Expedition Update “The Route of Wool and Wind”

Time is winding down on preparations for Michael and I to depart for Ladakh and the India Himalaya. Our month long exploration of one of the ancient world’s great and daunting trade routes is a little over a month away. Expectation, preparation…and still more preparation, will eventually give way to actually being ‘there’ and upon the route of stone and snow and that wonderful sense of simply ‘being there’.

As with so much that I do, this journey was inspired in large part by the ancient traders themselves and their words.

As with so much that I do, this journey was inspired in large part by the ancient traders themselves and their words about far off places and the mountain trails

One of the underrated aspects of the route is that far from being simply a spectacular route through the sky which hauled goods over and through the spires of stone and ice, it was a route which transported DNA, cultures, languages, news, and gossip into and out of some of the most remote lands on the globe.

Cultures along the Himalayas' great width will be on display when our senses shift from the snow caps and wind-blasted landscapes

Cultures along the Himalayas’ great width will be on display when our senses shift from the snow caps and wind-blasted landscapes

This is a post to offer some of the background into what we’re about to embark upon both geographically and culturally. The remnants and memories of a pathway that relentlessly ploughed over and into the great mountains hauling goods, ideas, mortals, and hope.

Few sights are more inspiring that the great shelves of stone and ice that form the spine of the Himalayas

Few sights are more inspiring that the great shelves of stone and ice that form the spine of the Himalayas

Though primarily a route of wool (from sheep and yak) which ushered the precious commodity to markets and middlemen, it was also a conduit for salt, medicines, herds, and of course my old friend, tea. One old trader explained to me that it was in some senses the most westerly strand of the ‘Tea Horse Road’, which of course brought joy to my ears. There is so much that these great ‘highways of the foot’ provided beyond simply economics and inevitably it is this fact that will add colour and lifeblood to our own journey. Personalities, our own daily grinds, and the vast spaces will provide their own ‘entertainment’ and painful pleasure.

One of the ageless commodities of the mountains: wool.

One of the ageless commodities and luxuries of the mountains: wool

For centuries this route challenged the most hardy traders and travellers. Tibetans, Han, Khotanis, Kyrghiz, Turkomans, Yarkandis, and Hindus all mingled, traded, travelled and blended into the local weave of high-mountain economics. Add to that mix the treacherous and often fatal storms and high mountain cocktails of elements, and the result is one of the mountain world’s great adventures.

The cultural elements along the route will often be what gives the route (and our days of grinding) a breath of life

The human elements along the route will often be what gives the route (and our days of grinding) a breath of life

About JeffFuchs

Bio Having lived for most of the past decade in Asia, Fuchs’ work has centered on indigenous mountain cultures, oral histories with an obsessive interest in tea. His photos and stories have appeared on three continents in award-winning publications Kyoto Journal, TRVL, and Outpost Magazine, as well as The Spanish Expedition Society, The Earth, Silkroad Foundation, The China Post Newspaper, The Toronto Star, The South China Morning Post and Traveler amongst others. Various pieces of his work are part of private collections in Europe, North America and Asia and he serves as the Asian Editor at Large for Canada’s award-winning Outpost magazine. Fuchs is the Wild China Explorer of the Year for 2011 for sustainable exploration of the Himalayan Trade Routes. He recently completed a month long expedition a previously undocumented ancient nomadic salt route at 4,000 metres becoming the first westerner to travel the Tsa’lam ‘salt road’ through Qinghai. Fuchs has written on indigenous perspectives for UNESCO, and has having consulted for National Geographic. Fuchs is a member of the fabled Explorers Club, which supports sustainable exploration and research. Jeff has worked with schools and universities, giving talks on both the importance of oral traditions, tea and mountain cultures. He has spoken to the prestigious Spanish Geographic Society in Madrid on culture and trade through the Himalayas and his sold out talk at the Museum of Nature in Canada focused on the enduring importance of oral narratives and the Himalayan trade routes. His recently released book ‘The Ancient Tea Horse Road’ (Penguin-Viking Publishers) details his 8-month groundbreaking journey traveling and chronicling one of the world’s great trade routes, The Tea Horse Road. Fuchs is the first westerner to have completed the entire route stretching almost six thousand kilometers through the Himalayas a dozen cultures. He makes his home in ‘Shangrila’, northwestern Yunnan upon the eastern extension of the Himalayan range where tea and mountains abound; and where he leads expeditions the award winning ‘Tea Horse Road Journey’ with Wild China along portions of the Ancient Tea Horse Road. To keep fueled up for life Fuchs co-founded JalamTeas which keeps him deep in the green while high in the hills.
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One Response to Expedition Update “The Route of Wool and Wind”

  1. Diana says:

    Sounds like a very exciting and historic adventure! Waiting for your bringing some stories back. I’m all ears. 🙂

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