the first rule of yading horse club is you don't talk about it because it's illegal to ride horses in the far reaches of the preserve. why? because it's really dangerous! with narrow rocky mountain paths, if the horse gets twitchy, it could throw you off the mountain to your death! but know what? that's my cup of yak milk tea!

nothing like sleeping in a tent with 14 other strangers. it rained the night before, so not only was it cold but it was also damp. i checked my digital thermometer and realized it was 37 degrees. i woke up at 5:30am before the sun came out - not to meet my horse guide - but to try going to the bathroom for the third time. the bathroom smells so bad, the first two times i was so disgusted i couldn't function. i buried my nose in the arm of my jacket, barely masking the smell (even now, when i write about it, i can still smell the horror). fortunately the "gift that keeps on giving" delivered this morning. with no good place to change, i put on the pair of lady's long underwear outside my tent (i bought them in litang, they didn't have small sizes for men, so i had to go with the feminine floral print), illuminated by my headlamp. then i ate a can of congee in the empty mess hall, and waited for my guide to show us. his brother came out to tell me to cross the pasture to meet him. i got a beautiful white horse, and we walked a little bit until we could no longer see the campsite before i climbed on the saddle, with my guide leading the way, carrying my backpack.

i can say this about yading nature park - the scenery is spectacular but the living arrangement is horrible. and the bathroom? let's never speak of it ever again. yading is famous for three sacred snow-capped mountains. at the base of each mountain can be found a sacred lake, the color of turquoise/jade. the path was definitely treacherous at times, and i probably had to walk half of it, because it was just too dangerous to ride a horse on.

we started out at 6:50am and didn't get to the park entrance until about 6pm, a full 11-hours. along the way we rested, and this was my favorite time, because it allowed me to take photos of the pretty alpine flowers, or chase after mountain birds with my telephoto lens. sometimes we'd rest in nomadic lodges, drinking hot yak milk (how clean was it? one of the man washed his hands in the milk, you decide), or tibetan tea, or indulging in a bowl of instant ramen. at one point we rested with his brother, who also had a horse, but it was carrying luggage for three european hikers further back. we waited for them to show up, but had a light lunch in the meantime, composed of hard tibetan bread and crumbs of yak cheese. from my backpack i shared some chocolate cookies, and we drank the cold clean water rushing from a mountain stream. i let the brother use my telephoto as a telescope to check and see if the foreigners were actually behind us.

the weather was very good for the most part, especially in the first half of the day. in the afternoon it rained briefly, but just a light drizzle. in the late afternoon the sky was slightly overcasted but with still ocasionally breaks of blue sky and sunshine. the final leg of the trail i walked since it was all downhill. at the entrance i paid my horse guide (RMB$300, well worth it). i also just so happened to come across a minivan with an extra space for one more passenger (that being me). the three foreigners who i met didn't have such luck and had to fend for myself. the driver - waiting for some guangdong folks who were already over an hour late - wanted to ditch them and take the foreigners instead, using me as a translator. but instead of RMB$50 per person (which was the price i got), he wanted RMB$200 for the 3 of them together. while they were discussing it, the guangdong folks finally arrived and the deal was off. i felt like spiderman - i have a "special" ability (that being able to speak chinese) and i just stood by and didn't do anything (like help the foreign guys get a ride with somebody else).

the guangdong people were not happy to see me nor the shanghai man (he was the no.6 spot) in the minivan. they argued with the driver that they thought it was a private rental and not opened to "hitchhikers." the driver - already angry that they were late - started yelling at them, saying how he narrowing drove off with the foreigners and left the guangdong folks behind. so everyone climbed onboard and we drove off. about 10 minutes into the ride, one of the girls in the back row started screaming and crying. "what's happening?!" yelled the driver, who thought it was acute high altitude sickness. "no, she's tired," one of her friends said, or, "no, she just pulled a nerve." i know when i'm tired i usually go into a hysterical crying and screaming fit - like a 2 year old! if i was the driver i would've thrown her sorry crazy ass out of the minivan and drove off. just so happened it started to rain too. after a few minutes we continued driving, as her friends massaged her legs and spoke reassuring words to her.

with about an hour before we got to daocheng (the ride itself is about 2.5 hours), with the crazy girl well-healed, the guangdong kids started to get really noisy and chatty, laughing and shouting. the driver said nothing - but his action spoke volumes as he drove angrily, driving top speed over bumpy downhill mountain roads, treating the minivan like it did him some personal wrong. that did nothing to shut the guangdong folks up, and at one people one of the guys even said, "i like bumpy roads better than smooth roads." two can play at the passive aggressive game as i rolled down my window. by then it was at night, and pretty cold outside, and within minutes i felt a tap on my shoulder. "mister, do you mind rolling up the window?" "sorry, i feel a little car sick," i replied, which was actually true. "maybe if you and your friends can be a little more quiet, i can roll up the window." they said nothing but a few minutes later, after some mild complaining, they got pretty quiet. fair is fair, so i rolled up the window, half my face already numb from my little ploy. not a minute went by before they started chatting again! if i had a knife, i would've turned right around and stabbed somebody, i didn't care who. fortunately we soon reached daocheng, and i didn't want to get violent.

i got dropped off at my old hotel, where thankfully they had a room even though i didn't call earlier. first thing i did was strip out of my dirty clothes and take a hot shower.

i planned on staying 4 nights in yading but ended up only 1 night.