Sunday, 5 March 2017

Week 46 - El Paso, Texas part 1

It was pretty typical that the one flight I was eager to get on was delayed, not even by a little bit but by a whole hour. To top it off it was a pretty turbulent flight thanks to bad weather in San Diego and strong winds in El Paso, so the 1 hour and 18mins felt a lot more like 18 hours. I practically ran through the arrival hall to meet my mum, who had already been crying for a good 5 minutes, where she was waiting for us at the bottom of the escalator…plenty of tears and hugging followed for the next 5 minutes, much to the annoyance of the others in the airport who couldn’t get by, I’m sure they’d be the same if it was their family reunion mind, and i know you all get how i felt after 10 months of no mum time. When mum finally let go I was able to say hello to Jo and meet her husband, David.  

The sight when flying over Texas and into El Paso is just a huge desert, different to anything that we’ve seen before on our travels, and surrounded on all sides by mountains, Texas looks like a big empty space. So it was surprising to see how busy the freeways were on the way home and all the houses, stores and restaurants that make up this pretty large city. On arrival at Jo’s we were met by her son, Adam, and once we all settled down for my favourite home made meat and potato pie, it felt as though Kyle and I had always been a part of this family, and I began to see why my mum comes back here year after year.

A night of catching up made for a late night, but I was up early the next morning ready to celebrate my birthday, much to the annoyance of Kyle. Along with pancakes (it was Shrove Tuesday after all) we had birthday cake, with British buttercream frosting, before I finally got my hair sorted out. Yes it is now all the same length and doesn’t resemble a saw blade after the mess which was made of it in Malaysia, gracias Jojo for making me look more presentable. Princess pamper hour was followed by a compulsory trip to Chico’s Tacos. David informed us that this was once the equivalent of McDonalds and the food used to be super cheap until everybody thought it was a cool place to eat and the prices became increased. Still the tacos were amazing, and it gave me a giggle watching my mum drink the juice from the tacos out of the cardboard tray. It was a mad dash home to get out of the sand storm and into the house before inhaling half the desert and going blind from grit in the eye. Thankfully, we all made it in one piece and the sand is now back where it belongs…no more sand storms for us please Texas.

We took a road trip to Carlsbad Caverns, this took us through the vast desert you’d expect from Texas and it was a pretty long roady drive until we reached border control. Here we were asked to show our passports and the guy was pretty impressed to see that David had three British passengers on board, even if Kyle does look a little Mexican with his tan. After border control we reached the Guadalupe Mountains, these mountains are examples of a marine fossil reef. Formed 260 million years ago, the Guadalupe Mountains were once under the ocean and became exposed when the sea evaporated, first homing the Nde (Mescalero Apache) until the 1800’s when more people began to explore the area and develop ranches.

Before entering the Carlsbad Caverns you first have to walk through the Chihuahuan Desert, made up of golden sands, flowering cactus and bird song. This leads you to a 750 foot descent into the darkness of the caves. When we first bought our $10 tickets (I know cheap right) mum suggested taking the elevator down and walking back up to the top, half way down the steep path she was pretty glad that we suggested otherwise. The path was so steep your toes pressed into the front of your shoes and the backs of your knees ached, along with the occasional cold drop of water we had to contend with the steep drops on the side of the path. Now you all know I’m not the best with heights but when you combine my nervousness with my mums sheer fear it gets a little crazy, poor Kyle was left miles behind when I attempted to keep up with mum, who practically ran to the main room. On the way down we got to see many stalactites and stalagmites looking like whales, castles and fairy villages, mum however named it the ribbed penis forest…Kyle thought it was hilarious, inside I was cringing.  The main room is a further mile and a half of walking around great rock formations, pools and lakes, you can even see the bottomless pit which is a further 150 foot deep…safe to say mum didn’t look down that one. taking the elevator back up the distance was measured in feet instead of floors, surprisingly it only took a minute to get to the top but it did make your ears pop more than once. 

There are many more caves to visit within the caverns, but having already spent 3 hours inside the cave we decided to pass. You also need to pay for a guide to take you into the other sections as the formations have suffered at the hands of tourists and the National Park trust are working to maintain the remaining rocks.

Scenic drive takes you up in the mountains and offers great views over El Paso and across the border into Juarez. It’s amazing to see how close Mexico actually is to Texas and how big El Paso city is. We also got to do some dream house shopping as we passed by all the fancy pants houses on top of the mountain, before heading for one of my favourite meals, a Korean BBQ.

Hueco Tanks sits around 30 minutes from El Paso and is made up of boulder like mountains suitable for rock climbing without ropes and tramping around trails in search of wildlife, native plants and pictographs. There’s also many watering holes filled with shrimp and fish, making this the perfect home for many different people since the ice ages. We were keen to see the pictorgraphs and learn the history of the park so we signed up for a guided tour which “guaranteed us more access to the art work”. What a load of bullshit that was, after 2 hours of little walking and too much talking from our guides Harry and Susan we’d seen nothing except from shit, literally shit. Harry had us looking at wild cat poo and bloody plants, even his wife Susan had to tell him that this wasn’t the wild plant tour. Me, Jo and mum had had enough of seeing nothing so Kyle continued on with Harry and the rest of the tour up the boulders to the top of the mountain, we spent this time looking for rabbits and road runners…which FYI look nothing like the cartoon. Kyle ventured off from the group and found some art work of his own, dating back many years before BC and saw a water cave in the rocks. Once he slid back down the boulders on his bum we made a mad dash back to David in the car before heading for a pho noodle lunch.

Ardeveno farmers market was our first shopping stop of the day, mum and Kyle got lured in by the free samples and ended up buying many biscuits, cereals and chocolates, whilst David, Jo and I got chatting to an Indian healer. After a quick assessment he correctly diagnosed my nervous stomach and lack of water, though I didn’t fancy drinking the silver infused water that he offered as a treatment. David, however has signed himself up for the full works. Next we went into New Mexico and the Las Cruces farmers market, a huge, dog friendly market that sold far too many over priced goods but it was nice to stroll in the sunshine and enjoy the music from the live university band. Our last stop of the day was Old Mesilla, or it would have been if i didn’t get sick, so whilst everyone else enjoyed their Mexican lunch I napped in the car before heading home to curl up and watch Harry Potter…here’s hoping this doesn’t last too long as we’ve still got loads to see.

Love Carrie xxx

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