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June 6th, 2011

Amne Machin Farewell – A Descent

By: Guest | Categories: On the Road, WildChina Experts

The following is an excerpt from Jeff Fuchs’ Tea and Mountain Journals, a blog by explorer, photographer and writer Jeff Fuchs.  Jeff is the 2011 recipient of WildChina’s Explorer Grant.  He and friend Michael Kleinwort are currently traveling through unknown portions of the Tsalam route in Qinghai. Below is the last piece from their journey…

———-

Early morning wind upon an Amne Machin ridge

Looking at the sky we see fierce white monotones and wind’s power, below in front of us on the earth lies a different story.

A last time for securing our gear on the yak. Our morning of departure

An avalanche’s disintegrating power has rearranged the land in front of us. A brutal black surge of turned earth, stones and newly formed shaped forms that stretch kilometres across the valley. It has only served to enhance in many ways an already formidable scene. Five years earlier Amne Machin released a colossal chunk of itself upon the land below and we are now grinding our way over this ‘reconstructed’ surface. We, for the first time on this portion of our journey, are steadily descending and with this knowledge comes an exhausted nostalgia and a twinge of sadness – we are exiting the main protective body of the Amne Machin range which fades to our right. ‘Civilization’ is coming closer step by step, though admittedly we still have much distance to cover…Michael is feeling this glumness as well. I am doing everything in my limited mental powers to stay in each progressive moment and not to let the mind jump ahead out of the now. I keep wondering at how we came to this point, where we are about to end….

Our caravan making its way out of the main Nom'sho valley

After packing up our camp for the last time there is a simmering of finality. One of the more masochistic pleasures of expeditions within mountain abodes is that after a time the harsh beauties of the elements reconfigure the body and mindscape and everything in its simple way works. A groove is reached where one can continue indefinitely and this is only enhanced when travel partners are on that similar thread of ability and thought. Michael in his month along this journey has gone from a precisely trained endurance athlete to something more akin to a ‘grinder’. These elements, at these altitudes necessitate a test of the self more completely than any other – this is of course my very bias touch here. In the words of a nomad, “mountains draw the self out”.
Descents are most often when the body’s subtle complaints remind one that they do exist. The charge and blood inducing high of ascending has passed and now the earth and all of its trials and menial concerns beckon one back inevitably. Yes, mountains are an escape, but they are an escape that hit one’s morphology, one’s psychology and that nameless thing in the body that sings of something divine. It is something beyond, right here on earth.

The yaks seem impatient to get home pushing ahead, as strong and steady as ever. Peaks become rounded hills, and the snowline dissipates as we continue. We are descending through a valley that splits the highlands and even the air around us is somehow diminishing in power.

Our stout mates for the entire trip - no better transport method, anywhere

[Skip to next section of post...]
Gamzon and the yaks cross the ice-cold river and Michael and I must cross the thigh deep flow carefully. Our feet take only a minute to dry in the wind and sunbeams.
Coming up out of the valley we catch a glimpse of the town and it sinks in that this is the end, for now.Sitting in a neat and tidy home thirty minutes later, Michael and I sit opposite one another with a table of biscuits, homemade bread and sweets between us. For the first time in a week we are holding glass mugs again, rather than our ‘do-it-all’ bowls.

 

 

Michael sitting for the first time in a week something other than frozen ground

We are both silent, and I feel in me a longing to bolt back into the mountains’ sanctity. A last night spent in the village with locals and a huge meal….tomorrow begins for us the slow and inevitable return to the provincial capital of Xining and a number of thermoses of tea to throw back, just to stay sane.

 

 

 

 

Jeffers trying very hard to remain seated indoors...the urge to bolt was only kept down by the mug of tea in hand

 

Thanks for following along and hope we were able to provide a little hint of colour to the fabled tsa’lam, the route of salt. I will be posting information about upcoming articles about this expedition in select publications as they become available. More tea and mountain blogs to follow as ultimately, this still remains a site for Asia’s ancient fluid and the peaks.

