Not an ordinary stop on the way

Driving in New Mexico from Santa Fe to Taos (or going in the other direction, of course) you can choose to pass through Chimayó. Do! And take the time to make the very little detour to visit El Santuario de Chimayó. This little gem, a  National Historic Landmark, is an important pilgrimage site and I read that it gets some 300,000 visitors every year.

The morning I was there it was virtually empty (the figure on the left in the photo is a statue, not a visitor).

It was so peaceful.

There were many indications that this peaceful morning was an exception: the area was lined with little shops and stands that sold rosaries, candles, crucifixes, religious art work of various kinds etc.

But somehow I’m sure that the charm of the little church and its surroundings is still there even when the place is full of tourists and pilgrims.

My stop was meant to be a short one, an extended coffee stop with some culture on the side, but it turned into an uplifting cultural stop with some coffee on the side. The coffee, by the way, was enhanced (?) with chili powder. Not quite to my taste but maybe to yours?

Please stay with the group!

Before visiting the US Southwest, I knew very little about pueblos, Puebloans or ancient pueblo cave dwellings. In brief:  Puebloans are Native Americans who share agricultural, material and religious practices. There are currently 19 Pueblos that are still inhabited.

The Puye Cliff complex, not far from Santa Fe, New Mexico, is situated on Santa Clara Pueblo land and comprises cliff dwellings and, on the mesa top, the ruins of a big village.

These dwellings were inhabited roughly from 900 to 1580, and the site makes for a very interesting glimpse into ancient pueblo culture.

The location is beautiful, with stunning views of the Rio Grande Valley and mountains in the distance.

The two levels of cliff dwellings and the mesa top can be accessed by paths, stairways and ladders. Since I’m afraid of heights, I didn’t feel particularly attracted by the prospect of having to climb tall ladders, so I was very pleased to hear that the guided visit that would suit us best time-wise started with a jeep ride to the mesa top.

The first thing our guide said was “Please stay with the group!”

It seemed quite difficult to get lost on the flat mesa top, so someone said something witty. “We have quite a few snakes up here”, the guide continued. Everybody stayed with the group.

We didn’t have to climb any ladders to get up, but we were supposed to use the ladders to get back down.

I had taken it for granted that transport would be provided also downhill, so I panicked a little. You can see an example ladder in the photo below. This is one of the least scary ones, and had it been only for this one, I wouldn’t have hesitated.

But I did get a ride down and I wasn’t alone in the jeep either.

Whether you are fond of climbing ladders or not, I warmly recommend a visit to the Puye cave dwellings to learn about ancient pueblo culture and to marvel at the vistas from the mesa top. But remember to stay with the group!

 

The splash in the back

On a lovely warm Sunday afternoon in October last year I discovered the path that follows the coastline along the Cap d’Antibes peninsula on the French Riviera. 

I can’t remember why, but I turned around after a while. Maybe I was hungry, maybe I had forgotten to bring a water bottle, maybe I had something to do later in the afternoon.

On a lovely warm Friday afternoon in November, just a few days ago, I thought that I would take this lovely walk again. I was well prepared and had no intention to turn back this time but to do the full circuit.

Since there was hardly any wind at all I was surprised to see that the sea was a bit agitated. To my great delight the waves formed very photogenic spray when they hit the rocks along the beginning of the path.

As I continued walking the waves became a bit more violent and the splashes, spray and froth were fascinating to look at. I had a great time with my camera!

Time passed (I’m always very slow when walking with my camera) and the sea was getting rougher. I hadn’t had so much fun for a long time!

And ooops! A water hedge appeared next to me!

The path ahead was actually covered in water, I saw on closer inspection, an inspection which was abruptly interrupted:

Ok, I thought, after such a big wave there won’t be another one like that for a while, so there will be enough time to pass this wet part of the path. 

I was hit in the back by an enormous wave and thrown onto the rocks. Luckily I only hurt my leg a little. But of course I was totally soaked, my trainers were filled with water, my hair was dripping. The only thing to do was to get back to the car as fast as possible and go home. People I met were staring at me, probably thinking I had tried to have a swim with my clothes on.

So I didn’t make the full circuit this time either.

But what about the camera around my neck? Strangely enough it seemed ok at first sight, with only a few drops on it, so I felt quite relieved. But it isn’t ok. Salt water must have gotten into it after all. I’m heading to Uganda in two weeks time, it must be fixed by then.