We ended up sleeping in and that put an end to the big plans of Route 550 and white-water rafting. I think we needed the sleep! After a hasty breakfast in the ‘dining room’ (which was really a couple of stools, a coffee machine, a toaster and some bread) we opted for a quick look at main street Durango and then the drive to Mesa Verde.
Having seen Durango alive with people the previous night, it sure was a contrast to see it at 9am on a Saturday morning all quiet streets and bacon smell. Unfortunately most of the shops we wanted to check out – like homewares and stuff – were closed still. A shame but maybe fortuitous since we ended up having just enough time to squeeze in Mesa Verde and make Page, AZ.
The drive to Mesa Verde is twisty and turny and insane. Lee loved driving it and I held on to the ‘holy shit’ bar so tight my hands were sweating. I hate heights and this drive was all heights – sheers drops (with rail guards so it’s totally safe but as I tell Lee, my brain doesn’t work often for fear) and bends. The scenery was nothing but spectacular – we could see right across the plains for miles and miles. This drive was an apt introduction to my time at Mesa Verde.
If you want to know a bit about Mesa Verde. I suggest looking at the wiki page (which you’ll find by googling Mesa verde, lol) … a quick description is ‘indigenous Pueblo people who lived in spectacularly built caves’. OK, that was a completely crap explanation. I’d go to wikipedia if I were you!
Mesa Verde is ridiculously affordable for the experience you get. It cost us $15 to get into the National Park and a very, very tiny $3 per person to do the tour. I really wanted to do the Cliff Palace tour – not just because it only involves climbing very small ladders – it is one of the most impressive examples of indigenous building you can imagine. We did get to see it across the canyon from the Sun Temple, it was packed with people!
A road trip across a country as big as America means you need to get a wriggle on with your activities, and as such we had to go with whichever tour was earliest – this delighted Lee who is much, much more brave than me. Why? We had to do the Balcony House tour which just happened to involve a couple of 30 foot ladders and a vertical rock-face climb using steps carved into the rock. As we waited for the tour to start my legs started to shake a little. My head was feeling light but I put that down to the altitude – we were at 8000 feet – and tried hard to busy myself with fussing over the boys. When our guide started talking I couldn’t really concentrate on what he was saying … the most salient words were ‘ladders’ and ‘tunnel crawl’.
To my surprise I was quite good on the springy wooden ladder that clung to the sheer face of the Mesa. These Puebloans were amazing, resourceful people – absolutely none of the silly fears we have today. Standing in that house, looking out at the canyons – the tiny green shrubs stubbornly growing in a desert landscape, the flitting black crows circling around and around – I was scared still, but just so in awe of the guts it would take to carry your babies, children, food, water, weapons … everything, right down into that cave. Oh, not to mention the building materials required to build these kinda complex dwellings.The climb back up the rock shook a little cry from me, but I sucked it up for my boys and at the end of the day, I didn’t die – no one did – and I got an unforgettable experience.
Our next destination was Page, Arizona. We didn’t have any reason for this destination other than the fact that a friend of my mum said we should stop over there. It turned out to be an OK little town, a bit random with a very short history – it is just over 50 years old having been created to house the workers at the local electricity plant. The place was so busy with local holiday-makers – I learnt that the lake is a big attraction for speedboating and all that fun stuff. Our hotel was actually the worst we have stayed in – the Super 6. It was old, the lift barely worked and the rooms smelt like cigarette smoke. Bummer.
What I DID love about Page was the Mexican restaurant we ate at. We’d been really keen to have some authentic Mexican in America – the horrible memory of Taco Bell on Santa Monica Pier was still lingering. We took a recommendation to eat at La Fiesta and it was great! I had the biggest strawberry Daiquiri I have ever had in my life and it was SO tasty – a bowl-size class of sugary, icy goodness – yum! The food was awesome as well – we all share a main and a side of fries, plenty of food for us all.
Sleep came quick in Page … and the drive out was even quicker.