We sat in the dark gloom of his home, with a bit of lukewarm butter tea roaming around our hands. Another of the remaining legends of the days of trade and odyssey journey-making along the Tea Horse Road, Tseten was slow but steady to warm of the times and tales of his time along the great trade route. One memory spoken would unhinge another, which would lead to more meandering tales.
It was like this with many of these remaining participants of life along the Tea Horse Road. Stories started slowly and triggered a memory strand that in turn would lead to another. Hours and days could pass uncoiling the past. Tseten was ill during a visit near my old home of ‘Gyalthang’ (aka: Shangrila, Zhongdian, Jiantang) in northwestern Yunnan, but it didn’t prevent his old engine of a heart to rise as we sat together.
The great expanses of the Himalayas remained prominent in most of his tales and how they instructed, wreaked havoc, and formed bonds. This route and the conversations around it and the times, almost inevitably sparked something epic in people as though travelling back into a rare time portal. It always had felt that the these participants of the route, had garnered some magic dust upon them that lasted. When asked if he would mind a portrait being taken, he nodded immediately and excused himself. He would come back a few minutes later having fixed himself up. He was ready and he was stunning.