Where are they now?
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Woooooo Hoooooooooo! We rolled into the state of Utah and were blown away with the beauty of red rock country. Arches National Park (below) provided a collection of dramatic sandstone arches created by the patient process of erosion.
Dead Horse Point (the bottom picture) is a dramatic overlook of the Colorado River and the Canyonlands National Park (which some say rivals that of the Grand Canyon). The name comes from a legend that a band of wild horses were left trapped on the cliff top and sadly died of thirst, staring at the Colorado River 2000 feet below.
While the Utah high desert usually remains dry, we were unlucky/lucky enough to witness some heavy rainfall during our stay. One morning we awoke to an unusual hissing sound.
“What’s that noise?” said Zoa.
Deep in the desert of New Mexico is a place called Chaco Canyon. Although it is in ruins today, if you wind the clock back around 1000 years, it was the home of a bustling civilization. The Chacoan Indians collected sandstone blocks and hauled timber from great distances to build their houses and communities. They were so ahead of their time, that they remained the largest buildings in North America for many hundreds of years. The Chacoans performed ceremonies in kivas, circular rooms, which are entered via ladders from the roof. They also carved ‘petroglyphs’ into the cliff walls, commonly drawing snakes, spirals and stick figures. Lack of rain is thought to have caused the Chacoans to leave for wetter areas. Have a look at the pictures below to see how their buildings have slowly crumbled away.
Jack was loving it! Finally he was given a break from the desert heat. Paco, meanwhile, was rugged up in his winter jacket thinking of warmer days.
A mountain pass took us up to our highest point EVER – 10,230 feet above sea level, or over 3000 metres altitude. That is around about the same height as if 2000 adults were standing on each others heads. Imagine that!
Here are a few snapshots from the road…
New Mexico is windy!!! VERY WINDY! At first this was wonderful, as it pushed us north at incredible speeds. Unfortunately the winds soon changed direction and we struggled our way through the desert at a snail’s pace.
By the time we rolled into Santa Fe, New Mexico’s capital city, we were in need of a well earned break. We were kindly hosted by a wonderful family – Murchie, Bridget, Izzy and Ellie. Ellie, the farting princess, jumped on her bike as we were about to leave, ready to join in on the adventure…
The Carlsbad Caverns sink 750 feet/230 metres below the earth into spectacular natural limestone chambers. During the warmer months of the year, the upper chambers of the cave are filled with bats. At sunset you are able to watch hundreds of thousands of bats stretching their wings and heading outside for some late breakfast. Watch out mosquitoes!!
The caverns are full of amazing limestone formations resembling a deep underwater world. Here is a glimpse at what lurks beneath:
Welcome to West Texas. A land of wide open spaces, desert cactus and javelinas (a pig like animal with a squashed face – pronounced Have-a-leaner). Tacos , a burrito style wrap, are a favourite meal out here. The food is often spicy with loads of chillies and jalapeno peppers (pronounced Hal-a-peno). Don’t be confused though. Javelinas don’t like jalapenos. They prefer to eat roots, grass, seeds and fruit.
The distances between towns in Texas are so far apart that sometimes we would cycle for two days without being able to re-fill our water bottles. That means we had to carry ALOT of water. Jack, after all is a big thirsty dog with a fur coat.
In West Texas the land is so dry that only a small number of cattle can live on any ranch (farm). Beautiful Long-Horn cattle wander among the arid scrub in search of a feed. The horns of fully grown bulls (male) can extend 7 feet (2.1 metres) from tip to tip. Jack and Paco were not going to pick any fights with one of those!
Sitting at the very bottom of the United States on the Mexican border is the ‘Big Bend National Park’. This is a beautiful sanctuary of scorching hot desert, impressive river canyons, and high mountains where mountain lions and black bears roam.
As we headed north out of Texas we passed by giant herds of elk. Elk are well suited to desert habitat, but have been pushed by humans and hunters into higher altitude forest in much of the United States. Paco’s excitement made this group of elk gallop at full speed.
Texas is BIG. It is the second biggest state in America (behind Alaska) and outsizes many countries including the United Kingdom, France and Japan. In Texas the cars are big, the meals are big, and the bellies are even bigger. Last but not least the ranches can be HUGE.
Ranches are big cattle farms, and often come with fancy entryways. But it’s not just cows and horses being bred in Texas. Because the Texan climate shares similarities with southern Africa, and Texans are fond of everything BIG, you can find animals like zebras and giraffes on the ‘farm’.
Here are three examples of Texan ranch gates for y’all to look at.
Have you ever eaten Alligator before? How about Turtle? Frogs Legs? Squirrels? Or how about Raccoon? Well if you ever feel the need, you should head to ‘Cajun Country’ in Louisiana, which is wedged between Mississippi and Texas in the south of the United States.
The word ‘Cajun’ is often linked with cooking, and for good reason. The Cajuns are a warm and fun loving people who enjoy eating all kinds of meat, usually spiced up with some chillies and Louisiana hot sauce. ‘Gumbo’ – a spicy meat stew – became a favourite meal of ours to warm the bones after a long cold day of cycling.
But Cajun culture is more than just spicy food. Cajun is actually a shortening of the word Acadian – a group of people who left France a loooooooooooong time ago – the 17th Century to be precise. The Acadians sailed across the Altantic Ocean and settled in Canada, only to be kicked out shortly after by the conquering British Army. One of the places they were sent was Louisiana where their name was shortened from Acadian to Cajun.
Soooooooooooo… to cut a long story short that’s why you can speak French and order Frog’s Legs in the south of America. Bon appetit!