Speaking About the Ancient Tea Horse Road

Great pleasure reminiscing and chatting about the Tea Horse Road on Talk Travel Asia  with Scott Coates and Trevor Ranges. Thoughts of the route and its legacy, its commodities, and the precious cultures that lie along the route. Listen to it here on iTunes or here on Soundcloud with a cupp’a.

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The Ancient Tea Horse Road

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Toronto Tea Festival – Speaking About (and Sipping) Puerh

 

Delighted to be speaking and slurping away at this year’s annual Toronto Tea Festival on behalf of our own JalamTeas.

A fierce tea drinker from the top of the world

A fierce tea drinker from the top of the world

January 30th’s talk “Puerh’s Roots – Caravan Fuel to Boutique Idol” will look at the ascent of the unique big leaf varietal that has appeased nomads and collectors alike for centuries.

Freshly made and shaped Puerh cakes

Freshly made and shaped Puerh cakes…the tea that travelled to the top of the world.

January 31st’s talk “The Tea Caravans to the Top of the World” will focus on the trade routes that ushered tea into Tibet and beyond. The faces, the words and memories, and the landscapes of the Himalayas will feature…along with the Puerh leaves from Yunnan.

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Tribute Photos to a Year of Tea and Mountains – 7

More of the precious from 2015. A final Ascent…An End and the New Beginnings

A morning snow, A Lao Banzhang Leaf, A Mountain Steward, A timeless Trader, and A Tea Mantra for all-time.

Camp Bharal. Our 4,635-metre base camp rests in an small valley surrounded by snow peaks and powerful serenity. Within those peaks the rare Bharal (Blue Sheep) wander and graze, and when they are present, their ancient hunters, the snow leopard, can be found. Our horseman, who knew these valleys well, commented, "The 'Shan' (snow leopard) are always there, looking down at us. If they want us to see them, we shall see them, otherwise not. They are not vain." Every afternoon and dusk we would look up wondering if just maybe, we would be gifted a view.

Camp Bharal. Our 4,635-metre base camp rests in an small valley surrounded by snow peaks and powerful serenity. Within those peaks the rare Bharal (Blue Sheep) wander and graze, and when they are present, their ancient hunters, the snow leopard, can be found. Our horseman, who knew these valleys well, commented, “The ‘Shan’ (snow leopard) are always there, looking down at us. If they want us to see them, we shall see them, otherwise not. They are not vain.” Every afternoon and dusk we would look up wondering if just maybe, we would be gifted a view.

Kamal: Mountain Steward. A 12-hour day that scorched the body and numbed the brain finished as most days did: with me sitting in the tent with tea beside Kamal flashing that grin of his, telling all that everything was utterly well in our little world. Kamal, another utterly steady presence and steward of the mountains frequently answered questions with some refreshing mountain honesty: "I don't know, but soon I will know". Born and bred in the mountains he could never imagine leaving their peaks and shadows, telling me with an earnest face that cities "confuse me". Kamal and I spent an afternoon perched on sluice of glacier ice eating nuts and dried fruit, watching the ice run down under a punishing sun, and speaking about aspirations. When I asked for what the mountains meant to him, he thought a moment or two and then responded with a smile, "They are everything". They are. Protect environment, you protect culture...they are inextricably linked.

Kamal: Mountain Steward. A 12-hour day that scorched the body and numbed the brain finished as most days did: with me sitting in the tent with tea beside Kamal flashing that grin of his, telling all that everything was utterly well in our little world. Kamal, another utterly steady presence and steward of the mountains frequently answered questions with some refreshing mountain honesty: “I don’t know, but soon I will know”. Born and bred in the mountains he could never imagine leaving their peaks and shadows, telling me with an earnest face that cities “confuse me”. Kamal and I spent an afternoon perched on sluice of glacier ice eating nuts and dried fruit, watching the ice run down under a punishing sun, and speaking about aspirations. When I asked for what the mountains meant to him, he thought a moment or two and then responded with a smile, “They are everything”. They are. Protect environment, you protect culture…they are inextricably linked. 

