The caves, all carved out of solid rock by hand, were home to the people of this area for thousands of years, though a bucket of water was often an hour’s walk away and firewood for cooking, even further. These were not cavemen. Their pottery was beautiful and Tibetan Buddhist beliefs deep. The complex we explored was “just over the mountain” from Tibet/China. It had 108 rooms on five levels accessed by interior ladders. The ceilings were black with smoke and the floors inches deep in dust.
For me, this was not only the end of our trail; it was the end of the Earth. There was no one living beyond this point. We arrived on horseback, as it would have been too many days to trek. My bruised tailbone gave me little peace for the following few days. A thin, rough blanket simply didn’t separate the bony back of the horse from my aching tail nearly enough. I walked the last couple hours back to our camp, unable to endure more pain on the back of that willful, bony, Tibetan pony.
Yes, the agony and ecstasy. While the caves were “accessible,” they were dangerous. Foot placement had to be planned five steps in advance near the entrance to the cave or a 100′ tumble with injury was assured. The day before this horseback/cave trip, I ran into a group of people who simply couldn’t do it. After the long ride, they couldn’t make the last 100′ climb into the caves. I’m not surprised. A few of the steps pushed me to my physical and psychological limits. Only a helping hand and careful planning made it possible to get through the entrance.
This Mustang trek was a hard trek. I think it would be a challenge to anyone I know. Yes, I’m proud of myself. Twenty years ago I was too afraid to commit to doing this trek. I’m tougher and more willful now than ever before. Fear arises but falls away. Maybe I am just foolish. My road in life is not OSHA approved. I just know creativity, joy, and freedom is the only road I care to travel. I’ll die one day, anyway.