We have been interested in the Horse Tea Route, Tea and Horse Route, and other translations, of an ancient trade route that rivals the Silk Road in importance for China and Asia. We first heard about it from a friend, Cindy, and wondered if our route would take us near the ancient route. It must have been a slow brutal traverse of the Himalayas, from what we endured, in the foothills today on the “modern” route.
As we were leaving Ya An today, we saw some beautiful, larger than life, bronze statues of horses and men carrying heavy burdens. A sign nearby indicated that it was a memorial to the ancient route that took tea to SE Asia, India and Lhasa, in exchange for trade goods, and horses from Tibet. We are roughly following the southern route that was supposed to go to Yunnan (Shangri-la) and into present day Laos. We hope to find out more as we get deeper into the mountains. If we are lucky, maybe we will see a bit of the original.
For now, the modern route is challenge enough, with landslides, constant mud and water on the road, trucks, buses and all manner of smaller vehicles competing for a narrow deteriorating road surface, often with precipitous drops into a burnt sienna river raging with rapids. The captain’s shoulders are tired and the stoker’s nerves are frazzled.