Banzhang Leaf. A minimum in so many ways on this tribute but notable nonetheless. This was the seminal bundle of tea leaves consumed for the year. A single 9 gram serving - shared with fellow sipper Frank - of Banzhang raw 2008 old tree leaves harvested and produced by my mentor Mr. Gau of the Hani people. Unsprayed, the trees are allowed to grow unrestrained. Centuries of clean growth have allowed these trees to become forests of stimulant green power. Several of us had built up to the taking of this tea, knowing it would be something special. Afternoon in southern Yunnan's dull heat, tucked into a tea shop, we at last prepared several infusions. Sometimes expectation is the killer of moments, but this tea was narcotic from beginning to end. A tea grower once said that to sip a tea one "needs to know the source and the hands that created it". This tea's story seeped in as the fluid's raw force did.

Banzhang Leaf. A minimum in so many ways on this tribute but notable nonetheless. This was the seminal bundle of tea leaves consumed for the year. A single 9 gram serving – shared with fellow sipper Frank – of Banzhang raw 2008 old tree leaves harvested and produced by my mentor Mr. Gau of the Hani people. Unsprayed, the trees are allowed to grow unrestrained. Centuries of clean growth have allowed these trees to become forests of stimulant green power. Several of us had built up to the taking of this tea, knowing it would be something special. Afternoon in southern Yunnan’s dull heat, tucked into a tea shop, we at last prepared several infusions. Sometimes expectation is the killer of moments, but this tea was narcotic from beginning to end. A tea grower once said that to sip a tea one “needs to know the source and the hands that created it”. This tea’s story seeped in as the fluid’s raw force did.

Dakpa Kongba. Tea and salt trader, living tomb of memories, and warm host of tea sessions in the glorious Mustang region of Nepal, Dakpa's time with us reminded that communication is about taking time to listen. Sitting with him, sipping tea for hours and interviewing him about the days of caravans of tea, it felt as though I'd reached a home of sorts where everything was clear. Shooting a documentary film about the Tea Horse Road we had in Dakpa, a being that was the embodiment of the mountain spirit of endeavour and authenticity. He was real and his warmth entirely something of the blood. Sharing time and tea with him was an honour. His smile upon being presented with a cake of tea stirred us all, stirs me still.

Dakpa Kongba. Tea and salt trader, living tomb of memories, and warm host of tea sessions in the glorious Mustang region of Nepal, Dakpa’s time with us reminded that communication is about taking time to listen. Sitting with him, sipping tea for hours and interviewing him about the days of caravans of tea, it felt as though I’d reached a home of sorts where everything was clear. Shooting a documentary film about the Tea Horse Road we had in Dakpa, a being that was the embodiment of the mountain spirit of endeavour and authenticity. He was real and his warmth entirely something of the blood. Sharing time and tea with him was an honour. His smile upon being presented with a cake of tea stirred us all, stirs me still.

Nomadic Tea Mantra. In the Himalayas there is a long repeated mantra about tea's eternal worth to the residents. "If a cup of tea isn't offered, a relationship isn't offered". Succinct and clear about the vital nature of both tea and relationships in the highest of highlands. The same can be said for homes, warmth, and generosity. Nothing is restrained from the weary traveller, the fellow being in the mountains where to function and thrive one must cooperate. This woman's home was opened to us to share warmth, time, and of course tea, and the idea of this is something magnificent. As much as this image is documenting a woman, it is also reflecting that moment of warmth and sharing in a world of thin-aired beauty. To her and that notion continuing on.

