I went to Langmusi back in August but wasn’t really sure what to write about it. It was such an intense little town and I did a 3 day horse trek with Tibetan nomads there that was something I never imagined myself doing in this life, but was certainly a an amazing experience.
Where in the world is Langmusi?
Langmusi is in Northern Sichuan and straddles the border with Gansu province. I went there after I left Xiahe and the moment the bus pulled into the town I knew I was in a whole other world. China is sort of its own brand of craziness, but Langmusi mixed China with Tibetan nomads on their bikes, tall Hui muslims with the head coverings, and the clearest blue sky I’ve seen in a long time. There were red cliffs in the background, reminding me of being in the American southwest.
Why on earth did I do a horse trek?
I was originally going to do a hiking trek while there, but was quickly discouraged from that since almost no one does that. I was quickly sold into doing a 3 horse trek because I was informed I could do that with other foreigners and my other option was to do a 2 day trek with a group of 16 Chinese tourists in which I would become one of the tourist attractions.
I am not a horse person. I’m just not. They’re ok – I wish them no ill in life, but I also rarely find any sort of strange desire to be on top of one. I was ok with doing the trek and then started to panic right before we left and I realized I would have to actually get on the horse. It all worked out ok. My horse basically just ignored me for most of the trek but she didn’t kill me and I guess we’ll call that a win
The trek started by us following our guide down a dirt road for about half an hour until the scenery began to expand and become mind-blowing. It was nothing but open rolling hills, wildflowers, blue skies, winding creeks, and prayer flags on top of mountains peaks in the distance. We went for a while and then stopped to eat lunch and finally came to our guides home.
Across the whole Eurasian Steppe people used to be nomads. That lifestyle is quickly disappearing and in China the government is working on having all nomads placed in the neighborhoods, this was hard to believe from our camp when we could look out and see small white tents dotting the horizon. Our camp was about 4 tents and I never figured out the whole family dynamic. Our guides family raises yaks and sheep, they milk them very early in the morning and in the evening. The move with the seasons to keep their herds fed and everything they own can be packed up and tied onto the strongest yaks. The men are the herders and set off their horses each day to watch the flocks, the women do the cooking, cleaning, milking and a myriad of other tasks. They also make the best yoghurt I’ve ever had, thick and creamy. They dump sugar on top of it since its so bitter but it was amazing.
I thought doing a homestay would be really weird and awkward, but the family was really nice. They let us watch them do the milking and showed us the baby yaks. They didn’t hover either so when we went to walk around or anything it was fine. I was terrified since we were warned that Tibetans keep guard dogs who would attack anyone who wasn’t part of the family, but our family kept the sleepy dogs chained up and seemed pretty unconcerned about it.
The second day we were all DYING from the saddle, we went to mountain to hike which was beautiful and pleasant change from riding. It was more mind-blowing scenery followed by a delicious meal of dumplings and yoghurt. We went with the kids in the family to gather water which was such a good reminder of what a privilege running water is. So many people on the planet spend so much time gathering water and carrying it home.
The last of the nomads?
I went into the tour thinking it would be really interesting to see more of the landscape. The scenery was beautiful and likely the closest I will get to Tibet, but what really stood out to me what the nomadic way of life. From Mongolia, Tibet, Kazakhstan, and further people have lived their lives so close to the earth, depending on their animals to sustain them while they protect them from animals. It’s a way of life that is disappearing. What I thought was interesting is that the Chinese government actually offers incentives, these family could financially be ok if they settles into a town and lived a “normal life”. We asked our guide about it and he said he wanted children to grow up on the grasslands the way his ancestors had. It’s not an easy life but I felt very privileged to glimpse it briefly. I hope there continues to nomads on the grassland for many more years.
It sounds lame to write it, but I was really apprehensive to go on this trip. Not about being away from indoor plumbing for three nights or being on a horse or anything else. I was really nervous to be around strangers for so long. If it was awkward or uncomfortable then I would have no escape. I was afraid of being making the other foreigners uncomfortable by having a solo girl jump in on their tour. I’m so introverted and I was really nervous this whole thing would be terrible and …… it wasn’t. I’ve been realizing that in my future travels I really want t have more adventures and that my introverted little soul and join in with strangers and not die or anything.
Getting some open space
One of the biggest challenges for me in China is my lack of time in green areas. I don’t get to wander in the woods, walk by the ocean or kayak in the lake like I could at home. Nanchong is crowded, urban and polluted. I needed to get some space and the grasslands have plenty of that. I loved that our groups horses often spread out a good amount so I could almost feel alone. It felt like the sky and the grass went on forever. I lost track of what time it was, I stopped worrying about the things I like to worry about, I just tried to stay on my horse and soak it all in. At night I could see more stars then I’ve ever seen in my life and I felt wildly content with life.