| Entry 21 of 58
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yes...im still here.
this is the first entry in a while on my part - ted is normally the only one with time as he types like a machine. dont think i havnt tried, computers have taken a recent dislike to me.
we are currently at ted's auntie's ranch just outside Santa Fe. it is our last night here - we've been here since the 22nd i believe. the ranch is pretty amazing and has kept us occupied for the few days that we've been here. everyones been really nice and its almost like being at home...but not quite. today we celebrated thanksgiving which was a first for ted, olly and I. i had to retire to my bed after the main course though - not from overeating (although i was stuffed) but from a headache. sucks.
so far at the ranch, we have amused ourselves on quads, dune buggies (there were two and we managed somehow to snap the axel on both, highly fixable fortunatly) and horses. also, today we had the pleasure of firing a gun for the the first time. it was pretty crazy. having something in your hand that you know is highly capable of killing something or even someone is a pretty horrible feeling. i was just hoping the my schizophrenic side didnt decide to show. we fired shotguns and clay pidgeons (hit 2 out of 3 twice - beginners luck im told), a semi automatic army assault rifle or something, handguns and a cowboy type gun.
the trip of america is almost over, we've driven 7876miles, been through many states, met many kind poeple (strangly they were all kerry supporters but im sure that was coincidence) and had an all round taste of a country that we are sure to come back to.
because we are leaving so soon, i thought id wrap up by recalling some of my most memorable experiences.
first off is something that happened only about a week ago - we were traveling through Indian country, it comprises of alot of reservations, the biggest one being the Navajo reservation. at the beginning of the trip we figured because we had such a big car, we may aswell help others but picking up hitch-ikers. until the indian reservations, we had picked up 2 people and that was for about 4 miles. however, driving trough this area there were loads. in one day we picked up five hitch-hikers, all of whom were Navajos. they all seemed extrememly friendly and one gave us a tour of a famous place called window rock. we learnt alot of their history and bits of their language. out of the five, 2 disclosed having been to prison although didnt say what for. this didnt really seem like a big deal for them so meant little to us - one even told us a story of the prison guards giving him a cupcake with one candle on for his birthday - he though this was highly amusing, he was also drunk off his face at the time. the same guy prayed for us saying we'll have a safe journey, pretty nice guy. since these encounters, we have been told how lucky we are and that no local ever picks up indians however from experience it was fine.
a funny experience happened which im sure the image will forever be saved in my mind, and on video as it happens. when we were in santa cruz staying at dina and daniels, olly pulled ted into the toilet to show him a problem he'd been having. ted being wise as he is got the video camera as soon as possible. it turned out that olly had blocked the toilet after what can only be presumed as a huge.... anyway, olly tried all sorts to unblock the toilet which included him putting his hand down to try to get rid of the blockage. when he thought he had got it, he would flush only to see the water rise higher. in the end, olly had to explain to dina the situation, advise her not to go in and leave it as we were late in meeting someone. when we got back, a plunger was found and the blockage finally subsided. this recently happened to someone else that wasnt me or olly but someone else.....i say no more.
i have more to say but no time. fiji is in a few days. bring on the sun.
So our American journey comes to an end. It's a bit silly really, but I would say that the best part has been in the gaping void between our San Francisco entry and this one. The south-west is the most beautiful area we've been through and the one I will be rushing back to most eagerly.
The craziest (crazy in all its forms is a word we have used often on this trip. Partly due to limited vocabulary, but also due to a certain aptness) period was the four hikes in four days in four national parks in two (bugger) states. Yosemite was awesome (not in the American generic sense). Our virgin hike was a 4.6 mile hike up 3000 feet to 7800 feet and then the return journey back to the valley floor. It was called the Four Mile Trail for reasons best known to the genius who named the hike. From the top we had incredible, nearly panoramic views of the valley below us, the sheer mountain the other side, two massive waterfalls, many trees (more than 100 I think) and Half Dome, which is a massive rock formation with a sheer face towards the valley and surprisingly half a dome on the other side. Olly tried to word-paint it - I'll let him explain what that is.
Then to Sequoia NP, the home of the greatest living things on the planet, the Giant Sequoia. We were just chilling with General Sherman, the largest of these giants, and all his mates in the Giant Forest. I'm talking about trees that can be as much as 40 feet in diameter, over 300 feet in height and live to well over 3000 years. When you look at it like that, all other things just seem a bit sloppy really.
