Tsalam – The Ancient Salt Route

The Route of White Gold

When: May, 2011

Who: Jeff Fuchs, Michael Kleinwort

Where: Southern Qinghai (Amdo)

One of the ancient world’s great and unheralded trade routes was the eastern Himalayas’ Tsalam, or Salt Road. Known to many Tibetans as “The route of white gold”, much of its desiccated remains rest at close to 4 km in the sky upon the eastern Himalayan Plateau.

Traversing some of the planet’s most remote and daunting terrain, the Tsalam passed through the snowy homeland of the fierce Golok nomads, notorious wolf packs and beneath the sacred Amye Maqen mountain range of southern Qinghai province (Amdo). Largely forgotten it remains culturally, historically and geographically one of the least documented portions on earth. The memories of a few traders carry on its almost fabled tale.

The route itself has never before been acknowledged (nor travelled) by westerners, and much like the Tea Horse Road, the last remaining traders who traveled its length are passing away and with them too, the memories of what for many was the only access path into the daunting nomadic lands.

Leading the expedition and transcribing the tale of Tsalam will be myself, with English entrepreneur and endurance athlete Michael Kleinwort joining me. Along with local nomadic guides and the odd mule, our “0 carbon footprint team” will attempt to travel the most isolated and unknown portion of the route – a remote nomadic portion from Honkor to the Mado area.

The expedition in May of 2011 will be done entirely by foot and will access many of the last nomadic traders to document their precious recollections of travel along the Tsalam. The expedition is another of the ancient Himalayan trade routes I hope to re-expose to some light. Articles in select publications will appear upon completion of the journey


Lubden (left), Michael (right)

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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4 Responses to Tsalam – The Ancient Salt Route

  1. Peter says:

    Sounds wonderful, Jeff! I wish you and Michael the best of luck with this expedition.

    Please let us know, in due course, when articles on the expedition will be published. Perhaps there will be a book as well sometime ….

    Best wishes,

    • JeffFuchs says:

      Thanks Peter from here in the mountains. Will keep you updated – communication in this part of the world is ‘fuzzy’ at best – as we will be blogging about the journey and posting photos to keep the whole thing as tangible and real-time as possible. We’ll have plenty of tea along to keep the brain operating on the road.


  2. Peter says:

    I very much look forward to those updates. And raise a glass of tea for me along the way!

    Best wishes,

  3. Katja says:

    Also with a cup of tea in my hand … good luck for your expedition!

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