A travel journal
to Santa Fe by SeenThat
Quote: Returning to the City of the Holy Faith after an absence of more than a month, I found, despite the midsummer sun, a colder town refreshed daily by sudden, slow rains. Exploring more of its surroundings became an appealing option.
Ram Das Puri is a Sikh settlement north of Santa Fe, a bit after Española. Since 1990, the they have created an interesting International Peace Prayer Day, basing it on the old Hopi tradition.
Meeting locals is the best tactic to find those special places that only they know; visit the churches on Sundays, make friends and ask treat them to a special picnic in a place only they know.
Santa Fe's Pueblo architectural style is special. Based on adobe, a mixture of sand, soil, straw and water, the houses are low and have rounded edges painted in soft colors. Newer houses are constructed from modern products, but are kept low and covered with a special cement blend which keeps the town's aspect unspoiled. It is worth visiting those houses; the trunks supporting the ceilings can seldom be appreciated from the exterior. A good tactic to accomplish that is visiting houses on sale.
The local buses charge a flat one dollar tariff for all distances, but they are seldom seen; the main stop is in Sheridan Street, next to the Museum of Fine Arts and the central plaza. Fancy tourist buses, leaving next to the central plaza, perform tours around town for ten dollars and leave at round hours from 11 to 15.
Capital City Cab, 438-0000, offers taxis at all hours.
Santa Fe Municipal Airport has commercial flights to Denver and Colorado. Roadrunner Shuttle runs shuttles to downtown. Hertz and Avis car rental agencies have offices there. Albuquerque International Sunport is one hour drive from Santa Fe and all major car agencies have offices at the Sunport.
Attraction | "Cloud Cliff - Bakery Cafe Artspace"
In a low adobe structure, with a few chairs outside and many tables in a spacious interior shared with an open kitchen, Cloud Cliff tries hard to position itself as a top-end coffee-shop; stylish lamps throw light upon clothes with special designs adorning the walls.
I approached some of them, photographed, picked up a menu and learned a bit about their nature. The features on the clothes were hand-painted and embroidered by the Shipibo-Konibo tribe from the Amazonian rain-forest. They are a shamanic tribe and during their ceremonies, the participants become aware of elaborate visual patterns brought forth by the shaman's song. Later, the women capture these patterns in their designs; each of the clothes is one of a kind. The one next to our table was for sale at $1200; I kept wondering how much was paid to the artist. The claim in the menu that part of the proceeds benefits the "Regeneration Shipibo - Konibo" program of reforestation sounded as an open acknowledgment that the artists were not being paid appropriately. If they were, a conscience cleansing statement would be superfluous.
These unhappy thoughts could be the result of sitting on an uncomfortable chair by a shaky table while studying the prices. Wraps began at $7.5, burgers at $9, the so called World Fusion dishes, meaning Asian and Mexican, could reach $11. Sides cost $2.5, salads were above $6. Such prices, roughly double the regular price of the products in other establishments in the area, in relatively poor surroundings, demanded an extraordinary quality, but my friend was oblivious to my remark. Apparently he already knew.
I chose a vegetables wrap with a Mexican Cocoa. The staff was unable to explain the Mexican adjective, and later I found it meant that a bit of cinnamon was added to the mix. The wrap was served in a generous amount, which was a poor indemnification for its quality. Melted cheese in its interior provided the much needed gluing power for the tired veggies; a salad was served with it as if saying "there wasn't enough place within the wrap for these ones."
The prospect of finishing the downloading of an update to the laptop's system through their wireless was what brought us there on the first place; however, the computer estimated that it needed two and half hours to finish the task at the given connection's velocity. Afterwards, over a recovery-coffee at a nearby coffee-shop, the task was finished in ten minutes.
