On the journey from Trout Lake to Albuquerque we opted for the back roads and drove through some small and interesting rural communities which included a buffalo farm, a donkey farm and a lone camel with two humps. After 6 hours of driving we arrived into Albuquerque to the home of Cam’s cousin, Steve where we would be staying for the next few days.
For the first couple of days while Steve was away we explored the city and the popular tourist area of Old Town. Old Town was founded in 1706 and provides an historical snap shot of a traditional colonial Spanish town. The adobe style buildings which were once houses, are centred around the small plaza and are now the many shops and boutiques selling traditional Native American, New Mexican and Hispanic works. It was a pleasure strolling through the area absorbing the casual atmosphere and checking out the mixture of art for sale.
For the remainder of the week we enjoyed the company of Steve and his girlfriend Tara. Together we ventured about an hour north for a day trip to the capital city, Santa Fe. Santa Fe has a similar feel to the Old Town of Albuquerque, it is centred around a plaza and maintains its’ strong Spanish influence. Santa Fe is one of the biggest art centres in the US, with artists migrating to the city over the years to capture the unusual natural environment combined with the cultural mix of Native American Indians and the Spanish.
We visited the Saint Francis Cathedral and the Loretto Chapel known for its’ miracle freestanding spiral staircase, and then enjoyed a delicious New Mexican lunch. This cuisine differs from Mexican with the use of the local green and red chilli (its the same chilli but at different stages of ripeness).
Heading back to Albuquerque as the sun set we took a ride on the world’s longest tram - about 6km one way progressing to the 3000 metre summit. As the sky bleed beautiful pinks and oranges we were provided with gorgeous views over the city and surrounding country side, a superb way to round off the day.
On our final day we took a drive about 100km out of town to visit the Acoma Pueblo, a Native American community built on top of a sandstone mesa and one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States. Settled in the 12th century by the Native Americans, the Spaniards invaded in 1598 and over time the community decreased from 2000 to 250 survivors. Thirteen families still live in the Pueblo (or village) today without running water or electricity (though there are a couple of generators for some).
With summer temperatures reaching 50C and winter as low as 30C below, these people do incredibly well to maintain the traditional way of life. The walking tour of the village took us through the church, cemetery and small streets while hearing of stories of the people, religion, wars and agriculture over time. We learnt a lot and it was great to at last visit a functioning Native American community before we leave the US. This community in particular proved to be very entrepreneurial and manages to provide an income for themselves through the tourist dollar while appearing to maintain and restore their cultural identity in the modern world. We were very impressed. We ended the day at a health spa with a sauna and hot tub, followed by another yummy home cooked Mexican dinner.
Thanks so much to Steve and Tara, we had a lot of fun with you guys and were very spoilt. It was great for Cam to see the city that Steve has been living in for the past 16 years. We look forward to hanging out next year when you visit NZ!
The next day we head off early for our long-long drive across state to our home away from home Dallas, Texas.