Crossing over into New Mexico, the terrain changes, as well as the temperatures. The rain soaked lands of Missouri are a distant memory as we drive through dry parched plains, sandy coloured land which is a dark red underneath the top layers. Scrub and bush cover the land and there is evidence of many dried up creek and river beds. The landscape is just like in the cowboy films and as we are passing through native Apache lands we expect to see them lined up on the ridges as we pass!Santa Fe is a beautiful old city which had a holiday feel to it, maybe because today is a Sunday. As they say around here.. its not new and its not Mexico, but its also not modern day American either! An eclectic mix of ethnicity and styles is very evident. Spanish, Mexican, Native Indian with a bit of modern day America thrown into the mix. The building are very much as we imagine Mexican buildings to be, or have we seen to many spaghetti westerns? As we walk around we notice the similarities between many of the products on display for sale and Egyptian traditional jewellery (lots of Turquoise which is mined locally) and also Aborigine decoration (dot art).
We left Santa Fe travelling down the Turquoise Trail, a scenic drive through the Ortiz Mountains. The views are great, you can see for miles across the plains with mountain ranges in the background haze. Stopping in Madrid (not the Spanish one!!) we walked along the street and enjoyed the quirky shops and galleries along the way. Stopping for a coffee at a lovely shaded cafe the waiter was telling us about their speciality slow smoked brisket on biscuit with chillies and barbecue sauce with chips and salsa on the side…. you guessed, we couldn’t resist, but we shared one thankfully as the plate was huge.
Arriving in Albuquerque we stopped in the Downtown area, and soon got back to the car as other than the Amtrak and Greyhound stations there was nothing of interest other than a couple of drunks! We did however venturing further find the old Town, similar to Santa Fe but smaller and quieter but lovely to walk around and take in the atmosphere.
Our plan for today was to visit the Petroglyphs National Monument just on the outskirts of Albuquerque. There are a number of sights to visits to view the ancient petroglyphs as well as a volcano. The weather didn’t look to promising with huge black clouds closing in, and as we made our way to the first site a huge lightening bolt just in front of us didn’t help our fears we would have to call off our walks. Luck was with us though. We walked round two different sites which had intriguing drawings on the volcanic rocks. Amr on the hunt for rattlesnakes as I was scouring the rocks for more drawings! Apparently done thousands of year ago by ancestors of the Peoblo Indians it is amazing the have survived. Why they were done is anyone’s guess, some look like animals, others quite honestly like early versions of the Jetsons!!
The Black Volcano was a nice walk but slightly underwhelming, but the beautiful flowering cacti were a delight to behold, deep pinks and vibrant yellows, in among the scrub and brush. The views across the city to the mountains on the other side was fabulous. A picnic in the shade was well earned, even the way nod was welcome in the heat and his third altitude.
Our hotel for the night was built in the 1930’s for the film stars filming westerns out here. Reminiscent of a cowboy saloon the walls are adorned with pictures of film stars, and the rooms are all named after famous people who have stayed in them. (We are in one of the cheaper motel type rooms so no such glamour I’m afraid!) we did absorb the atmosphere though by dining in the restaurant on a selection of Mexican food, choosing to go ‘christmas’ on the chillies! (The choice is red green or a mix is Christmas!)
Well, what a night! At 4am, we were woken by thunder that sounded like cannonballs, so near and loud it shook the room and bed! Lightening that lit up the room despite the curtains being well and truly shut, went on for over an hour and a half. This morning we opened the curtains… to snow! A good covering on the ground and cars and still falling when we left the hotel, after a leisurely breakfast hoping it would clear. Visibility was poor on the interstate but that didn’t stop the huge juggernauts racing as though there was no tomorrow towards their destination. As we progressed we could see small chinks of light in the blackness of the clouds and had our fingers crossed that by the time we reached the National Petrified Forest National Park it would at least not be raining.