Nomadic Tea Mantra. In the Himalayas there is a long repeated mantra about tea’s eternal worth to the residents. “If a cup of tea isn’t offered, a relationship isn’t offered”. Succinct and clear about the vital nature of both tea and relationships in the highest of highlands. The same can be said for homes, warmth, and generosity. Nothing is restrained from the weary traveller, the fellow being in the mountains where to function and thrive one must cooperate. This woman’s home was opened to us to share warmth, time, and of course tea, and the idea of this is something magnificent. As much as this image is documenting a woman, it is also reflecting that moment of warmth and sharing in a world of thin-aired beauty. To her and that notion continuing on.

Two gents who along with a stack of tea, a will to document what remains of the greatest trade route on the planet, and an empathy with the mountains and their tales made 2015 huge in my world. Andrew Gregg and Michael Josselyn and I shot footage, documented tales, and took in snow passes along the Tea Horse Road for over a month beginning in southern Yunnan's ancient tea forests, over the Himalayas and ending up in Kathmandu for the feature documentary, The Tea Explorer. Friends, fellow sippers of the leaf and ultimately those who shared in some magnificent moments together. Couldn't have asked for two better souls on this project. This to them with a bow of thanks...and a slap!

Two gents who along with a stack of tea, a will to document what remains of the greatest trade route on the planet, and an empathy with the mountains and their tales made 2015 huge in my world. Andrew Gregg and Michael Josselyn and I shot footage, documented tales, and took in snow passes along the Tea Horse Road for over a month beginning in southern Yunnan’s ancient tea forests, over the Himalayas and ending up in Kathmandu for the feature documentary, The Tea Explorer. Friends, fellow sippers of the leaf and ultimately those who shared in some magnificent moments together. Couldn’t have asked for two better souls on this project. This to them with a bow of thanks…and a slap!

Thanks for joining and another great year of sips of green and ascents of stone to come.

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Tribute Photos to a Year of Tea and Mountains – 6

Magnificent Raju, an old friend, and landscapes that are tortured and utterly narcotic. The Mountains’ and their people and spaces that moved the blood in 2015.

One of the great characters of the mountains, Raju. Porter, spirit of optimism despite everything, and now friend, he and his morning wake up of "rammm, rammm" (something that shepherds use in the mountains to urge their sheep on). Relentless, this father of 2 girls was my morning smile on the Glacier's Breath expedition.

One of the great characters of the mountains, Raju. Porter, spirit of optimism despite everything, and now friend, he and his morning wake up of “rammm, rammm” (something that shepherds use in the mountains to urge their sheep on). Relentless, this father of 2 girls was my morning smile on the Glacier’s Breath expedition.

Drolma from Litang welcomed a team of us to her home for fire and tea...the utter essentials. Thirteen years have turned her into a woman who hasn't forgotten the importance of knowing why her lands and traditions are important.

Drolma from Litang welcomed a team of us to her home for fire and tea…the utter essentials. Thirteen years have turned her into a woman who hasn’t forgotten the importance of knowing why her lands and traditions are important. Her home in the mountains, Litang, is one of the highest altitude cities in the world at over 4,200 metres.

Morning glory hits peaks. With Karma's potent and ritualistic ginger tea in hand the day comes in and etches itself into the mind. Looking south out of the Bara Shigri Valley, where our camp upon the ice and moraine was part of 2015's Glacier's Breath expedition.

Morning glory hits mountains. With Karma’s potent and ritualistic ginger tea in hand the day comes in and etches itself into the mind. Looking south out of the Bara Shigri Valley, where our camp upon the ice and moraine was part of 2015’s Glacier’s Breath expedition.

 

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Tribute Photos to a Year of Tea and Mountains – 5

Owing to Hector the Brave’s popularity and the debt to which our ‘Glacier’s Breath’ Expedition owes his efforts, a video in honour of our little friend in the mountains.

 Hector here.

Hector and I share a morning moment.

Hector and I share a morning moment.

