Upper Towy at Dinas RSPBUpper Towy at Dinas RSPBUpper Towy at Dinas RSPB
Pictures are the actual area described in the account below

An extract from the autobiagraphical novel
'Crystal Journey'
Ivan Macbeth

Just before Winter Solstice I hitched up the valley from Llandovery, past Rhandirmwyn and into the valley leading to Llynn Brianne. About three miles upstream, another smaller valley joins the main one. In the centre of this three-way Hecate's confluence a tall black pyramid-shaped hill stands, surrounded by water. A very striking landscape indeed: it was perfect for my needs. Snow partially covered the ground and it actually felt quite Christmassy.

I left the road and walked along a well-kept pathway, noting that I had just entered a nature sanctuary and that it was protected. The hill was covered by an oak wood, the black trees slightly stunted at that altitude giving them a strange, goblin sort of feel. I let myself be swallowed in the shadowy, protective gloom and it felt comforting. I felt that I was travelling further and further back through time, deeper and deeper into the hidden magical realms of Cymru. Finally, on the opposite side of the hill and hidden from the road, I started to search for the cave.

I soon found it, and was disappointed to see that the roof had collapsed. I had the certainty that I was in the right place, however, and continued my search for a suitable shelter. As the light faded and the trees grew quiet, I found what I was looking for. By a stretch of the river that foamed and roared over rapids, directly above a strange, huge waterworn boulder called Merlin's Rock, I found the spot that would be my home for the next few days. It was a small cave, an overhang, really, just big enough to sit out of the elements in front of a cheerful fire.

My sleeping space was a dry hole among car-sized boulders which teetered alarmingly on top of one another like a megalithic card-house, the entrance being only two feet high. My mattress was a thickly layered heap of dried leaves collected by the resident wind-whirlpool elemental over many years.

With a sigh of delight and a distinct raising of spirits, I moved in. Soon a hot, sweet smelling oak fire was radiating like a beacon into the cold night, and my cooking pot was bubbling cheerfully in anticipation of supper. And then, replete, I felt the excitement of a new adventure stirring in my veins as the scintillating stars reached down to me through the black leafless twisted trees. I tested out my new sleeping quarters and they was not found lacking. The earth enveloped me, and I slept the sleep of the dead.

Merlin's Rock marks the throat chakra of the Earth Temple whose heart is at Rhandirmwyn. At this special healing place I made my base and explored the dreamscape. I flew like a raven, swam like a salmon and ran like a deer through the black forests of the Otherworld. Unfettered and free, I was No-one. None. Nun. With no past and no future, I could come and go as I pleased. I served none save the life-force which pulsed through my being and directed my actions. I danced, climbed trees, ranted and raved, meditated, sang, screamed, lived. Fully. No inhibitions, innocent again. Thoughtless. Without thought. The animals ran with me, the birds sang with me, and the mountains rang with the birth-pangs of the Mother herself, imprinted such an incredibly long time ago. And there the Silence hovered, waiting, pregnant. Stillness: perchance, a time to dream.

And then it was time to stalk crystals. On Christmas Day as the sun was rising over the south-eastern ridge of the surrounding hills I packed my rucksack, and walked along the steaming, rushing river towards Crystal Mountain. I stopped in at the Royal Oak for a welcome pot of tea, and warmed myself up in front of the roaring fire. I nattered with the staff. They had recently moved to Rhandirmwyn and were about to renovate the pub. They were full of tales about the strange and eccentric habits of the people living thereabouts and their experiences so far in the mountains.

Fortified against the cold and ready for anything, I climbed the mountain and was soon at the hole in the gully I had discovered while travelling with Roberta. I realised with surprise that I was deathly afraid, and explored my fear. I was about to leave the world as I knew it, with the earth, the trees, rivers and sky that I usually take for granted. Above ground, the rules of life are ruthless but known: there is a certain security about walking the surface of the world. Underground, on the other hand, is the place of darkness, of hell, the unknown or the 'nether regions'. Here there are imprinted feelings of evil, of worms, of snakes, of scorpions, of shadows, of ghosts, demons and unconsciousness.

These imprints were well activated in my psyche that morning! I was aware that I was going to descend alone, and there would be nobody to help if anything went wrong. I decided that there were few nastier deaths than being buried alive maybe for days with no hope of rescue, incapacitated and unable to make it to safety. My imagination came up with all those really excruciating ways I could die in unutterable horror and agony over an extended period of time and still didn't exhaust the possibilities! By this time I was shaking in my boots and was experiencing pure terror.