Member Rating 1 out of 5 on August 11, 2006
Cloud Cliff Bakery and Artspace
1805 Second St
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Attraction | "Pecos"
The park is some forty kilometers southeast of Santa Fe, next to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Santa Fe National Forest and the town of Pecos. The best way to reach it is by car; arriving from Santa Fe, exit at the Pecos-Glorieta interchange 299, continue east on NM50 to the town of Pecos and then turn south on NM63 and continue for some four kilometers. From the other direction, exit at Rowe interchange 307 and go north on NM63 for eight kilometers until the park entrance.
The visitors' center offers a short video movie which is essential for understanding the ruins; it is open daily from 8am to 5pm except on January 1 and December 25. The entrance fee of three dollars includes the movie but not the site's map. The friendly clerk loans some of these for free, under the condition that they would be returned in the way out.
The ruins are of three types. The pueblo itself, having been constructed of short-lived adobe, was reduced to its foundations and my imagination had a hard time trying to picture the four and five stories high buildings. Next to them is the Mission Church, which belonged to the Franciscan and has its walls still standing; it is part of a destroyed complex which included a convent as well and was finished in the early seventeenth century. The most intriguing parts of the tour are the kivas; one of them has been completely restored down to the wood parts. Kivas are underground circular rooms, with narrow wood stairs leaning on a small opening on the wooden roof. They were social and ceremonial spaces with nothing within except for a firepit, a ventilator shaft and a sipapu, a hole in the ground hat symbolizes the place of humans' emergence and point of access to spirits dwelling below. The trail connecting the different parts of the park offer superb views of the area, from lush pine forests to eagles searching for prey. Rattlesnakes are supposed to exist and many signs warn of their presence, but we didn't see any.
After visiting the park, it was only natural to stop at Pecos for lunch; at the small town we found only one convenience store which wasn't very well equipped and one restaurant that closed it doors twenty minutes before our visit, at 2pm. With a few snacks in the pockets, we continued north and up along NM63 and parked at the Santa Fe National Forest entrance.
A small path at the bottom of a narrow valley lead into a beautiful forest of pines and aspens, which climbs up from more than two thousand meters at its base to well above three thousands at its top. Anglers did their best at a narrow stream. A sudden rain aroused wonderful smells from the fertile ground and transformed the path into a shallow stream. Oblivious to all but Nature's beauty, we just continued climbing up to heaven.
Pecos National Historical Park
State Road 63
Pecos, New Mexico 87552
As always in this area, the story was a mishmash of contradictions and people. Ram Das Puri is nowadays a Sikh settlement and apparently their main center in New Mexico. Belonging to a people with a long tradition as warriors, they found their place here as private-security providers. Without blinking twice, my friend added that the land was sacred to the Hopi, who used it for their Sacred Healing Walk around a 2km-long circle. Since 1990, the Sikhs have created the International Peace Prayer Day, basing it on the old Hopi tradition.
Not exactly knowing what to expect, we traveled north along Highway 285 and crossed Tesuque and the Pojoaque Valley, and, after reaching Española, continued north and then turned left into the Jemez mountains, through a dirt road. A shaky sign told us that our target was 8 miles ahead; along the dusty way, some very determined guests were trying to reach the site jogging while a security vehicle watched over their safety.
Climbing gently for a few minutes, we got to the gate, our invitations were checked, our names taken, and a VIP stamp was pressed on our hands. According to the hosts, the Peace Prayer Day brings together people of all faiths and cultures to forge positive change for the planet and to experience the magic of the sacred healing walk, evening chanting, live music and meditation circles.
Several huge white tents hosted the main events; beyond them was a sign stating that camping wasn't allowed, but next to it were maybe a hundred small tents belonging to some of the event guests. The main tent contained a stage were several speakers and singers belonging to the Sikh faith communicated to a large crowd. Another tent served as a big dining room and kitchen and a third was an improvised shop, selling mainly Indian (from the subcontinent - not the Hopi) products, CD's and DVD's, clothes, aromatic soaps, incense and stalls advertising other related events shared the limited space.