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Tribute Photos to a Year of Tea and Mountains – 4

Continued Tributes:

A Father

After feeding us in his home, this Tibetan man went over to his son who was our guide, and briefly touched his arm. They hadn't seen each other for months and the gesture wasn't at all dramatic but it buzzed the air with its intensity. Father simply put his palm on his son Tenzin's forearm. They barely looked at one another but they were linked by a huge bond and that little moment was golden for it was an acknowledgement. When we left, the man (who wore the classic "jagar shamoo" - 'Indian hat' of eastern Tibet) took a deep breath when watching his son take his leave, with what seemed like pride and sadness all at once. Another mountain moment that remains fresh, though it was almost a year ago.

After feeding us in his home, this Tibetan man went over to his son who was our guide, and briefly touched his arm. They hadn’t seen each other for months and the gesture wasn’t at all dramatic but it buzzed the air with its intensity. Father simply put his palm on his son Tenzin’s forearm. They barely looked at one another but they were linked by a huge bond and that little moment was golden for it was an acknowledgement. When we left, the man (who wore the classic “jagar shamoo” – ‘Indian hat’ of eastern Tibet) took a deep breath when watching his son take his leave, with what seemed like pride and sadness all at once. Another mountain moment that remains fresh, though it was almost a year ago.

Hector the Brave. Little Hector who only wanted love from his fellow pack animals and to be with our group, looks straight into the lens. At times the depth of the snow would lodge little Hector and his goods. His little legs struggled to find traction until someone from the team would dig him out and help him along. My morning ritual involved wandering out of the tent to find him and give him some snacks and love. Then, one morning I discovered Karma doing the same. Little Hector was living well indeed and I miss his stubborn spunk, and his seesaw cries every evening. I could easily write a piece on this epic little character. Honoured to have travelled with you!

Hector the Brave. Little Hector who only wanted love from his fellow pack animals and to be with our group, looks straight into the lens. At times the depth of the snow would lodge little Hector and his goods. His little legs struggled to find traction until someone from the team would dig him out and help him along. My morning ritual involved wandering out of the tent to find him and give him some snacks and love. Then, one morning I discovered Karma doing the same. Little Hector was living well indeed and I miss his stubborn spunk, and his seesaw cries every evening. I could easily write a piece on this epic little character. Honoured to have travelled with you!

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Tribute Photos to a Year of Tea and Mountains – 3

More of the valued faces, moments, and impacts of the year. Many more existed that are shown here but these few are worthy in so many ways.

"Why have you come all this way to these lands. How did you arrive"? Our little team burrowed into this warm woman's home that she shared with her ailing husband near Yading in western Sichuan Province. Within minutes this family who had little shared everything they had, and this woman Kersang proceeded to ask questions as though she knew that many outside mysteries would be revealed in this fleeting moment. She laughed and apologized for the acrid smoke being puffed out by her little stove and she spoke about the land. "It is all we have so we must care for it. It is family". I'd never heard this reference before, but imagine a world where her logic of the land being family prevailed.

“Why have you come all this way to these lands. How did you arrive”? Our little team burrowed into this warm woman’s home that she shared with her ailing husband near Yading in western Sichuan Province. Within minutes this family who had little shared everything they had, and this woman Kersang proceeded to ask questions as though she knew that many outside mysteries would be revealed in this fleeting moment. She laughed and apologized for the acrid smoke being puffed out by her little stove and she spoke about the land. “It is all we have so we must care for it. It is family”. I’d never heard this reference before, but imagine a world where her logic of the land being family prevailed.

Faces and their own landscapes gave way to spaces of stone and snow.

Dusk comes in cold, golden rays near our camp on the Bara Shigri glacier in October. One of Asia's longest glaciers, it is a boulder-strewn landscape of steep ascents rather than simply a space of graceful ice flows and brilliantine blue. It is a brutal landscape that is morphing in the present tense. Ice here is gigantic, rubble covered and in perpetual flow rather than anything crystalline and delicate. It is a body in decay that is liquefying and morphing from something solid into something vital yet temporary; ice into water. Behind me as I watch this day's closure, Karma tinkers with dinner and an 'aperitif' of tea, while layers of down warmth are applied. Cold arrives from everywhere at once when the sun disappears. Mountains remain one of Nature's perfect editors and tutors.

