" Yee-haw!, Giddy-up!", yelled my friend Barry, aka. Dusty Bottoms as he mounted his horse excitedly. After nearly two weeks of trekking through the Annapurna Range of Nepal, we were relieved to give our feet and backs a rest and ride horses for the day along the dried-up Kali Gandaki river bed. Our stirrups lacked any sort of adjustment for our lanky western legs and the wooden saddles covered in yak blankets made me reconsider Barry's nickname from Dusty Bottoms to Sore Saddles after the first hour.
We continued out of the town of Kagbeni which is the gateway to the Upper Mustang region of Nepal, just south of Tibet. The ancient mud brick walls of the village and the small alley ways lent a medieval feel to the scene. Riding gave us the chance to focus on the dramatic views around Dhampus peak at 5040 meters with snow squalls spiraling off the peak. Down in the dust blown river valley our handkerchiefs were drawn as we were engulfed by a fine dust called Nepali powder from a team of donkeys passing us.
As we climbed a steep embankment our team of horses nipped and egged each other on in a full canter. My wife, Jaime's, horse felt inclined to take the lead and scampered up the rock strewn path. My horse however ignored my very clear and �expert" handling and resisted merging politely instead to aggressively pass on the narrow trail. I scarcely noticed a black mare loaded with our packs until it faltered while passing me and buckled forward onto its knees. In an instant the black mare was back up again and out of some form of embarrassment, perhaps for missing a step, it bolted away once the trail opened up. For the remainder of the day the horse was in a melancholic stupor ignoring the rest of the horses and pouting along the river.
Once we descended to the flats, our horses were charged for a race and they continued to compete for the doughnut hole, nipping and biting at each other oblivious to our existence. It was at this point that I was regretting the extra cup of Nepali tea at breakfast because the stirrups forced our legs to be bent awkwardly as if we were jockeys at the races, rather than the masked cowboys we were.
The locals we passed on the trail looked at us with great curiosity as we laughed hysterically while our horses galloped out of our control. Clearly we were novice riders with enormous reserves of laughter, yet very limited hours in the saddle. There we were Himalayan cowboys of the Wild West, in the Far East and having the time of our lives. Yee-haw!!