Santa Fe, NM
Santa Fe, NM
Northern New Mexico - Vast landscapes, still wild and untamed - The Whiteman does NOT hold the lease on this country and the single roads just pass through. I imagine the landscape filled with Bison and making this trip 100+ years ago on horse – roadless and mappless not knowing what might lay ahead. The mind boggles how the pioneers made it at all – Apart from the road, the landscape remains natures own to this day and it is still Indian country, though only now in reservation form. As we pass the small and strange Adobe Native American homes I feel sad, but tell myself this is not my guilt (or is it?) so enjoy the passing poverty like a true tourist – Jen and I cannot help talking about it though – the what ifs, what now's and what has always been...
Somewhere between Roswell and Santa Fe we pull over at a Gas station for supplies, but this gas station has no gas. We go in and I am reminded of Colston Cross in Chard. This is its U.S. Wild West equivalent. Behind the counter overlooking the shops sparse supplies is a scary looking woman with both front teeth missing, who turns out to be very friendly, though she talks with a hiss. As we face the counter, behind us sits a huge cowboy type old timer, drinking coffee and eating M&Ms like there was nothing wrong with anything in the world. Big red face, ten gallon hat, belt buckle, jeans, cowboy boots and covered with dust. I asked to use the rest room and Jenny starts asking questions. The toothless woman is friendly and chatty and tells her this place used to be a busy agricultural town once upon a time, but folks moved away when the 'dustbowl' hit years back. 'No youngsters here no more' the old cowboy adds as I return from the bathroom. No-one remarks on my accent, (which they normally do in these small places) because they have already seen everything and everybody just pass through…
From Santa Fe to the small town of Taos is approximately one centimetre on our map, but it turns out to be 100miles away. Time, scale and distance out here mean nothing and I am continuously staggered by the vast spaces between what are only pockets of civilisation. The sun is slowly setting and we have to drive horrendous winding mountain roads, along the 'Rio Grande' river on 'Kit Carson Pass', climbing eventually 8000ft to a plateau where Taos sits flanked by snow covered mountain peeks. It is cold now and there is already snow at the roadside and ice too. It is Jenny's turn to drive and she is feeling understandably nervous.
The mixture between the winding road and Jenny's caution is hypnotising and I try to distract myself by watching only the roadside. The road to Taos is littered with mobile homes – 'trailers' in often shocking condition. I wasn't expecting to see such poverty in the United States of America, but here it is. Some trailers, once shinny steel, now stand sunk in mud and riddled with rust, all sideways and wonky at the roadside in long random scattered lines. Others, made of fibreglass and wood have the patched together quality of miss-matched and contrasting paint jobs – corrugated iron sheets leans at angles propped up outside in a state of temporary permanence - built for a day, but twenty years ago. All the trailers are occupied too and dim flickering blue Television lights illuminate dirty lace curtains hanging in misted up windows. I wonder about the lives within. How does one live up and out here, I cannot imagine. Every trailer appears to have at least one working car parked outside and at least two wreaks – wheeless and doorless husks, either propped up on bricks or collapsed with bonnets open like sick metal mouths puking engine parts. These old car parts litter the roadside and redundant tyres are stacked up everywhere. Some lots have children's swings and climbing frames outside slowly sinking in the red mountainside clay and others have the American flag flying from fence post flag poles, but it is limp, rain-sodden and soiled.
I read in the guidebook that Taos is famous for being one of the locations that the movie Easy Rider was filmed, back in 1969. Which scenes though, I am unsure. Back then Taos was a great 'hippy'and artist destination (D.H. Laurence moved here) and the surrounding area had 30 communes (more than any other place in the U.S.). Now, Taos still has the spirit of those times (kind of) and has a flourishing, but highly competitive, artists community. Every other shop is a gallery of some sort and still run by the original 'hippy' settlers; now middle aged but still dressed in tie dye and wearing (now grey) ponytails. Funny though as every one we chatted to seemed to talk only about money and property – either dreaming out loud about it, or gossiping about whose rich and whose not and how big their houses were and what they were worth and I found all of them, actually, were on the hustle for Jen and I's cash – eg: I bought a piece of coconut chocolate in one store and I was charged $11, which I officially class a daylight robbery (but with a 'hey man' and a smile).. Beautiful place though – the location absolutely breath (& cash) taking..
Outside Taos is a Native American village, which was highly recommended to visit, but we didn't. I felt weird about it and felt it like something from 'Brave New World'. White Americans could pay 10$ to enter, walk around and photograph the Native Americans going about their daily business.. Not my cup of tea really.. Imagine it the other way around? A crowd of American tourists watching and photographing me..