Dusk comes in cold, golden rays near our camp on the Bara Shigri glacier in October. One of Asia’s longest glaciers, it is a boulder-strewn landscape of steep ascents rather than simply a space of graceful ice flows and brilliantine blue. It is a brutal landscape that is morphing in the present tense. Ice here is gigantic, rubble covered and in perpetual flow rather than anything crystalline and delicate. It is a body in decay that is liquefying and morphing from something solid into something vital yet temporary; ice into water. Behind me as I watch this day’s closure, Karma tinkers with dinner and an ‘aperitif’ of tea, while layers of down warmth are applied. Cold arrives from everywhere at once when the sun disappears. Mountains remain one of Nature’s perfect editors and tutors.

And spaces of stone and snow gave way to the face and hands

Day 8 of Tributes: The Incense Maker. In the walled city of Lo Mantang, Nepal this woman could be found in any number of places sitting on a folded rug pounding herbs with a stone into the basics of incense. Mornings she pounded, afternoons she pounded...as though her task would never end. Sitting, oblivious to the cold, she would spread out the intact herbs, place some into a centuries' old recess in the stone and ground the elements with a worn stone. Smells would waft up and be passed around by the winds, so that we would know that she was close before we would see her. Though incense can be found in any shop, it was as though she was proving that the old ways were the only ways. Her hands were stained, powerful, and pieces of beauty.

The Incense Maker. In the walled city of Lo Mantang, Nepal this woman could be found in any number of places sitting on a folded rug pounding herbs with a stone into the basics of incense. Mornings she pounded, afternoons she pounded…as though her task would never end. Sitting, oblivious to the cold, she would spread out the intact herbs, place some into a centuries’ old recess in the stone and ground the elements with a worn stone. Smells would waft up and be passed around by the winds, so that we would know that she was close before we would see her. Though incense can be found in any shop, it was as though she was proving that the old ways were the only ways. Her hands were stained, powerful, and pieces of beauty.

And to ice which disappears…something solid into water

A magnificent wall of ice that rises like a vertical patterned sketchbook on our 'Glacier's Breath' expedition. Sitting just scanning its mass, one could make out the tinkling sound of water and as the day's sun rose that tinkle became torrents. That sound became one of the most ominous noises in my head as it is the solid ice become liquid. That liquid would in turn become part of the Chandra River, which by extension would exit into Bay of Bengal. It would become what comes out of pipes and faucets downstream. Friend and mountain guide Kamal and I sat watching this mass with its ever-increasing rivulets plunging downward. Kamal said in his quiet way, "I understand what you are worried about. Once it is gone, it is gone". Indeed.

A magnificent wall of ice that rises like a vertical patterned sketchbook on our ‘Glacier’s Breath’ expedition. Sitting just scanning its mass, one could make out the tinkling sound of water and as the day’s sun rose that tinkle became torrents. That sound became one of the most ominous noises in my head as it is the solid ice become liquid. That liquid would in turn become part of the Chandra River, which by extension would exit into Bay of Bengal. It would become what comes out of pipes and faucets downstream. Friend and mountain guide Kamal and I sat watching this mass with its ever-increasing rivulets plunging downward. Kamal said in his quiet way, “I understand what you are worried about. Once it is gone, it is gone”. Indeed.

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Tribute Photos to a Year of Tea and Mountains – 2

A continuing of the epic characters, moments, and spaces of the past years in no particular order along with the requisite captions. To continue until the end of 2015…

Biari of the mountains is one of those whose words are reverent, tangible and entirely authentic. Having tended sheep in the Himalayas of Himachal Pradesh, his observations are based upon living every moment within them. Intuition and an intimacy makes his thoughts and words those worth listening to. Our expedition team sat with him while he spoke of the mountains' "health". Sipping tea on a brittle morning he reminded us that what happens in the mountains, will inevitably affect the worlds further down. 55 of his 63 years have been spent in the valleys of the Chandra River watching wolves, blizzards, and sun rays touch his life.

