Dave's Sketch Journal

Drawing is taking a line for a walk. - Paul Klee

China by Horseback

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I love horseback riding. I remember when I was a teen I had a friend whose father owned a ranch. We'd go out and clean the barns in the morning and then ride in the afternoon. It was great. I once got a chance to ride bareback.

When Eric suggested that we go on horseback to tour the country, I couldn't resist. He arranged the horses and owners to meet us in a village near Lijiang. The tour would take us to Lashi Lake (Qixianhu). The lake is a one and a half hour ride in the back country. Eric told of the legends surrounding the lake. The name means immortal. It was said that those who drink from the lake never die. But it's also known as suicide lake. Often the parents arranged marriages for their eligible children. Meanwhile the youths fell in love with another. Since the parents decision was binding, the youths would go down to the lake and take their own life.

On the way up the mountain the Naxi woman who owned the horses suggested that they pack a lunch for us. Well, yeah, sure, sounds good. So we stopped at their home and picked up some fresh garden vegetables and meat. This wasn't going to be a PBJ (peanut butter and jelly) snack. As we rode the horses through the well worn earth and threaded through the rough rock, the woman walked behind us, baskets full of the items for lunch.

When we got to our destination, Lashi Lake, they began to unpack not just the food but the traditional hot pot to cook it in. The pot is a donut shape with a cylinder through the center that rests on the base. At the base a fire is started and charcoal is placed in the cylinder. Soon the water begins to boil. Fresh vegetables washed from the mountain cold water nearby are tossed into the donut surrounding the heat. Bacon, ham hock, beans, potatoes, green onions, and salt are added.

There were several people having lunch around the lake. They were cooking in large woks. Soon there was a commotion. The other tourists (mostly Chinese, I didn't see another foreigner) were talking noisily. What's up? They stood near us, now angry with their own tour guides who didn't supply the traditional cooking device that our Naxi woman brought. Eric was cool. He told them that our cooking device wasn't as good as theirs. Theirs had better taste. He didn't want to get into trouble with the other tour guides.

This meal was the absolute best food I've had so far on this trip to China. Maybe it was the traditional hot cooking pot, maybe it was the fresh meat and vegetables, maybe it was the river washed food. I don't know, but it was wonderful.

We ambled back to the town in the rain, but we were warm inside.

We said goodbye to Eric over a final cup of coffee and tea. We got to know him so well. We will miss him and the wonderful things we saw while visiting Lijiang.

Tomorrow we leave for Shanghai where we finish up our last four days in China.

If you travel by horse you wont lose your luggage. - Dave Terry

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