Newsflash: Following a record-breaking two month spell undetected by any local authorities, our researchers are relieved to report that backpackingbadger is indeed alive and well although reports of blog fatigue are arousing some suspicions...
Well well well. It's been almost 2 months - and in case any of you are wondering, no, I'm not actually in Litang, China. But for the purposes of this blog, let's just all pretend that I just arrived back after an epic three weeks in the wilds of Western Sichuan...
After my Mongolian adventures I hit China for the third time - and I guess I was lucky enough to see some pretty remarkable stuff. Hanging out with rugged and dishevelled Tibetan cowboys became something of a hobby of mine... Ever fancied a change of image? Well, here's 5 easy steps to becoming a Wild Tibetan Cowboy:
- Wear a cowboy hat at all times, preferably embellished with some feathers, or, even better, some Yak teeth. Perfect the look with some fake Ray Ban Aviators.
- Cover your motorcycle in a carpet and attach a loudspeaker to the back. Semi-professionals may consider attaching a Yak's skull to the front. Then delight the passing crowds with some Tibetan devotional music played at ear-drum perforating levels.
- Never, ever refuse an alcoholic beverage or leave the pool hall early. This would seriously damage your cowboy credibility.
- Knock out a few of your front teeth, add some gold, leave some gaping holes and practise your huge toothy smile.
- Kill a sheep, skin it and wear it on your back. Performs the dual function of looking extremely hardcore whilst also insulating from the cold.
So Western Sichuan was a pretty incredible place really. Skirting the Himalayas, the area is predominantly Tibetan in character and a large proportion of the locals still wear traditional dress, meaning the streets were often a riot of shocking pink headbands, deep red satin tunics, turquoise necklaces and fur-lined hats. In Danba, a beautifully quaint village, we stumbled upon a riotous festival where the locals danced and drank and dressed up to their heart's content - and our evening was spent learning the traditional dance in the street while simultaneously being force fed - yes, you've guessed it - local rice wine...
The whole area is incredibly remote and seems entirely cut off from the rest of China, the grasslands reminded me of Mongolia - with their rich golden hills reflecting the sun's intense glare - and like all other Tibetan areas I've visited, prayer flags flutter relentlessly from every peak and vantange point. Sneaking into Yading Nature reserve in the back of a local cowboy's pickup was something of an experience (the entrance fee was extortionate...) - but my God was it worth it. The alpine forests surrounding the four sacred peaks blazed with Autumnal glory - and my few days hiking, chatting and shivering while staying illegally in the local monastery rank as one of my China highlights...
I'm actually sitting in Kuala Lumpur Airport this very second waiting to get on my flight back home. I've still got one more blog to go... Details of my adventures in Burma and Thailand to follow soon! xxxx