How awesome was this Tibetan nomad festival in Langmusi, China on International Children’s Day, 2002.
I was incredibly fortunate to experience this event with one of my groups and it was definitely worth arriving after 2am in the morning for. We had broken down on the grasslands in the middle of Sichuan the previous day and had an 8 hour or so wait while the parts for the mini-vans were driven in. I was tour leading at the time and my group handled the whole experience fantastically, especially since it was at my urging that we continued on into the night across the grassland as I had heard that the festival may be a possibility. The road was terrible and it was a long slow trip but without a doubt it was all worth it in the end!
The festival was a full day of events. First, we rushed off out into the grassland to see the horse races. I must say I was a little in awe of the youngster who won. Of course, they were riding bareback and most of the riders were under 10 years of age – absolutely put my horse riding skills to shame. Then the crowd jumped into the backs of a couple of big blue trucks and onto horses or motorbikes and took off to the next venue.
Sitting up by the road was a great perch to watch the yak-riding race taking place 50 metres or so down in the valley. It also seemed like a safe distance as I thought that yaks were fairly scatterbrained, strange animals – so to see them being ridden was going to be interesting. Once the riders were on board, the small crowd around the animals quickly fled as these beasts exploded off in all directions. They really are very skittish and difficult to control, and were pretty much running all over the place while throwing their riders off. Eventually one guy got a bit of a straight run happening in the right direction and crossed the finish line.
After lunch, down by the stream the rock throwing, singing and dancing was happening, where different groups were almost having a dance off! So much colour and enjoyment both from the performers and the crowd, it truly was an amazing experience.
This was the first time the festival had been held and I actually could not tell you if it has been held since then – in all a very random event that I had heard about through a contact, and even then it was always a maybe. For me this is what made it so special!