Looking for a chai, we approached the kitchen and were sent away, but not after receiving a military definition of the chai-serving hours. Tea had a different set of rules. I was afraid to ask about the coffee.
The formal program began around 4pm and included items as a talk by the Bioneers, the 2006 Peace Cereal Grant, Interfaith Prayers for Peace, the Izzat da Punjab – Bhangra Dance Troupe, the Chimayo Peace Flame Runners and a Peace Meditation with Yogi Bhajan. The sacred healing Walk began at 5:30pm and included a blessing with feathers and smoke performed by a Native-American and right after it, at 18:15 a performance by Bangra World Fusion Dance Mix began. An Evening of Sacred Music Concert followed it.
The way back to Santa Fe was great, as always under the dark skies of New Mexico.
She couldn't help with the name, but patiently explained to me that there is only one Mountain, and it is at the end of the Ski Basin Road. The August afternoon was rainy, foggy and cold and the idea of trekking a bit attracted me. She brought her children, who were lured by the prospect of finding edible mushrooms, and we began traveling north of downtown toward the general direction of the Ski Basin. It took very little to find that the Ski Basin Road is actually called the Hyde Park Road and that the Mountain is named Tesuque. Double naming is a local pastime.
The way crosses the Santa Fe National Forest, which I visited in another opportunity from its other side in Pecos. After leaving the town, the undulating road enters a forested area which includes the Hyde Memorial State Park, the Little Tesuque and Black Canyon, the Big Tesuque and the Ski Basin. The Big Tesuque is reached in about half an hour of driving and its facilities are just a basic parking place at one of the many curves. Pines, some of them mighty ponderosas, and sun loving aspens grow densely on the slopes, and a dense fog—or was it a cloud at this altitude?—covered some of them, looking like a moving missing part in a giant puzzle.
Big Tesuque is the name of the upper watershed of the Tesuque Creek; it extends from the Big Tesuque Recreation Site uphill to Tesuque Peak, at approximately 4000m elevation and includes several small streams that feed into Tesuque Creek.
The actual shape of the forest is the result of a large fire near the turn of the century; in the process of forest succession, species like the aspen are among the first to re-vegetate. Once established, the aspen forest provides shade and cooler ground temperatures, allowing the shade loving spruce and fir species to grow. The new trees rise up and tower over the aspen, robbing it of the sunlight it needs. Hence the actually dense forest of aspen is declining.
The Big Tesuque Trail follows the North Fork of Tesuque Creek from its junction with the Tesuque Peak Road, from less than one kilometer above the entrance to another junction with the Winsor Trail, less than two kilometers below it. The trail is open to all form of non-motorized recreation, such as hiking, jogging, mountain biking, and horseback riding. In the winter, the area offers tree skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing opportunities as well. Overnight camping is free, but subject to a fortnight stay limit.
We walked the upper part of the trail and the little girls, three and five years old, didn't complain about the exercise and were happy in their search for edible mushrooms which thrived here. Charmingly, in a kid of poetic justice, they placed the uprooted mushrooms inside an umbrella turned upside down. The trail was wet but not slippery, the narrow stream allowed crossing it back and forth, the shade and fog created a pleasant walking environment and maybe more important than all that, there weren't any other visitors; isolationist New Mexicans hardly leave their homes. While climbing, only the trail to the right of the stream was complete, the other side allowed just short walks into hidden meadows. Fallen trees occasionally created improvised bridges over the stream, to the delight of the children.
In a very slow walk, the way up took around half an hour and the end of the trail was abrupt, there wasn't any possibility to park there fore a picnic; there is only one table in the park and it is located next to the entrance. The only feasible solution is to bring some kind of water resistant blanket and to spread it in one of the casual open spaces of the forest.
At first sight, Santa Fe looked to me as a desert, but hidden within the mountains, is a lush forest waiting to be discovered.
Tel Aviv, Israel