The dark broody hills of Songpan
Where: Songpan, Shimending Mountains, Southwest China
Best Season: Spring or autumn, to avoid the intensive heat of summer
Top Sights: Epic scenery and broody nature
What to bring: Wind proof clothes and a horse
Where It’s At
Songpan is an old Qing garrison town in south-west China. Situated at 8,000 feet this bustling market town is situated near the Shimending Mountain Range, in the midst of idyllic countryside, pristine forests, lakes and waterfalls.
Songpan is a throwback to a more simple way of life. The people here live a Tibetan lifestyle even though they are said to be descendants of the Mongols themselves. Within the old fortress walls, horses are tied up to every street corner and multiple vendors hawk their tasty street snacks of mystery meat skewers. The scene leaves you with the feeling that Clint Eastwood is going to come out of the saloon at any moment and face off with a Chinese Warrior.
The best way to explore the surrounding wilderness is to set out from Songpan on a horse trek. Trekking operators tout for business all over town, and expeditions range from 2 to 7 days.
Where to Stay
Before you set out on your trek early one morning, get a good night’s sleep at one of the travellers hotels in the area. Most stay at the Songzhou Hotel. Don’t expect much for hot water though, let alone much water for bathing at all. In fact, it will probably be awhile before you get completely clean since a shower will be hard to come by on the trek as well. Due to the popularity of the spot for trekking, a few restaurants can be found that offer English menus and decent food to fortify you before your send off.
- Your trekking outfitter should provide everything you need for the trip, including meals, extra warm clothing and bedding. All you need to concern yourself with is sitting tight in the saddle and enjoying riding through some of the most spectacular scenery in all of China.
- An organised horse trek will cost you the equivalent of about $4 day. There’s also a small additional charge for entry into some of the scenic spots in the vicinity such as Ergao Hai and theZhaga waterfall.
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By Jess Halliday