Sometimes I really wonder about me.... I do the most outrageous things in my everyday life and could be described as brave, or daring, yet I am so timid and fearful at the same time! Maybe truly courageous people don't need to place themselves in dangerous situations, as they are already complete and whole. Hum.

Still, my mind meanderings served a purpose. By the time I had completed, I could leave my fears, my mental and emotional baggage, and all those possessions that I didn't really need at the entrance of the hole. The luxury of travelling light! The likelihood of anyone passing by was pretty remote, and I perversely wondered if I would ever emerge and reclaim them again. When I was ready, I took a deep breath and wriggled head first through the narrow aperture and landed with a thump on the floor of the mine shaft. I picked myself up and checked that my equipment was in order.

All O.K. I switched on my bicycle torch and peered into the darkness. Learning from the past, I had tied it onto my jacket sleeve with a rainbow shoelace. Light! A passageway, won from solid rock and glinting with quartz and water droplets, invited me into the mountain. It was a bit flooded in places although only a few inches deep, and turned a corner some way ahead.

I proceeded with caution. I moved slowly along the shaft, taking my time. Strange luminous shapes like snowflakes shone silver from the rock as I passed. They seemed to be some sort of metal, lead or silver, I guessed. The tunnel was tall enough for me to stand up for most of its length, but I always had to be on the alert for the few stretches of roof ready to give me a painful bump. Shadows and stealthy movement flickered around me as I walked. Cobwebs and strange insect-like shapes caught my attention out of the corner of my eyes, and were then gone.

Silence, darkness. The reflection of light off water and crystal, the crunch of small rocks underfoot. All around me there were incessant drips of water echoing with hollow detonations, and the sound of a waterfall rumbled in the distance. I became aware of the elemental and mythical beings who are reputed to live inside mountains deep below the surface of the earth. I could feel their eyes on me every step of the way. I remembered that time, not so long ago, when I was afraid of the dark. I gave thanks for the distance I had travelled since that low-energy time of my life. I suddenly realised that I was 'keeping an appointment' at a very powerful energy centre on the land. I felt that as long as I respected whatever I met along the way and didn't lose my centre due to fear, it would be allright. I was invited, just as much as I wanted to visit!

The realisation that I have an appointment somewhere has a special significance for me. I feel as if I have been given full permission by the universe to 'be' at the time and place designated. It takes matters completely out of the plane of personalities where doubts and fears are always lurking just under the surface. There is a certainty that all is as it should be, and I am automatically transported into the realms of Spirit where I feel empowered.

In that space I can totally trust and am fully alert to the internal whisperings that guide me on my task. I feel alive and in contact with the courage that is needed to fulfil my task. How I look forward to the day when this blessed state of consciousness is constant, and has become a steadfast ally during my normal, everyday life!

Happily I negotiate the flooded areas without getting wet. There always seems to be a ledge or a stepping stone on which to balance in the difficult stretches. The passageway starts to bend and I step carefully. The sound of rushing water becomes much louder, and I become aware of an increasing number of crystal signs in the glittering walls. I see quite a few quartz seams already plundered by treasure seekers, and many disturbed pockets of snapped-off crystals. My heart feels heavy at this wanton damage, yet I carry on still full of hope and purpose. I walk along another straight stretch, then around another bend.

As I edge around the corner into an open space, my heart stops. In front of me yawns a huge hole which encompasses the entire width of tunnel. It is a vertical shaft maybe fifteen feet in diameter, allowing no passage around its edge. I shine my torch down its throat and see how a stream, bursting through a crack just below the surface of the passageway, hurtles down the shaft to hit the bottom some unimaginable depth below. Riveted to the spot, I stare in despair at this insurmountable barrier to my continued progress into the mountain.

And then something changes gear. My eyes refocus and I see two wooden planks stretching over the chasm. They are the usual two-by-four type of building wood, shored up by some flaky, severely rusted supports. I am terrified, for I know without a shadow of a doubt that I have to cross them to the other side. I look at these two pathetically thin pieces of wood, feel my considerable bulk, and contemplate the immense, yawning space that starts directly below the pieces of wood. This is insane.

I am no rock climber or caver, and am terrified of heights. Despite that, I have been able in the past to accomplish so-called impossible tasks when driven by what I call Spirit. In this state there is no possibility of failure, for I am under guidance, and to refuse to do what I feel to do is tantamount to denying Spirit and everything I have been working towards. There is no problem in being afraid, only in not doing what I know is a task set for me by Spirit.

