We had completed our tour of the 2 main "attractions" in this area, the Pelkhor Chode Temple Complex in nearby Gyantse and the Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse. We checked out of our hotel after a 2-night stay, reluctantly; it was one of the better hotels we had stayed in. That, and we were not looking forward to hours of holding our bladders. Our route today would bring us back to Lhasa before turning north to Dumzhung county via the Northern route. Our final destination would be Tashidor and Namtso Chukmo.
The route brought us into the grassland region, passing horses and domestic farm animals grazing peacefully, sometimes halting to give way to the animals that had decided to cross over for greener pastures. In the horizon, the snow capped mountain ranges of Nyenchen Tanglha (7,088m) seemed almost within reach. Along the way, both our guide and driver seemed more alert and animated as we passed by farmers and their families in their various vehicles. Halfway, our driver turned suddenly into an open field and we were informed by our guide that there might be a possibility of us watching a local Tibetan horse festival. We were at Dulong, an hour before Yangbajin. Though it was noon and we were a little hungry, we could not let this chance meeting slipped by since we were informed that the festival was suppose to be over by now.
The field was crowded with locals. Colourful tents lined both sides of the designated "race course" demarcated by a wire fence. The locals were busy socialising inside the tents; some were doing good business selling hot snacks, drinks, toys and sundry. It was as if the circus had come to town and everyone was enjoying themselves. An out of tune song blared from what seemed like the commentator’s headquarters added some festivity and contributed to more ringing in our ears. The children were the most delighted group as they dart between the stalls, eyeing at the food and toys, some already playing with their new toys bought by indulgent grandparents/parents. A little boy was busy trying to make his new toy car run with a remote attached ingeniously by a piece of wire (sans battery!)
By 12:30pm, we were feeling hungry and restless as there seemed to be no sign of the horses. We heard murmurings that the competitions would not begin until 3 pm and were getting somewhat alarmed. Finally, at 1pm, the competition officiated by the local mayor, prayers were offered and the crowd were treated with a parade of the competitors dressed to the nines. It was over in about 10mins and we could not stay any longer. For a brief moment, we glimpsed yet another piece of Tibetan culture and were content.
We passed Yangbajin, a hotspring area with a geothermal power station that supplies power to Lhasa almost an hour later and stopped nearby for a late lunch before continuing our journey to Namtso. The total journey from Shigatse to Namtso took about 7 hours.