The next day was pretty much the same, except for the constant danger that surrounded us during the whole day. By pretty much the same I mean that the landscape wasn’t too eye catching either.
In the morning I packed all my stuff and put it on the horse. And because I felt my legs a bit numb from the previous day, I decided to walk all by myself, at least for a while. We left the grove of trees behind, and we followed the path that ran along the shore on the right side of the river until we reached a rocky and narrow path that led us up in the mountains. I didn’t struggle to find another way because it was clear to me that there wasn’t any other option. The left side ended in an abrupt vertical cliff, and it would have been impossible to walk against the current of the river with its freezing temperatures. The river came from the canyon that formed the two mountains that stood in front of me.
“Shobo, I’ll need you here, it’s too steep for me to keep a normal pace,” I told him while I mounted on the saddle and patted his neck. “It’s going to be ok.”
And so we went uphill during most of the morning. The path was extremely slippery, but Shobo was doing great. I let go of the reins since the beginning so he could lower his head and see the path. He sweated profusely and I with him, but not for the same reasons.
And so we went up the rocky mountains.
The sun was very bright in the sky, and the weather at noon wasn’t so bad. I was getting really hungry and thirsty.
“As soon as the path widens a bit, we will stop and eat some nuts and drink some water,” I said.
Two hours passed until we reached a place where we could stop and rest. I took the bags off Shobo’s back and sat as far as I could from the cliff edge. Down there, the river ran wildly, and I didn’t want to stand in the path, but as far as its width permitted us.
“Here’s our first snack of the day” I said and gave a handful of nuts to Shobo to eat from my hand.
I took a handful of nuts for myself and ate them one by one. They were really yummy! But then maybe they tasted too good because I was so hungry. I was also rather thirsty, so I took my gourd out of its pouch and drank the wonderful liquid from it.
“Isn’t water just wonderful?!” I told the horse.
While I picked one more handful of nuts, I got up and looked over the edge. Shobo wanted to follow me. “Stay” I said nervously. And he stopped as if frozen. “It’s ok, I just don’t want you to come too close to the edge”. He then turned from me and walked towards the improvised picnic blanket, far from the danger.
“Let’s see what’s down there aside from the river” I thought while I approached the cliff and looked down…”Oh wow!”
At least 20 metres from where I stood, laid a skeleton. “Oh wow!” I exclaimed again, catching Shobo’s attention. “This must be a Yak’s skeleton, Shobo!”
I went back to the blanket, folded it and packed everything in the bags. “This path, then, must have been used by nomad people to carry salt across the country on yak caravans,” I said. “And this one must have fallen down the cliff when they stopped in this place, maybe they were too crowded and got nervous, who knows.”
When I mounted on the saddle, a sudden thought of us both falling down the cliff gave me the chills. “Come on, let’s leave this place slowly” and patted his neck “we are not yet safe here”.
The descent went better, and I could see that the river flowed gracefully down the canyon. It wasn’t even a canyon anymore, there were some grassy meadows expanding now on both riversides and a current of warm breeze entered through the valley that lay ahead. But darkness fell on us once again before we could reach the foot of the mountains.
“We need to find someplace to sleep, somewhere safe and far from the edge” I thought.
And just when I feared the worse, which was to sleep by the edge, we turned on the right, and the path started widening, becoming a normal dirt path at a few meters from the curve, where at least 5 people could walk with spread arms. On the right, there was even some grass, growing in a semi moon shaped patch.
“We are lucky travelers!” I exclaimed.
And we camped for the second time. This time Shobo stayed outside tied to a stump. We were both exhausted and wishing to get out of this daunting looking place.
The next day, I woke up with the dawn, and as I got out the tent and approached the edge for a better look of the valley, I witnessed the most beautiful and picturesque landscape I could ever imagine. The sky was turning from deep blue to a reddish violet and the meadows in the valley by the river turned from pitch black to orange. Then, a snow-capped mountain range appeared. A vaporous mist enveloping each and every mountain. And above the highest peak, the brightest of all stars. A morning star. An eastern star.
“I baptize you as the Guild Star,” I thought while staring at the stellar light. “You indicate the east to me, therefore I shall know by night, where home is at all times during my travels.”
Feeling warm inside, I packed everything on the horse, and continued the descent to the valley.
“After all, Shobo, this place wasn’t as daunting as I first thought…” I chuckled and kicked his sides softly to cheer us up both.
By then, we already reached the valley.
(Making of: The photo above is a Soul Card. It is a collage glued on cardboard and decorated with a tube of relief and outline silver paint all around the edge. If you wish to see other soul cards that I have made before, click here, it will take you to the corresponding art gallery. The painting below, is made with watercolor paintings. The image is one inspired by Nicholas Roerich.)