So, heart in mouth, I get down on my hands and knees and, with my shoulder bag swinging wildly against my chest, start to crawl. One leg rests on each of the parallel wooden bars. They bend menacingly. Gently, slowly. Senses alert for the slightest indication of danger. I know that, if any sign is given, it will be too late to do anything but I still play the game. I shine the light downwards and see no bottom or end to the glittering crystal tube. Oh Shit!

Half way across. If something is going to give, it will be now. Suddenly I jump as a loud hollow sound assaults my ears. It echoes, dwindling in volume, and fades into the distance. It is my poor flute, fallen from my shoulder bag and now destined to remain silent until the end of time.

It feels as if I'm in a dream, and I look at the scene from above as Ivan does outrageous things below me. If I slip and fall into the abyss, I'm sure that I will watch myself with scientific interest, pay my last respects, and continue my crystal journey as if nothing had happened! I wonder if my friends would be able to tell the difference.

Hey! Don't get distracted! I slide my body slowly, inexorably onwards and I feel that the worst is over. Somewhere, wood changes into rock and gooey clay yet I still crawl slowly forward until I'm at a respectful distance from the edge. Shaking, disbelieving, I get to my feet and laugh nervously, triumphantly. I get pictures of a magical, mystical 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' hero braving magical tests and horribly dangerous situations in order to save the planet by searching for.....what? To bring sacred treasure from the darkness of the Underworld into the light of day, I suppose. But where is my adoring, big-busted heroine, then? Maybe she's down here somewhere, or maybe I've just been given the wrong script.....

I can see from the clay underfoot that no-one has crossed the abyss in a long time. On the other side there were footprints and lots of bashed-about rock, but here there is a purity, an untouched and uninvaded feeling that is sweet, pleasant and just a little frightening. What if I don't do it right? I dismiss the thought and wonder how far it is possible to walk into the centre of the mountain. And what will I find? I shine my torch ahead, alert for any more holes in the floor, and advance carefully.

A few yards along the tunnel, I can feel the vibration of a large volume of water rushing below my feet in the solid rock, presumably the stream that is emptying itself into the vertical shaft behind me. Where the floor meets the wall, there is a crack maybe a foot wide in places and the torrent can plainly be seen. Making a conscious decision to proceed, I hurry along with my heart in my mouth and only slow down when I am well past.

I carry on and come to a minor cave-in. I scramble over the rubble, walk another thirty yards, and find a definitive blockage. There is no way I am going to mess with it: it seems ready to collapse at any disturbance. I estimate that I am approximately two hundred yards inside the mountain.

Having made my preliminary investigation of the shaft, I now retrace my steps. I have gone as far as I can go. I have been aware of many crystal indications in the passageway since crossing the abyss, and now I start to follow the spoor. It is strong and I become very excited. I move carefully and make no loud noises in order to reduce the chance of disturbing any loose rocks and being buried alive: I consider this fate a serious possibility. Musing on this cheerful fact, I stop at a large cavity in the wall to my left and illuminate it with the torch. It is a crystal cave maybe four feet in diameter, and filled with some of the largest crystals I have ever seen.

I have been blessed by the Crystal Beings. They seem to enjoy me working and spending time with them. They show me how to find them, and then instruct me in what I have to do. They are treasure indeed. I accept their gifts with deep gratitude and take responsibility for my part in their destiny. In the process I have had to get clear about both what I believe them to be, and the appropriate behaviour while working with them.

When I find crystals, it is usual for some to want to come with me, and others don't. Simple. Those that easily detach themselves from the rocky matrix, or are already loose, I take with me. Those that refuse to budge after being wiggled and 'talked to', I bless and leave.

There is a rule-of-thumb for crystal hunters. When crystals are visible and growing from solid rock, they want to stay. It is terrible to see crystal faces, once magical and beautiful sacred spaces, hacked about with hammer and chisel and now scarred for ever. These massacres are pointless: most of the delicate rainbow beings will have been shattered in the process, and the perpetrator will have secured only one or two crystal points for his trouble.

It is the formerly invisible crystals, those that reveal themselves for the first time, that truly want to be birthed into the light of day. It is fairly common to find seams of crystals, but it is a lot more difficult to find the special 'Mother Lodes' that are waiting for those who dream correctly, and whose dreams have come true.

These treasure troves are usually found along a quartz seam, one that indicates the presence of crystals, and are hidden to all but the dreamer's gaze. They occur in the form of crystal caves, or earthen wombs, packed higgledy-piggledy with a matrix of clay, earth and crystal debris. When such a womb is found, it takes a certain amount of wiggling, a bit of poking, and some patient scratching to start to free the crystals. It is amusing to realise that most people could look at and even touch such treasure troves without being even remotely aware of what was there right in front of their eyes!

