Elder Drolma from Dzogong speaks and reminisces about the days of the Tea Horse Road linking her home in eastern Tibet with Lhasa and beyond. In her words “It was a journey that both gave and took life”. Both Drolma and her husband offered up bo jia (butter tea) while speaking about an eternal route of tea, trade, and of relentless movement through the mountains.
These words (like so many from the elders) spoke of something tangible and fierce, but ultimately of a route that bound cultures within the Himalayas’ protective walls to others that they would never meet. The Tea Horse Road was one of the great Himalayan pipelines and providers to peoples whose version of luxury might extend to a single extra brick of tea or a bag of salt.
They spoke of a route of punishing and suffering landscapes that ranks as one of the great adventures. Always though was the reminder that the mountains also protected.
When our team of six moved on from Drolma’s home with full bellies and lumps in the throat, she wished us well on our way to Lhasa and with a small grin (that kept it all very real) reminded that though Lhasa was the holy place, she’d heard that thieves were perhaps more clever there and told us to “Bow on your knees to the great Jokhang Temple while keeping one hand on your knives”.