The paintings in the caves were so beautiful that I couldn't help stopping once in a while just to admire them. The colors and transitions were so impressive that the paintings looked as if the artists had done them with an airbrush instead of with mouths. Sitting in these caves surrounded by remote jungles and mountains made me feel like I was in a special dimension.
During the first half of the expedition I was walking around an area where an archaeologist had kept a cooking fire going for several days when my foot broke through the ground. The earth was still hot and it seeped into my boot, badly burning my foot. I had to leave the jungle to get treatment at a hospital and had only one good leg when I returned. It was very painful, and I had to use a stick to get around, but I didn't want to give up on finishing the assignment. Then when I finally completed the story and went home, I discovered that I had caught two different strains of malaria and had to go through a number of treatments.
It was incredible to see some of the hard-to-reach places where these hand paintings were made. To get to some of them, we strapped on security ropes to climb up 30-foot-tall (10-meter-tall) stalagmites. I have no idea how the people who made the paintings got up there, but it was kind of funny to think of them as free climbers. It's almost like they were trying to say, Hey, look where I was.