Monday, October 30, 2006

New Mexico – Land of Enchantment

You know what they say about the drink called margarita? One margarita, two margaritas, three margaritas – FLOOR!

That was me, three margaritas and I almost fell on the floor. I managed a reasonably elegant stagger to my cousin Sarah’s car, and to stay upright for about the first minute on the way back to her place. But, then I flaked out on the back seat. TH, who had sat in the front seat, said later that my snoring was appalling. I’m not sure if I believe I was that bad. But, it had been a heady day.

We’d left the shrine of miracles (El Santuario de Chimayó) late morning. There was time for a drive up to Truchas before lunch. For those of you that don’t speak Spanish, just try saying Truchas (like churches, but with a TR instead of a CH) It maybe hard to say, but it’s a place that is great to look at. In fact, don’t waste too much time trying to say it, just spend the time on getting yourself there.

Truchas (which means trout in Spanish) is a tiny, mountain town (population around 1000) perched on the scenic high road between Taos and Santa Fe. The town’s relative isolation over the years has meant it has remained unchanged over the centuries. The distinctive adobe architecture is likely to remain preserved now that there finally is a backlash against the "McCulture" of everywhere else.

At 8400 ft (that’s the same height as Mt Egmont/Taranaki) and with the clear, dry desert air, I felt I could see forever at Truchas - not just the mountains and valleys, but far, far beyond. One of my favourite artists is Georgia O’Keeffe. While she wasn't born in New Mexico, she had lived nearby on "Ghost Ranch" for nearly 40 years. She called this area of New Mexico "The Faraway". Her paintings of the rocks, flowers and desert landscapes captured the soul of the place.

I loved the green of New Zealand, but I was really smitten by this very different landscape. There was something in the texture and contrasts of the mottled browns, reds and tans that struck a resonance within me. It was completely unlike my homeland, yet I felt like saying to TH, "Let’s sell up in NZ, and come here to write, photograph and make babies."

And, I know what he would have said, "but, what about the surf?"

I have always lived near the ocean and can’t bear to be too far away from it. I love surfing – just the feel of waves makes me feel more alive than anything else.

Finally my hungry stomach rumbles diverted my attention from the glories around me. Sarah suggested we eat at Rancho de Chimayó, which back near the church.

This was a beautifully restored, century-old adobe hacienda, serving native New Mexico cuisine. It is still owned by the Jaramillo family and their ancestral family photographs hang on the white washed adobe walls. As well as a restaurant, the Hacienda has seven guest rooms, most with their own private courtyards.

We sat on the restaurant’s terraced patio for lunch. It was there I got my first taste of their Chimayó cocktail margaritas – a potent local tequila mix, with apple cider and fresh apples, slush-frozen in tall, wide-brimmed glasses, which were rimmed with salt. Very tasty and very more-ish.

Hence, I had one too many and dozed off on the way back to Sarah’s home at Pojoaque. At least I was spared more grim sights of the pilgrims on their way up to El Santuario de Chimayó.

By evening, I had recovered sufficiently to venture out to Santa Fe for dinner. In the falling dusk as we arrived, I could see attractive adobe buildings, gathered around a town square. There were lots of art galleries and small shops selling exquisite local goods and crafts. Joe and Sarah had selected a cosy little adobe bistro/cafe, called "Celebrations", on Canyon Road. The food was based on the traditional northern New Mexican style, with red and green chile, but with added taste sensations provided by imported ingredients. Perhaps earlier thoughts of the ocean motivated my choice. I had a delicately spiced scallop and salad dish. A perfect blend of tastes and it was delicious.

It had been an amazing day. I held hands with TH in the back seat of Joe and Sarah’s car and lolled my head back so I could see the shining desert sky out of the back window. Millions of stars lay cradled in the embrace of the mountains on the far horizon. Fabulous!

© Eventful Woman, 2006
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