It was from this patch of grassland near Napa Lake, just north of my home in Dukezong (old town of 'Shangrila') that our expedition departed. Kit, maps, dried goods, 3 kg’s of Puerh in brick and cake form, and a relief that finally we would commence a journey that was three years in the making...all of these elements were present. It was a still day of cool, grey nothing. No winds, no glowing mountain sun, no snow and no partying or grand send off. A slate grey canopy that said little, enveloped everything. At last, before our departure, a last vital: a blessing. It involved a lama and two monks from the local Songtsanling Monastery. Mantras to the protective deities, chanting, gossip, laughs, and heaps of butter tea were shared, before finally some words from the elder of the monks (at far left in yellow tuque) that told of the ‘perils' of journeys along the Tea Horse Road. Two pieces of advice that sealed this particular moment were: “don’t fall in love on the route”, and “When in doubt wait. When you are lost in the mountains you must sit and think with your good brain….think!” We would sit and think a lot on the journey, get lost a lot, and fall in love a few times. The monk's words would clang around in the mind on most days of our 7.5 month journey and this image fixes that moment back into the sacred moment of 'now'...at least briefly.
Tea Horse Chronicles - Blessings and Warnings
Updated: Jan 24, 2021