Biari of the mountains is one of those whose words are reverent, tangible and entirely authentic. Having tended sheep in the Himalayas of Himachal Pradesh, his observations are based upon living every moment within them. Intuition and an intimacy makes his thoughts and words those worth listening to. Our expedition team sat with him while he spoke of the mountains’ “health”. Sipping tea on a brittle morning he reminded us that what happens in the mountains, will inevitably affect the worlds further down. 55 of his 63 years have been spent in the valleys of the Chandra River watching wolves, blizzards, and sun rays touch his life.

One of the gentle but stirring moments was being hosted by a semi-nomadic family in western Sichuan. Their world was one of yak, of fire, and of winds. No part of their lives was untouched by this triumvirate of elements. Known for a ferocity in battle and a piousness of spirit, the Kham'pa's of eastern Tibet were feared and revered in equal measure throughout the Tibetan Plateau. Unafraid to move and wander they left their mark genetically, economically, and culturally across the expanse of the Himalayas. A simple and understated moment brought into quick focus by our hosts' face.

One of the gentle but stirring moments was being hosted by a semi-nomadic family in western Sichuan. Their world was one of yak, of fire, and of winds. No part of their lives was untouched by this triumvirate of elements. Known for a ferocity in battle and a piousness of spirit, the Kham’pa’s of eastern Tibet were feared and revered in equal measure throughout the Tibetan Plateau. Unafraid to move and wander they left their mark genetically, economically, and culturally across the expanse of the Himalayas. A simple and understated moment brought into quick focus by our hosts’ face.

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Tribute Photos to a Year of Tea and Mountains

Decided that there must be some way to pay some tribute to the faces, spaces, and leaves that have inspired either by wonderful force, or by gentle ways in the past year. It is also a way of saying thank you.

The best way, I think, is simply to post a series of images and brief posts in the final days of this, 2015. People who mentor, inspire, and those who simply go about doing what they do so well; or landscapes and tea leaves that conjure and stimulate, this is a series of tributes to those (and those things) who’ve moved and inspired in this last year.

So, this is the first of a series of posts that celebrate inspiration in whatever form it came in the past year…with the very necessary captions.

Inspiration in whatever form it comes, is still inspiration.

One of the year's inspirational moments took place amidst bristling winds (where so much inspiration seems to come from for me) at close to 5,000 metres. Nothing dramatic...simply a nomadic elder laying her yak cheese atop her roof to dry. Sustained by gritty DNA and their sacred pashmina goats these people are the quintessential nomads. The Karnak people have continued to defy much of the modern world's attentions...and they do it well.

One of the year’s inspirational moments took place amidst bristling winds (where so much inspiration seems to come from for me) at close to 5,000 metres. Nothing dramatic…simply a nomadic elder laying her yak cheese atop her roof to dry. Sustained by gritty DNA and their sacred pashmina goats these people are the quintessential nomads. The Karnak people have continued to defy much of the modern world’s attentions…and they do it well. They understand the land, the elements and pay tribute to the very simple aspects of the world in which they inhabit.

Though perhaps lacking some of the intense spectacle of the nomadic woman, this photo represents an equivalent value to me. Karma, who seems to defy every title, is quite simply one of the Himalayas' great mentors. Horse whisperer, cook without equal, tea-maker-at-all-times-of-day-and-night, healer, and reader of the mountains' every breath he is one of my essentials on every expeditions that I can manage. Gentle soul and good friend as well I'm proud to say.

