If you need to get away from any comfort and civilization (and completely forget about your current problems), get covered with sweat, mud and be extremely tied by the end of the day, if you do not mind to eat simple local food without any white napkins, sparkling-clean forks and knifes and other fashion accessories, but be as happy as man could be and filling alive again - this is an attraction you should not miss!
DON'T TAKE IT:
1. If you have children with you: it's too risky, challenging and rather hard and not like a family safe ride on phlegmatic and sleepy ponies around the local park;
2. If you are not used to minimal physical exercise: the riding itself is rather tiresome, on the descents you'll be traveling on your feet (because down hills are steep and covered with loose soil and thus it is too dangerous to ride on horses) and this is not a light-tracking experience at all;
3. If you are a hygienic or healthy food maniac: you will not be able to eat anything and sleep in such uncomfortable conditions, and there is no water closet or shower facilities at hand in mountains;
4. If you are not prepared to sleep in the sleeping bag in not-all-new-completely-desinfected tent and are prone to catching cold: tents are old, and nights at height are icy cold even in August.
5. If you're not prepared to have typical rednecks for guides: they are brutal grumpy drunkards as boys from a very remote mountain village are supposed to be, but they are not fools and if you ask them some reasonable questions - you will receive all the necessary information and all needed care, believe me.
There were five of us in the group and we took two days ride up to Er Duo Hai Sanctuary from Songpan, and the ride was pleasant. The weather was very warm at the daytime, we have eaten tonnes of sweet wild strawberries when walking by feet. The guides are indeed a little bit brutal (and drunk by the night) but they are not bad-natured-tourists-hates at all. Just regard them with respect, do not be arrogant and boring, and everything will be fine. We willingly helped quides to pill of the potatoes for the meals and made a cup tea for everybody, and they have made a little show while preparing hand made noodles in return (it was quite amazing and interesting to look upon, I've even shot a small video).
We ride upon horses approximately 4 hours first day and 5 hours on the second, visited Er-Duo-Hai Sanctuary. I regard admission fee of 70 RMB to the Sanctuary as too expensive for the place and we were exhausted completely by the end of viewing it, but the colorful ponds of Sanctuary are nevertheless a beautiful site. The mountain views during tracking are breathtaking. In general I'm very glad to had this experience although it was a rather risky and extremal and tiresome adventure for me.
What you need to know if you do not want to spoil this adventure:
1. Tracking shoes and socks, long pants, warm sweater, rain proofed long jacket with a hood, wool gloves, eye glasses, hat and high-protection factor sunscreen are the absolutely must have things for the tracking regardless of the season;
2. Take your own sleeping bag and the termal-knit underware with you, put these into a backpack along with a large pack of wet napkins, high-protection factor sunscreen, some bandage, plaster and other necessary first-aid things, and at least two liters of water.
3. Take a water in a water flask that could be attached to your belt or any other gear at hand SECURELY during the ride. Even small bottles are very inconvenient, you will not be able to staff a bottle into your pocket securely and everything that falls out during the ride from your pocket can cause a horse to panic and that is exactly what you DO NOT WANT to experience.
4. Apply sunscreen before you mount to the horse, especially onto your face and back of the armpits. Prepare to be sunburned anyway :)
5. Ask you guides how to set your horse to move, how to turn, (the following is and extremely important point!) how to stop it and what exactly to do if your horse suddenly start galloping. Please always have in mind that horses are very strong and intelligent animals, the rider have to be on the alert and care of himself every single minute during his ride or any accident may happen.
6. Ask guides to adjust stapes after you have mounted. During the ride you have to have three points of support: stapes and saddle. If you lose any of this points you can fall out from the saddle, besides loosen stapes can hurt horse during the ride. Do not drop the reins any time you are upon the horse, to use reins is usually the only way or, at least, a major way to explain to the horse what you need from it. If you do not need to say to your horse any command at the moment, just lose the reins, but do not let them fall out from your hands. Do not shift too actively in the saddle during the ride - you can fall out or it can hurt horse back. If your horse sets to the fast trotting you should lift up in the stapes and balance holding yourself in the stapes and lean yourself against saddle fork or you will soon have a sore bottom and back. To balance like this is not an easy issue for a newbie, but tracking horses usually are rather lazy to trot a lot by their own will.
7. Be aware that your security and health is completely at your hands and always first think before you are up to make some silly joke or boasting. Think twice when you're upon a horse (poor animal may not have quite the same subtle sense of humor as you have).
8. If you have spotted something unusual in the horse's behavior, or got suddenly hurt, or fill uncomfortable, do not be ashamed to tell this to your guides immediately. They could be rednecks by nature but this does not mean that they will not pay attention to your words.
9. Very important: plan a full day of the rest and an hour massage session after the tracking, you'll be desperately need it!
I wish you a pleasant adventure in mountains.
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