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Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Monday, November 12, 2007

About an hour to the northwest of Santa Fe are the Jemez Mountains and an area called the Bandelier National Monument. This is actually the remains of an Indian Pueblo in the canyon, dating back some 10,000 years (who says the Americans have no history). We went to take a look, again, an incredible drive where the countryside changes from just a flat desert to the shallow rolling hills before the craggier mountainous switchback roads.
 We stopped at White Rock overlook to see the Rio Grande cutting its own canyon for as far as you could see (a long way!).
As for Bandelier itself those Indians built into the caves on the canyon wall as well as a huge settlement close to the Frijoles Creek (El Rito de los Frijoles, Spanish for "the little river of beans"). We can understand why they picked this spot as it was a very pleasant little canyon though maybe their reasons were a bit more practical - a good constant source of water, good "farming" and animals to hunt. However, those cave homes gave a few access problems - 140 feet up ladders for instance!
Being there you could imagine it all bustling with life as it is estimated that the canyon population reached an all time high of something like 700 in the late 1400's. Many of the caves are inaccessible but we were free to explore any that did have ladders up to them and even Betsy managed the near vertical climbs on some of them (I actually think she was more at ease with the climbing than I was)
and we were both impressed with how the people overcame the hardships of what was just everyday life. Can you imagine setting off to hunt in the morning, climbing 140' down from your front door only to realise you've left your knife back "upstairs" - bugger!


Returning from Bandelier we went via a town called Los Alamos, a bit further round the mountainside.
Los Alamos started life as just a farm, a bit of a "Dude Farm" actually where frail young rich boys from the east came to be "toughened up". Well in the early 1940's the government bought the place and set up the "Manhattan Project". Los Alamos became America's research lab and as for that Manhattan Project, they didn't come up with a new style for the catwalk. They restyled the world by producing a couple of bombs - one they dropped on Nagasaki, the other on Hiroshima.
 
 Well, the war ended, we got nuclear power, rockets put men on the moon and now we have the space station - that's progress for you.
In the 40's Los Alamos was turned from a ranch into a town, it's now a bigger town and an even bigger lab. The progression from that wartime atomic research to today's scientific discovery centre for just about everything means it is now one of the world's premier scientific institutions with an annual budget of over $2 billion.
I found it a fascinating place - there are a number of museums (all free, a bonus for us) with numerous artefacts and stories, Betsy was taken in by the personal stories and "shenanigans" of the people that worked there, I tried to take in the enormity of the work that was done. One story I read from one of those original workers struck a chord as to why things progressed so quickly - there was a lack of bureaucracy - no "red tape". If a scientist wanted something made in a workshop he just took his sketch in, materials were obtained and it was made. People were encouraged to use the facilities one guy had his old car completely stripped down re-sprayed and rebuilt in his use of the facilities. Sounds like a good place to work and they still "got the job done". If you want to know more, how about this: http://www.mbe.doe.gov/me70/manhattan/establishing_los_alamo s.htm

Well with a load more info in the old grey matter we headed off home to get some of it down before it all runs out again to make room for the next day's adventure.
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