Hong Kong to Nansha which is an industrial suburb of Guangzhou. The trip went by quickly as the ferry was relatively new and fast. On the trip I met a Canadian named ... [Continue reading this entry]