The road to Denver....Bandelier, Taos & Leadville

Trip Start Dec 11, 2010
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Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed

Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

As we left Santa Fe, we weren't exactly sure where we were going and where we would end up. We knew we had to be in Denver in the next 2-3days. We were aiming for Taos as our first stop but detoured to the Bandelier national monument after hearing about it on our walk the previous day. Bandelier is in the Frijoles canyon and is an area where the native Americans lived in the 1300s. They were nomadic so came and went but used the small caves that were naturally formed by a volcano thousands of years earlier. They dug the caves out further and made them homes with Kivas which were special ceremonial bunkers under the ground. We walked a 3mile trail which took us along these canyon walls...that looked like Swiss cheese and into some of the caves. The most amazing cave was 40metres off the ground and used four ladders to get up there. It was really big and surprisingly protected from the wind. As we walked back along the trail we enjoyed the birds chirping, a woodpecker pecking and a squirrel jumping about. Little did I know the squirrel was actually eating a worm at the time. Phin got an amazing shot of it!!
On the road again and we pulled in to a petrol station for some food from a van. It was shredded pork and catfish in BBQ sauce...sounds gross hey...but it was phenomenal! That with some coleslaw and we were very happy post lunch.
We drove to Taos and as we were too late to see the pueblo, we decided to stay the night so we could see it in the morning. It was raining and three degrees so no car sleeping, we were staying in a motel. We checked out a famous adobe church and then wandered the galleries in town, it is a very artistic place. We saw some amazing paintings and sculptures but as the shops closed we drove to the cheapest motel we could find. It was surprisingly fantastic! Nice room, comfy bed, cable tv and breakfast in the morning...which included waffles. On the recommendation by an artist we spoke to in a shop we went to a restaurant called Antonio's for dinner. 
The artist had told us that they make guacamole fresh right in front of you at the table...how could we not try it!! And it was soooo good! Best guacamole I have ever had. I think it was 2 avocados, spring onion, red onion, diced tomato and some sour cream..wow! We also had a glass of delicious sangria and shared some not so great fish tacos.
Next morning we were planning on being up early but clearly enjoying sleeping in a hotel bed too much as we slept through the alarm by 45 minutes!! Whoops! It had been snowing outside over night so definitely a good decision to not stay at Walmart! We quickly packed up and had some breakfast...Phin very happy to have a waffle and drove out to Taos pueblo. This is the biggest native American village still running as such in the area. They do not have any water or electricity coming from outside their village and no non member can go on to their land without permission. This extends over 1000acres to the blue lake which feeds in to their river catchment. We were allowed to walk in certain areas of the village and looked at the church and cemetery, the biggest pueblo building with over 100 rooms inside, along the waters edge -which was amazingly crystal clear and into the little shops that they had for the tourists. We purchased some baked goodies from one of the ladies who had baked it in an adobe oven and an amazing ornament that was made out of clay and fired in the oven. Really cool. We were very glad we had stayed as it was definitely worth the visit.
From there we detoured via a drive through ATM and over the rio grande gorge (on the second biggest truss bridge in the US) to Earthships.
Earthships are buildings that are popping up around the world. They are designed to be 100% self sufficient and use recycled products such as tyres and drink cans for walls, glass bottles for sky lights and windows. They re use water four times and use solar energy for lighting and electrical stuff. They are crazy looking but do have some clever ideas and definitely interesting from an Architectural point of view. 
At that point we has two options...
1. Take another night and drive to the left of the Rockies through a few snow towns and over a pass to Denver
Or
2. Go straight up past the twin lakes to Leadville on the Rockie mountain scenic byway and get to Denver tonight.
We opted for option number two. We decided it would be nice to be in Denver and were still happy with the scenery we were forecast to see ahead.
Having driven past thousands of taco bells in the last 6 weeks we decided we better stop to try it. It was ok. Wasn't the most unhealthy fast food which was good but I wouldn't say it was amazing.
As we continued to drive toward Leadville we could see the storm clouds ahead of us..by the time we got to twin lakes..it was snowing and a complete white out!!! I am sure the lake with the rockies behind is beautiful. We just couldn't see anything! We drove further along and saw a few more glimpses and then headed back to the first lookout out point. We waited for it to clear, but it didn't, so we drove on to Leadville. 
As we drove along the snow just got heavier. By the time we arrived in Leadville a thick blanket of snow was lining the streets, peoples front yards and covering the cars. We pulled into the Leadville Saloon and stopped to have a drink. It was like going back in time in a western movie. We walked in and there is this lady standing behind the bar with a strong southern accent serving all these men sitting on bar stools. We walked through some saloon doors and into a dark booth where we sat and looked at all the paraphenalia that lined the walls. It was fascinating. We had a beer...well I drank about half, it's just not my thing, and then got back in the car for the last two hours of the drive to Denver. Snow was covering the roof, bonnet and side mirrors when we got back to the car and as we drove along the highway we climbed up and over a mountain pass where it was so thick it was like we were driving to go skiing! It wasn't until we were less than 30minutes from Denver city centre that the snow eventually dissipated. 
We arrived outside Phillip's(Phin's mums boyfriend) apartment block as he was getting in a taxi to pick up Val (Phin's mum) from the airport
We emptied the car...it took at least four loads to get our stuff up there an still no sd card :( but finally the car looked normal again, we had a shower and semi organized our stuff...just as we finished Val and Phillip were back and after hugs all around we sat down to champagne and nibbles and chatted for ages, catching up on the last 5months.

May 18 Update
Lisa: “Don't you hate when you do something without thinking as you are concentrating on something else...and the ramifications of not thinking are so frustrating and annoying!!! that's where I'm at right now..."
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