Though perhaps lacking some of the intense spectacle of the nomadic woman, this photo represents an equivalent value to me. Karma, who seems to defy every title, is quite simply one of the Himalayas’ great mentors. Horse whisperer, cook without equal, tea-maker-at-all-times-of-day-and-night, healer, and reader of the mountains’ every breath, he is one of my essentials on every expedition that I can manage. Gentle soul and good friend as well I’m proud to say.

 

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The Tea Explorer – Documentary Film

Movie Trailer here: The Tea Explorer

The last month and a bit have been spent contentedly and sometimes manically slurping back tea, humping it over snow passes and sitting with the treasured elders who still recall the days when tea (and salt, wool, and so many other commodities) travelled by caravan.

Churned Tibetan tea: butter, salt, stewed tea leaves all coerced into a potent 'meal'.

Churned Tibetan tea: butter, salt, stewed tea leaves all coerced into a potent ‘meal’.

Award-Winning filmmaker Andrew Gregg of 90th Parallel, the incomparable and newly tea-addicted Michael Josselyn and I – after years of plotting and preparing – embarked on a journey to create a film (and experience) a tribute to tea, the tea routes through the sky, and to the spirit of the people who were a part of the 13-Centuries of unending tea trade into the Himalayas.

A Hani elder from southern Yunnan hand-makes a tea basket.

A Hani elder from southern Yunnan hand-makes a tea basket.

The film, The Tea Explorer is set for a ‘fluid’ release in 2016. During a reconnaissance trip in 2014, Andrew looked incredulous at many points, remarking how “this whole part of the world was driven by tea”…and it was and still is to a great degree.

The crew atop Shola Pass. Route of Pilgrims, brigands, traders, and migrants, the Tea Horse Road pre-dates the Silk Road and was an entirely 'Asian' adventure.

The crew atop Shola Pass. Route of Pilgrims, brigands, traders, and migrants, the Tea Horse Road pre-dates the Silk Road and was an entirely ‘Asian’ adventure.

Sub-tropic tea forests of southern Yunnan, which have long provided the sumptuous leaves for caravans to export, gave way to rampant tea-high’s of buzzing sweats, which in turn gave way to sacred white snow passes in the sky.

Along for our journey, Sonam: mountain goat, comedian, and channeling conduit for old stuff.

Along for our journey, Sonam: mountain goat, comedian, and channeling conduit for old stuff.

It has led us through the Himalayas, down the Kali Gandaki valley of Mustang to here, the old trade capital of Kathmandu. Regardless of the petrol embargo, and the still tenuous tectonic situation, the city (and the country) still hums with energy and light.

Andrew (left) and Mike at peace (and tea) in Lo Manthang, Upper Mustang, Nepal.

Andrew (left) and Mike at peace (and tea) in Lo Manthang, Upper Mustang, Nepal.

“Tea was everything and everywhere and without it the Himalayas wouldn’t be what they are”, said Himalayan hard-man, scribe and trader Tenzin. I would only expand that Asia wouldn’t be what it is either without the unending flow of the leaf.

It was through valleys like the epic Gali Kandaki valley that tea, salt and wool caravans travelled

It was through valleys like the epic Kali Gandaki in Upper Mustang that tea, salt and wool caravans travelled

Along the way, we were gifted with company and words of old mountain hands Sonam Gelek and Dakpa Kelden, tea dealer to my leafy addiction Mei, and to the bulletproof legend of trade Konga Dakpa. Fuelled by tea, the journey has briefly given a flicker of life to the ancient Himalayan corridors and ushered in some deserved credit for being one of the great adventures of time.

Trade route, pilgrimage path, migration highway and eternal trail through the sky, the Tea Horse Road predates the Silk Road

Trade route, pilgrimage path, migration highway and eternal trail through the sky, the Tea Horse Road predated the Silk Road

Updates and sips to be shared.

Nothing is quite complete with a few sips. Photo courtesy of Andrew Gregg.

Nothing is quite complete without a few sips. Photo courtesy of Andrew Gregg.

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