Songpan: Ice Mountain Horse Trek

Songpan: Ice Mountain Horse Trek

Get There: Leaving from Chengdu, you can take a local bus from Chadianzi bus station (about 7 hours) direct to Songpan.
Cost: 780 CNY ($146 AUD)

While the price seems a bit exy, the three days you spend immersed in a Tibetan-themed Lord of The Rings film set will well be worth it. Our trip was organised through our hostel Traffic Inn and included the following:

  • Transfer by van from the hostel to Chadianzi bus station
  • Horse trekking fee, including food and tent accommodation
  • Booking of bus tickets to and from Songpan

You will need to cough up:

  • A return bus ticket to Songpan (about $7 AUD each way)
  • Accommodation in Songpan

The bus should take about seven hours, after which you will arrive in Songpan, a one-horse town that is partial to a cross stitch store or two and has a deep love affair with Yak meat. Accommodation options are sparse, very little English is spoken and a room with no heating is entirely possible, so either knock yourself out with valium or booze to try and stave off the inevitable frostbite.

After spending one night in town, the horse trek adventure will begin. Neither of our guides spoke any English, so having a pocket translation book will be essential for deciphering phrases such as: “Don’t ride that way, you will fall off a cliff to your death.” It is also wise to be smart with thermals, as it is freezing, and trying to mount a horse with no saddle is nigh on impossible when you are wearing three pairs of pants.

Essential items:

  • Gloves. Your rein is a piece of rope and you will be riding in snow. Invest in something fleecy and warm
  • Thermals. You will be sleeping in a tent at night – it may be layered in yak blankets, but if you don’t have these you will probably die.
  • Phrase book
  • Excess cash to tip the guides with at the end of the trip
  • Baby wipes. There is no shower possibilities for three days and you will stink coming home
  • Sorbet lip-gloss. My guide was obsessed with my berry gloss and was a great if not slightly odd ice-breaker

Although riding a horse on ice is fucking scary and the possibility of death can be imminent (especially when your horse is partial to overtaking the other horses on steep ledges), the trip is well worth it. Expect to ride over mountains, through Tibetan villages and across rivers and streams and have your mind-hole blown by some imposing snow-capped mountains and the serenity of being the only people for miles.

horse trek

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