I pray that more and more crystal beings will ripen, be found and circulate amongst people without financial transaction. I pray also that those crystals attached to rock, having shone their radiant crystal beauty for millions of years, will be honoured by all and allowed to shine on for the delight of adventurers for millions of years to come.

I came out of my reverie and inspected the crystal cave in front of me. At some time in the past many of its crystals had been taken. This didn't worry me, for I could tell that most were the 'outside and sticking on the rock face' sort. There were plenty left. I loosened a few and they came away from their invisible womb-spaces quite easily. Aware that my torch batteries wouldn't last for ever, I started to test the crystals methodically and placed them, wet and plastered with clay, into the voluminous pockets of my coat. After twenty minutes, I figured that I had as many as wanted to come and it felt great.

I then noticed a small chamber leading off the top of the recessed crystal cave. It caught my attention and wouldn't let go. It was too high to reach so I carried some debris over from the roof-fall, placed it on the tunnel floor just below the crystal chamber, and stood on it. Stretching upwards as far as I could, I reached into the chamber and froze. If the sensations on the tips of my fingers were correct, here were some monsters! With one hand I hung on to my precarious perch for dear life, with the other I gently worked the crystals loose and celebrated as some wonderful single points and some massive clusters emerged from the darkness.

I had to be careful as all this activity was taking place directly above my head. One slip and a very heavy crystal could plummet down onto my skull with possibly disastrous results, and definitely lots of pain! One very nearly did, but luckily it missed my head and gave my shoulder a glancing blow before falling to the ground. What was absolutely horrible about my position was the fact that, as each crystal became liberated, a volume of fine, yellow-brown clay would also celebrate its freedom in gloopy abandon.

Unlike the crystals which would find their way immediately into my pockets, the clay would ooze excitedly down the glistening slope above my head until it met a peculiar ridge on the roof of the cave. This prevented it from oozing any longer. From then on it fell directly onto my head, with the sound of a thousand creamy cow-pats slapping against my cranium. Chinese water torture had nothing on this! From my vulnerably protesting crown it started to ooze again, revelling in its oozicity, into two major channels: one down my front, the other down my back. The former stream dribbled down my face, off my chin and onto my chest. From there it ran down my coat into pockets and through buttonholes, soggying trousers and slimying shoes. The other, infinitely more insidious stream slurped down the back of my neck onto warm, sensitive flesh. I could feel it working its insipid way lower and lower down my spine. Yeeeeuurg!

Another large crystal cluster whistled past my head and I knew it was time to go. I had taken all I needed and I stepped off the rickety mound onto solid ground once again. Phew!

Weighed down with crystals and gelatinous mud, I collected myself and started to walk back towards the entrance. Suddenly I became eager to see the sunlight again, the trees dancing in the breeze, and to hear the birds singing. I reached the vertical shaft, and on an impulse, opened my shoulder bag and found one of the rubies I had brought back with me from India. It twinkled blood-red as it flew through the foaming star-filled darkness and found its home at the centre of the Earth.

I felt almost double my original weight on the way out. I held my breath over the abyss as if that would help: it didn't. However, I am here to tell the tale, so the makeshift bridge didn't snap, either. I reached the other side with a prayer of gratitude, and walked happily towards the pool of light that indicated the gateway back to the world from which I had come. There was a slightly scary moment when I couldn't remember how to contort my body and successfully wriggle out of the hole, but soon I had it worked out and emerged onto the wonderful surface world again. Our life on this amazing, paradisiac planet is so often taken for granted, until we are put into a situation where its continued existence is put in doubt. Perhaps this is why I risk my life, or so often find myself in life-threatening situations: simply because I am so addicted to, and love the sensations of life so much.

I realised that I had emerged from the depths like the Thing from the Swamp, dribbling and oozing yellow-brown puddles everywhere. As I walked out of the gully, all mundane thoughts such as my immediate state of cleanliness were forgotten when I beheld the view. The sun entered his lover, the Earth, in gold and red flames which were reflected everywhichway by pools of snow. The sky mutated before my eyes and became pink and soft as the feathers of a thousand flamingos. The view over the sleepy land was out of this world. In a deep state of euphoria, I sat down upon a crystal-shot rock, and contemplated the gentle light-show.

I rolled a mucky cigarette and mulled over what had just happened.

With thanks to