Thursday, April 07, 2005
On the bus again I believe we're in the lli River Valley, I think it's snowing, flakes melting when they hit the ground, the road conditions are good and we're moving well. From my window I'm.....oops our driver is honking his horn at a couple of goats standing in the middle of the road. With all the animals crossing the road (cattle, geese, goats, sheep) I 've seen very little road kill. We're traveling through the Green Plains, grass and snow covered plains as far as the eyes can see with the majestic snow covered peaks of the Tian Shan Mountains on both sides.
Shepherds and their flocks sprinkle the plains, some on foot other's horseback. The horse culture is alive and will in North-West China there is nothing strange about seeing a horse hitched up in from of a home or seeing a horse competing for road space with cars and bikes. We just stopped for a herd of horses....Their coats are longer than what you see in the West they're making their way to more grazing land.
Yesterday we arrived at a Kazak resort, people normally come during the summer to horseback ride and enjoy Kazak culture, we were definitely the off-season guest. It was snowing and the area was blanketed with snow. I was jones-ing for a pair of cross country skis, the snow wasn't very deep but it was powdery, soft and perfect for a little skiing....alas none were found. The resort rooms were very very simple, no heat or hot water. The beds were prepared with electric pads and large thermoses with hot water were brought to our rooms. The bathrooms were challenging there wasn't any separation between the shower and toilet. Don't take a shower and expect to use the toilet without your feet getting wet. Also our bathroom had the smell of old rutabagas. Because of the smell, my roommate was a bit nauseated, we requested and received another room which was less-smelly.
We were the only guest in the facility and the staff took care of us, plenty of good food. I had the chance to try mare milk and horse intestines. Unlike chitterlings or muendo, the horse was a salty dry dish similar to jerky and I didn't notice an unpleasant smell like chitterlings actually I preferred the horse intestines to pork.
We went horse back riding in the late afternoon, I was pathetic getting off and on the horse the men had to remove me crane style, I was a little frozen- numb (that's my excuse for being Queen Slug. That heating pad was looking very good to me after the ride but it was enjoyable!
Actually before the horseback riding, we went for a drive looking for a winter photo spot but our van got stuck in the snow. Our poor tour guide had to run up a snow covered hill looking for a shovel, without any winter gear, and started shoveling out the tour bus without even a pair of gloves. This young lady could be sitting in a cafe in San Francisco but she was digging a tour van out of snow in a remote part of North-West China and keeping it together. We survived our photo shoot adventure, If I didn't mention it - the area around the resort was beautiful a true winter wonderland in early spring.
Sheep herd and herder crossing the road
Kazak Horseman in the snow
Stranded in the Snow? No Problem - Snow Fight