The Beifu Tea Porters
Salopek continues to work his way through the Chinese province of Sichuan.
In his latest dispatch, he tells the story of the beifu, legendary tea porters who shouldered eye-watering loads of black tea on their backs. The beifu slogged their loads through mountain passes on tea trails to Tibet until they were replaced by trucks in the 1950s. “Carrying individual loads as heavy as a modern refrigerator,” these men tackled the Himalayas in sandals, or even barefoot!
In the village of Kang Zhi, Salopek met Wang Shikang, the last living beifu in the village. “I can still feel the pain,” Shikang told him.
Salpoek is accompanied by walking partner Li Huipu for this stretch of his journey. Together they are inching across the vast province, heading north and east.