American Update #6 – New Mexico!

We hit the road from Denver to Santa Fe in New Mexico – about 6 hours drive time in total. Can’t help but think that that would cover pretty much the whole length of Scotland.

To break up the driving, Natalie entrusted me with her sporty black car. Brave woman. I handled the task valiantly, although since it was an automatic there was no gear changes, and I just had to bash along the dual carriageway (‘highway’) and avoid getting pulled over by the police, who seemed to be everywhere.

There was this area called ‘Camel Rock’ – can you guess why it may have gotten its name?

Santa Fe is cool, but in a totally different way to Denver. The buildings are much more Mediterranean in style, and the Native American influence is fairly clearly evident throughout. They do some crazy things like hang chilis from buildings in great big bunches:

We saw some ‘yoofs’ throwing beer cans onto the street from a multi-storey car park, and then an old man walking a dog picking up the cans and throwing them back up at them. It was awesome.

This is Natalie, trying to figure out where on earth we were.

The biggest thing on sale was jewelry – most using ‘turquoise’ – traditional Native American made, but there was also a whole host of expensive, strange statues of animals and things.

The whole city was eerily quiet as people were heading out of the centre towards somewhere for the burning of Zozobra, which we stumbled upon by accident. It was sold out, and getting late, so after looking round Santa Fe for a while, we decided to head the extra hour up the road to meet Mark, our Couchsurfing host for the night.

We had been joking about how strange the whole situation was – Mark currently works and lives right up in the ‘Bandelier National Monument’ –  a National Park near Los Alamos, which is famous for discovering or creating the first ever atomic bomb. Not exactly something you’d want to shout about I’d imagine.

As we got closer and closer though, it seemed weirder and weirder. It was pitch black, in the middle of nowhere; there were nuclear ‘tech areas’ dotted all around; we couldn’t get mobile reception; Mark wasn’t picking up our calls, and finally this was what greeted us as we neared our destination on the Sat Nav:

Errrr… Right. It was really creepy.

However, we eventually got a hold of Mark and he explained that the road was closed off because of a huge fire a couple of months ago, and that we had to turn right at the sign to get to the employee accomodation. He had got all of our calls and texts in a flood since the reception is so bad up there.


So he wasn’t a crazy killer at all, and even gave us the last two bottles of his home-brewed beer.

It was really cool Couchsurfing together at somebody else’s place, and the three of us hanging out together just confirmed the generosity and shared open-mindednes that the whole thing is about… the whole thing really is crazy, but makes traveling a lot more accessible, cheaper, and most importantly, a lot more personal. Staying in a hotel would have been far less unpredictable, but also meant that we were a lot more disconnected and separate from the actual place that we were in.

Mark’s ‘trailer’ was actually a really cool place, and he’d even managed to rig up a satellite internet link. Pretty impressive given where we were located. He shrugged off living out in the middle of nowhere, and casually said that bears and snaked and coyotes were always kicking around about outside.

He sort of lived up to the crazy mountain-ranger stereotype of living out in the woods and being a bit mental, but very friendly. He said that they’d joke with the visitors and play up to the whole thing by making out they didn’t have a clue what was going on.

Apparently they had just discovered a massive marijuanna growing operation in the hills in or near the park, and had a whole host of law enforcement people swarming around, flying the plants away in helicopters before burying it all four feet under the ground near where Mark was staying. He told us he had a plan to dig a tunnel, but that it’d probably take years to get there; we were welcome to grab a shovel and start it off though.

I’m not entirely sure if he was joking or not.

Here are the customary Couchsurfer and Host photos.

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