Tea Horse Road Chronicles, Part 5 - The Load (Gyap'kè)
A continuation of some of the embedded moments - both large and small - of our 7.5 month expedition to chart and document the Tea Horse Road.
Along the Tea Horse Road, the daily careful daily ritual of loading and unloading of commodities was considered an art form. Securing loads that didn’t chafe animals with too tightly bound a harness, was just as important a skill as securing it ‘just’ tightly enough that the loads didn’t tip or unbind. Here a nomadic host of our team readies our mules as we prepare one morning. It is still an honour to assist in the loading (Tibetan: “Gyap’kè”) and unloading (known as “gyap’po”), upon the Tibetan Plateau and still a skill taught to young children. Many a time I’ve been politely but firmly shoved aside by men, women, and children as I try and contribute to the loading process. I have over the years timed locals as they competently strap commodities and gear atop yak, mules and horses. On average they are three times faster than me, and their loads are far less likely to go wonky on the journey than mine. Skills of the mountains matter.