Jeff

———-
To read the full post, please visit http://www.tea-and-mountain-journals.com/
Photos by Jeff Fuchs
An avalanche’s disintegrating power has rearranged the land in front of us. A brutal black surge of turned earth, stones and newly formed shaped forms that stretch kilometres across the valley. It has only served to enhance in many ways an already formidable scene. Five years earlier Amne Machin released a colossal chunk of itself upon the land below and we are now grinding our way over this ‘reconstructed’ surface. We, for the first time on this portion of our journey, are steadily descending and with this knowledge comes an exhausted nostalgia and a twinge of sadness – we are exiting the main protective body of the Amne Machin range which fades to our right. ‘Civilization’ is coming closer step by step, though admittedly we still have much distance to cover…Michael is feeling this glumness as well. I am doing everything in my limited mental powers to stay in each progressive moment and not to let the mind jump ahead out of the now. I keep wondering at how we came to this point, where we are about to end….

Our caravan making its way out of the main Nom'sho valley

After packing up our camp for the last time there is a simmering of finality. One of the more masochistic pleasures of expeditions within mountain abodes is that after a time the harsh beauties of the elements reconfigure the body and mindscape and everything in its simple way works. A groove is reached where one can continue indefinitely and this is only enhanced when travel partners are on that similar thread of ability and thought. Michael in his month along this journey has gone from a precisely trained endurance athlete to something more akin to a ‘grinder’. These elements, at these altitudes necessitate a test of the self more completely than any other – this is of course my very bias touch here. In the words of a nomad, “mountains draw the self out”.
Descents are most often when the body’s subtle complaints remind one that they do exist. The charge and blood inducing high of ascending has passed and now the earth and all of its trials and menial concerns beckon one back inevitably. Yes, mountains are an escape, but they are an escape that hit one’s morphology, one’s psychology and that nameless thing in the body that sings of something divine. It is something beyond, right here on earth.

The yaks seem impatient to get home pushing ahead, as strong and steady as ever. Peaks become rounded hills, and the snowline dissipates as we continue. We are descending through a valley that splits the highlands and even the air around us is somehow diminishing in power.

Our stout mates for the entire trip - no better transport method, anywhere

[Skip to next section of post...]
Gamzon and the yaks cross the ice-cold river and Michael and I must cross the thigh deep flow carefully. Our feet take only a minute to dry in the wind and sunbeams.
Coming up out of the valley we catch a glimpse of the town and it sinks in that this is the end, for now.Sitting in a neat and tidy home thirty minutes later, Michael and I sit opposite one another with a table of biscuits, homemade bread and sweets between us. For the first time in a week we are holding glass mugs again, rather than our ‘do-it-all’ bowls.

 

 

Michael sitting for the first time in a week something other than frozen ground

We are both silent, and I feel in me a longing to bolt back into the mountains’ sanctity. A last night spent in the village with locals and a huge meal….tomorrow begins for us the slow and inevitable return to the provincial capital of Xining and a number of thermoses of tea to throw back, just to stay sane.

 

 

 

 

Jeffers trying very hard to remain seated indoors...the urge to bolt was only kept down by the mug of tea in hand

 

Thanks for following along and hope we were able to provide a little hint of colour to the fabled tsa’lam, the route of salt. I will be posting information about upcoming articles about this expedition in select publications as they become available. More tea and mountain blogs to follow as ultimately, this still remains a site for Asia’s ancient fluid and the peaks.

Jeff

———-
To read the full post, please visit http://www.tea-and-mountain-journals.com/
Photos by Jeff Fuchs
edit by king on Apr 1-->


Tags: Amne Machin descent Jeff Fuchs qinghai Tsalam Salt Road wild China WildChina WildChina Explorer Grant WildChina travel yak .







