“I have asked myself why it is that the men of Kham are so highly civilized in this dour land, and the answer I found was, because they are great travelers; their horizon is unbound. They go far into China to trade, and far into Tibet to worship. They see other civilizations - China, India, even Burma, and other peoples; exchange goods with them, bring back new ideas.”
Francis Kingdon-Ward, The Mystery Rivers of Tibet.
In olden days, men of Kham (eastern Tibet) routinely operated mule caravans on arduous long journeys to the centre Lhasa, and beyond, to Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and India. The journeys were anything but routine for these traders dealing in tea, textile, salt, and other basic commodities across the face of the world’s most inhospitable terrain. They entailed traversing the world's highest passes, negotiating treacherous snowstorms, and daring - and battling - the highest “highway” bandits. Their willingness to take such risks for modest remuneration opened a window to the outside world for their own communities. It also made these hardy people knowledgeable about the diversity of their own land and people.
With the tea-trade bustling, the caravan routes became vital arteries for cultural, economic and religious exchange between Tibet and South Asia. Gruelling and danger-laden, these journeys amounted to a vital cultural enterprise, encompassing both the spiritual and the secular, adventure and romance. An ultimate test of character, the raison d’être of the undertaking became trade as much as pilgrimage, material profit as much as spiritual merit. The greater the ardour, the larger the accrues.
The Khampa Caravan Story
In the autumn of 1995, Yeshi Gyetsa,Dakpa Kelden, and Lobsang Tenzin,crossed paths in Gyalthang, their beloved hometown in southern Kham. Brought up in far and different places, they shared an abiding passion for their homeland. While growing up, they had listened to fascinating tales and songs about their forefathers, who trod and rode along the ancient tea-trading and salt caravan routes across the Himalayan subcontinent. The allure of discovery, of their own lands and people, fired their imagination and propelled them to act: They founded Khampa Caravan.
Offering the traveler a diverse portfolio for adventure and personal discovery, we at Khampa Caravan, heir to a centuries-old tradition, take up the challenge of recreating those journeys of lore. We see tourism not as a threat but as opportunity. By applying age-old skills to new situations and anticipating change, our proactive approach seeks to promote a unique form of travel that will reinvigourate Tibetan ways of life.