Santa Fe is one of the oldest settlements in the USA, being founded by the Spanish in 1608. Of course the original inhabitants had founded many settlements long before this – we would see many of them in the next few weeks – but this is a definite date and more than a decade before the Pilgrim Fathers.
Its a rather strange place. The buildings are not original but are built in a style which present day people think the Spanish should have built in. The building materials are modern but are covered with “faux-adobe” pronounced fodobe. It is full of rather well off New Age people. Art Galleries abound and we are told that it is “Very Spiritual”!
The place is at an altitude of 7,200 feet and, at the end of April, when we were there, it is rather chilly. We were staying in a rather nice old house which we had found on the VRBO website. We had stayed in a VRBO property in Hawaii, but that was for a month. Staying in the Santa Fe property introduced us to the possibility of shorter term rentals, arranged at short notice. As far as we were concerned this was a great discovery!
Not only is Santa Fe a spiritual place, so is the food. This is the first commercial food I have found where the recipe comes from the Bible!
We had wanted to go to Taos Pueblo, which is not far away, but it was too early in the season for it to be open. So instead we went to Bandelier National Monument. The main attraction are the ancient dwellings of the Anasazi people. We would see much of these over the next few weeks. In Bandelier they started building permanent buildings in about 1150AD, but they moved out about 1550 to live nearer the Rio Grande. And that is where they are still.
The ancient dwellings are in narrow canyons with their fields on the mesa tops. The canyons and their walls provided materials and sites for their houses. They had two sorts of houses – those on the canyon floor and those built against the canyon walls.
The ones on the canyon floor, at Bandelier, form a circular group.
The ones against the canyon walls often incorporate man made caves – the rock is a soft volcanic tuff – and require the use of ladders.
Often rafters would be inserted into the cliff face and supported at the other end by the outer wall of the house.
Often the houses would be multi-storied, as can be told by the rows of rafter holes in the cliff face.
The cliff and canyon bottom dwellings are close to one another.
Some of the dwellings, such as Alcove House, are high up on the cliffs and difficult of access.
Alcove House is in an overhang on a cliff face in which various structures were built, including a kiva – a pit thought to be used for community gatherings, perhaps of a religious nature.
There are also the vestiges of dwellings.
But once you get up to the Alcove House you have to get down again!
Then we had a walk back through the woods to the Visitor Centre.
I fear that this walk is rather different now; about two months later the largest forest fire in New Mexico’s history devastated Bandelier National Monument and this canyon has lost much of its forest cover and is now subject to flash flooding. I hope it recovers soon, because it was lovely.
After Santa Fe we were off to Colorado and that should be the subject of the next, catch-up, post.