May 7th, 2011

Further, Higher

By: Guest | Categories: On the Road, WildChina Experts

The following is an excerpt from Jeff Fuchs’ Tea and Mountain Journals, a blog by explorer, photographer and writer Jeff Fuchs.  Jeff is the 2011 recipient of WildChina’s Explorer Grant.  He and friend Michael Kleinwort are currently traveling through unknown portions of the Tsalam route in Qinghai.

Below is an update from their journey…

———-

We have moved further southwest near Da Re, from Maqen towards the badland-borders with Sichuan province, less than one hundred kilometres from Serthar. We’ve arrived to a town that sits squeezed along the Yellow River wedged in between auburn coloured valleys. Our travel thus far has been the moving equivalent of the Russian Doll concept – one doll is opened up to reveal another smaller doll, and so on. In our case it is one small town leading to another smaller community, then onto a village until finally we will be completely embalmed in the open air.

Yet to reach Honkor as things go more slowly than we calculated (although in these areas we are well aware that ‘plans’ are only plans until some other plan is adopted) due to caterpillar fungus collection. Epic battles have been waged between Tibetans over who owns lands and who can access the springtime harvests of caterpillar fungus. We must abide by unwritten codes and land-crossing rules that are difficult and complicated to understand. Certain lands we simply cannot cross, even if these massive spaces appear to belong to the earth itself. While there are no actual laws, to presume anything in these raw and informal lands is a mistake. We must wait for counsel. Travelling over lands that belong to nomadic clans requires permission and this is especially true as fungus-picking season is upon us. The fungus is the one certain income generator many nomads have and one month of work can fill the coffers for the rest of the year. Nomads protect the lands and fungus with something bordering on violent desperation.  Our journey and routing through these lands must be carefully considered to prevent offending, or worse.

Another issue is that the old trader who was to come (and still may) and usher us along the Salt Road, is not in good health. Though he is adamant on joining us, his family is genuinely concerned with his health as the entire journey we are set to do will be above 4,000 metres and we will be in lands that are entirely cut off from communication, aid and access routes. If anything happens we are entirely on our own with the possibility of nomadic help. Our old trader’s health is ailing and, though Michael and I do very much want his company along the route, we will not for one moment consider risking his health or causing offence.  It may be that all we can achieve is an interview with him and others, but this will be enough. In such cases we simply must ‘hurry up and wait’.

Our morning begins ascending a 4,600 metre mountain heading up the twenty-degree grade to get a view of our intended route. Below, the Yellow River courses through a dozen channels wandering away and then reconvening. The water levels are down but vibrant green currents run deep and strong and the strands of water are visible from above creating white ripples in the sunlight.

Air moves in cold currents up at this altitude and the clean sharp waft of snow filters through the air. In the distance there are the comforting white peaks, which I’ve become attached to making daily eye contact with.

Yaks graze below and speck the horizon – the only dark marks on this sand-coloured earth, and once Michael and I reach the summit our sightlines seem infinite. Looking south-west we can see the valley we will travel through. It bends, widens, bends again and then simply funnels away into the mountain’s wedges. As the distances lengthen, the mind itself is wandering and wondering.


———

For the full post, please visit www.tea-and-moutain-journals.com

Images: Jeff Fuchs


Tags: Jeff Fuchs Sichuan Tsalam Salt Road wild China WildChina WildChina Explorer Grant WildChina travel Yellow River .







April 9th, 2011

Tsalam – The Ancient Salt Route

By: Guest | Categories: On the Road

The following is an introduction to Jeff Fuchs’ Tea and Mountain Journals, a blog by explorer, photographer and writer Jeff Fuchs.  Jeff is the 2011 recipient of WildChina’s Explorer Grant.  He and friend Michael Kleinwort are currently traveling through unknown portions of the Tsalam route in Qinghai.

Below is an announcement about their journey…

———-

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 Maqu 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.

Jeff Fuchs

Lubden & Michael Kleinwort

———-

Image: Jeff Fuchs


Tags: Amye Maqen mountain range Golok nomads Jeff Fuchs qinghai Tsalam Salt Road wild China WildChina WildChina Explorer Grant WildChina travel .








 

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