Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Goat Snatching, Girl Chasing, and the True Meaning of Whips

Day Two in Urumqi

9:30am Breakfast
11:45-5:30 Riding in Tianshan
7pm- Free Time

After breakfast (thank goodness, eggs and coffee again!) we drove out to Tianshan to visit the Kazakh People and ride horses. The drive was 30 km, and about 1 1/2 hours, so during that time our tour guide told us a bit about Kazakh horse riding traditions. Two in particular stood out:

Goat Snatching: Goat Snatching is like bacon, but on horseback with a headless, footless goat carcass.

Girl Chasing: Kazahk mating ritual, A guy asks a girl if he can ride with her. She cannot say no. They go riding side by side during which they can chat and he'll say things like "you're pretty" and "you should be my wife." He can also touch her hair or her clothing. At the end of the ride the girl can show her approval by swinging her whi in the air and gently tapping the boy, or her disapproval by actually whipping him. If she knocks off his hat during this whipping it's incredibly humiliating.

Getting off the bus at Tianshan commenced the most confusing and frustrating experience ever. Basically you had to get a whip which would then match you with a horse, but there were so many incredibly agressive whip givers and you didn't know which one you ought to be taking a whip from. When we finally all had whips from the correct people we were herded onto a concrete circle where they selected horses for us. I was last, and even though I told them I could ride, this man lept up behind me, uninvited. He was super crepy and would only let me have the reins after a fight. He also refused to get off nad said something like "this horse can only carry two, not one." I'd like to think the horse would beg to disagree. He would also confiscate the reins from me whenever we went over a walk. So the first horse ride was no fun, just cerepy and frustrating.

On the first ride we rode alongside a creek to get to a steep waterfall. To reach the waterfall we had to leave the horses and go over this insanely steep rainbow bridge. It was pretty cool, and my pictures don't do the steepness justics.

After the first ride we had lunch in a yurt. There was a really low table on a raised platform and we had to sit on carpets and cushions around it. We had to sit crosslegged because apparently it's quite rude and insulting to point your feet at anyone. [Interesting fact: it takes four hours to build a yurt, and two to take it down.]

For lunch we had this really good rice wtih carrots in it, a couple veggie dishes, and of course, chuanr. We also had Kazakh salted milk tea. They like it salted because it's so sunny and hot and the salt helps them retain water for their long horse rides.

After lunch we went on another ride. This time I demanded to ride solo, and it was so much fun. We didn't use a train for the seconde ride, instead we went through the grasslandsa nd up the mountains through all these pine trees. My horse was really good and we spent a lot of time running. We climbed all the way to the top of a peak and had an absolutely gorgeous view of a valley. But then it turns out that a few of the horses weren't cooperating and they made us go back after 45 minutes of a supposed 2 hour trip. This caused quite a rumble later on when the laoshi refused to pay full price (since we didn't get the full time) and there was a bit of a mob scene. All was well though and we headed on back to the hotel.

We went to the Bazaar, which was a classed up version of the Market in Kashgar, although it had some minarets and towers that were really pretty at night. They were selling all the same handicrafts though.

Then we went to the night market which apparently Urumqi is known for. It was kind of like the silk market in Beijing in terms of merchandise. It was a lot of outdoor stalls. There were also hundreds upon hundreds of pomegranates and pomegranate juicers (mideval torture devices). It was a good night and cabs are cheap.

Tomorrow I have to be up at 7 (Urumqi time: 5) to drive out to Turpan and hike the flaming mountains. We're also meeting up with B2 tomorrow.


p.s. went to carrefour and got LIP BALM (yay!) and sunscreen )although I had to ask for men's because everything has skin BLEACH in it which just sounds horrifying).

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