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Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Cave Homes of Gansu

One of the things that I was looking forward to the most on my trip to Gansu in June was the prospect of going to a remote mountain village and staying in a cave.

Yeah, a freaking cave. People do actually live in caves in China - it's not just those stereotypes in the Middle East.

That's it there on the left - it's not just a giant hole in the side of a cliff. They've made it into a home, believe it or not.

They cut out a door-sized hole and a window-sized hole into the side of the mountain, and just burrow out a decent-sized hole, round it out and make it work, and then - BAM - time to move in!

For some reason, I didn't take a picture of the inside - but I do have a video clip of it included in the video below, if you are so inclined to watch it.

The cave itself was pretty nice - it was cool although the weather outside was nice. There was a big bed, wallpaper, a dresser, a TV, and all the other "fixings" for a home. It wasn't this big scary unlivable place - it was rather nice.

Where is this place, you might ask?

It is called 赵台 (Zhao Tai). It's in the  countryside.

I just know that we drove from Huan County (环县) for about 5 hours to get there.

5 hours of the craziest, bumpiest, and scariest roads through some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen.

This is the stuff that I had only read about in books and seen in National Geographic.

Terraced mountains literally surround the caves that me, Elena, and Ben are staying in.

The signs of the harvest are everywhere.

The few people that have chainsaws or weed-eaters are letting them loose in the fields, but the rest of the people have their scythes and are at work under the bright glare of the noon sun.

Wheat and apricots are what's being harvested now - the potatoes, corn, and other foods still need some time.

Life here is fundamentally different from life as I know it.

There are no shops nearby, no paved roads, no sound of car horns, no street vendors, no........well, anything.

It's just quiet, clean mountain air and the sound of the goats, donkeys, and other animals that Ben's family raises. Life revolves around the land, and there is little money to be had, and little to spend it on.

It's so different from the money-driven, ambition-fueled society that I have spent my entire life in.

Life here is hard, but I feel like although these people are poor in material ways, they are rich in family and rich in life.

They were so caring and hospitable to me, and it was easy to see that they cared deeply for one another.

I just wish I had been able to better enjoy the moment. I was pretty sick at the time, and I couldn't do a lot of stuff. But I did what I could, and I cherished the time that I spent in this place.

How often do you get to lose yourself in the mountains, be moved by spectacular scenery, stay the night in a cave home, witness (and participate a little bit in) the harvest, be surrounded by new people who nonetheless care about you, and also become buddies with a donkey?

I don't know about you, but that's not something that happens very often to me.

As I said in one of my videos, I'm very grateful to know Ben. He's let me see a side of China that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to see, at least not easily.

I want to take this chance to thank him for that, even though he will probably never read this post, if any posts that I put up on here.

Thanks, Ben.


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  1. Makes me want to travel again!

    P.S. - Dig your shirt! :)

    1. I hope so! There's still so many place I want to go to!

      Oh, and thanks - I love that shirt


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