it's been over a week since my last post from chongqing. since then i've spent a few days in chengdu (get your china map, kids!) before taking a morning bus to kangding, where i stayed for just one might and met up with some americans and some swedes. the americans were from texas teaching english in chengdu and they did their own thing, while i hung out with the swedes (linus and linda). since tickets for litang were all sold out, the five of us pooled our money together to hire a minivan to take us the next morning. all was well except when the driver stopped off in the middle of nowhere to renegotiate the price. was on the phone with his manager and we argued for a good 15 minutes before we finally decided to find a middle ground. the money itself is nothing, it's just the principle.
we arrived in litang the afternoon of the 31st of june. the americans already made arrangements so they left us to fend for ourselves. virtually all the hotels were filled because of the horse festival starting the next day. we ending up staying at the outskirts of town, across from the gas station, in a truckers' rest stop. dirty bare wood floors, communal toilets outside, and a bathroom that acted as a sink and the only water you could get was freezing cold water.
the horse festival the next day was a sensory overload. i think it'd be best explained by photos. the men here either look like american-indian cowboys or tibetan style urban gangster with golden teeth, lots of bling, and an unusual swagger. the ladies here are really beautiful too, which is surprising because you figured the harsh weather would turn them all into wrinkled old ladies. later that night we did some high-altitude karaoke. my song: grease. after i finished i was completely out of breath. when we got back to the truck stop, the owner brought us to a hot spring sauna so we could take a bath. the sky up in the mountains were pitch dark, the milky way clearly visble.
the second day we didn't go to the festival until in the afternoon (it was a boring traditional dance competition). like the day before, the police started whipping people with belts as a form of crowd control. unlike yesterday however, the tens of thousands of nomadic herdsmen weren't going to take any shit and started throwing rocks at the police, eventually chasing them out of the festival. minutes later we heard gunshots. who knew happened. but it's fun to be in a riot!
the third day, yesterday, we decided to skip the festival all together and rent motorcycles and ride out to the countryside. the scenery was breathtaking and there was hardly any cars on the highway. just miles and miles of grassland, rushing clear streams, and snow-capped mountains, with a sprinkle of tents were nomadic herdsmen were living. magnificent eagles soared overhead, groundhogs watched from dirt cliffs, and occasionally we had to stop for yak crossings. all was fine until we decided to come back. with 25 kilometers more before we got to town (we went out as far as 60km), something happened. the swedes lost their emergency medical kit but i nearly lost my life. i lost control of my motorcycle while making a turn, and had to brace myself with my leg. i didn't think much of it at first, maybe i was going to fast, but minutes later it happened again on a downhill straightaway, complete lost of steering. since my motorcycle had no front breaks (correction: it had them, they were just broken), i couldn't stop and had to steady the handlebars for about 10 terrifying seconds as the motorcycle just went crazy. linus and lnda watched behind me in horror, fearing either i'd crash and get seriously hurt or fall off the cliff and into the water, where i'd probably die. the problem: the front tire was flat. so linus took the two of us by motorcycle back to town. i sat in the back, on the metal frame, and took a severe ass beating that makes me unable to sit right even now.
last night we finally moved. the swedes went to the crane house while i stayed at the litang hotel (with western toilet!). checkout time today is noon, so i better finish writing and go back to my room and relax for an hour. my next stop is daocheng, but i can't buy a ticket yet because the bus is from kangding and only if there's room will i be able to get a ride. so i may stay here another night.