Time is always the great and constant editor and time winds down to the actual departure date of the Salt Road (Tsalam) journey. One can prepare gear, the body and the mind but that first blast of wind in the face from the heights in a blink obliterates everything but the ‘now’. The landscapes we will enter on this journey have their own stories and their own fierce abilities…but I inevitably imagine entire caravans passing through these lands being ushered by iron-men, laden with salt and goods ‘to’ing and fro’ing’ throughout the vast nomadic lands….
Attaching some images of the trek area in southern Qinghai (Amdo) province taken on a previous journey of mine to research the area; an area known for bleak beauty, hallucinatory spaces of emptiness and of course people who reflect and accept their environs with simple strength. Wolf packs happily range in ever-expanding areas as snowfall is far less predictable and climate change plays some havoc with the heights.
Our intended route will take us through the Golok homelands, some of the plateau’s most fabled (and feared) inhabitants. The Mongols invaded centuries ago into these dry highlands at close to four-thousand metres, only to find themselves centuries later speaking the local Tibetan dialects and being assimilate. Throughout the entire Himalaya Plateau the Goloks’ namesake carries with it a spectre of warning.
The ‘tsa’ (salt), ‘lam’ (road), Tsalam, like all Himlayan trade routes is variously described by traders as “beautiful” and “daunting” in equal measure, but many still attest with passion that once one was used to travel on the road under the full brunt of nature’s tempests and glory, one was hooked. That it was almost impossible to go back to a basic life at home. Could explain some of my own habitual and very needed wanderings.
The ‘ancients’, the traders, who passed along this route of salt, are passing away and with this sad loss, their tales and vital details of how the route survived, what life was like and crucially for me, how it linked people, lands and ideas across the daunting weave of mountains and winds also disappear. For some the past is something unimportant to revisit but for me there are some tales that are beyond reproach…there are tales that simply need to be told or revisited. The Tsalam is one.
In two days time we will be amongst the skies that see all and the lands that still hold the remnants of snow on their surfaces.
Next update will come from the trek site. Until then…