Later the same day we bombed it to Death Valley NP - a fair drive. Arriving just as the sun was making the sky a navy blue rather than teh night-time black, I felt the urge for a morning stroll to the top of a 'nearby' 'outcrop'. With no sleep in over 24 hours, I walked with Olly for about a mile and a half, over a rock-strewn, barren landscape towards the ever-distancing mountain. After about an hour and a half we hadn't even reached the base of the fuck-off mountain, but we could see the sunrise on the mountains to the west. We could have seen them from the car, but I'd probably have slept if we'd stayed there. As the sun rose, we could properly see the most alien landscape we've seen so far: Almost no vegetation, although I took a picture of a tiny white flower I found growing out from between the rocks, loads of rocks, rough mountains all around and eroniously (as far as I was concerned) a quite substantial are of rolling sand dunes in complete contrast with the surroundings. We also hitched a lift for the first time ever on our return to the car.
I didn't sleep til that afternoon when we headed off to the Grand Canyon. Arriving there very late at night, we walked down from the South Rim the next day. We'd planned to get to the bottom and come back up again, not trusting our camping style, but were slightly put off by the ubiquitous signs prophesising serious illness or death for those who tried the 6 hour downhill stint and the 12 hour return leg in one day (they claimed to have evidence too). The views of the Canyon were a different kind of alien - huge channels in the earth's surface for as far as you could see, with sections of layered red rock surrounded by a lot more green shrubbery than I had imagined. For a place that looked so aggressive and raw it was completely silent. Not even a wind for most of the time.
It took a few days to recover from that period and we haven't gone on any comparable walks since. We rushed throught New Mexico in a few days. A scenic drive from Gallup to Grants including El Morro National Monument was pretty cool. El Morro is a protrusion of rock from the plateu, which has had a natural pool of water for hundreds or thousands of years, they say. The are of rock near the pool is covered in petroglyths (Native American symbols or picures) and signatures and messages from early Spanish and Anglo-Saxon settlers as they passed through the watering hole. There were some really ornate signatures along with more Ted-like writing. At least they had the excuse that they were carving into rock, not scrawling on paper.
Another great experience was near Jemez Springs. We were directed to a well hidden hot spring down a 5 mile dirt road. It just so happened that we were at about 7000 feet, so this dirt road was actually six inches deep in snow. We reached the end of the track really late, so gave up on the spring that night. We rose early in the freezing cold and rushed down and up the path towards the implausibly hot spring pools. Due to my loss and lack of replacement of my trunks and towel, my only choice was naked and a blanket. Either out of kindness or some form of homo-eroticism, Olly and Ed followed suit with the nudity bit, so we were all boiling our bollocks in a hot pool right next to piles of snow, up a mountain in the central region of New Mexico. Not an experience I had envisioned back in Moulsford, but it's certainly worth remembering.
We dropped into Los Alamos, the previously hidden little town where the nuclear race was won by America. At the history museum, they covered the life of the scientists and the whole operation which took place in an old school up in the hills, before the actual testing and use of the bomb technology in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When you're in the place where the A-bomb was developed you expect some emphasis on the place and its people, but there wasn't really mush said about the effects apart from two photos of Hiroshima afterwards and a quote from one of the scientists to the effect that the A-bomb was the most hateful thing in existence. The bookshop man was cool though - he loved England and had a good story about some other English people who had no concept of distance in America. I would write it out, it's just that it won't be funny.
In Taos we met some characters. A guy called Mark was bitten by a dog in the woods and few days prior to our arrival and the lesson he deduced from that was something to this effect: "Sometimes you're so happy and high that you let your barriers down and don't think of security. That dog showed me that especially when you're really happy, it is important to be aware of danger around you and look after yourself." He actually went on for a lot longer and talked about needing to ski somewhere in the middle of that.
And here we are about to leave the ranch. I think Ed summarized it pretty well (A/B). As far as I can see into the future, this is the most pampered we're going to have been in the whole trip, so I've tried to revel in it as much as possible, without taking too many liberties. As the beginning of our post-road trip relaxation, (the rest will be in Fiji and the Cook Islands) I couldn't have asked for much more. Our debt of gratitude to Ghislaine for New York, the beast and this ranch can only be repaid by Ed in his own special way - I think he's the only one so inclined. Sorry Alice.
| Entry 21 of 58
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