Ah cowboys, large spaces of no man’s land... what a dream, isn’t it? Well, we wanted to see what if Texas was like Texas everyone speaks about... and we found spectacular places!
First we went to Houston. For our less young readers, you all heard the famous phrase "Houston, we have a problem!" And it is because one of the NASA centres is located in Houston! For a few hours we went to the moon and even Pomme Pidou emerged with urges to go to Mars. We visited the "space shuttle" that was used numerous times to take astronauts to the International Space Station and future vehicles to be used for astronauts to explore Mars in 2030 ... The future is catching up with us and ET may be not so far away, who knows ...
With stars in the head, we went to Austin, the Capital of Texas. And there are not thousands of stars waiting for us but one. Texas is represented by a star, and his "slogan" is "Texas, the Lone Star State". We visited the Capitol (which is a few meters bigger than the White House as in Texas "everything is greater" (as the Texans themselves). We discovered that Davy Croquett, the famous "pioneer man politician with his raccoon fur hat, had invested in the Texan revolution in 1836 that pitted the Americans settlers (and European) against the Mexicans. His death is disputed but some claim he was shot by a Mexican general ...
We finished our Texan trip not in Dallas but in San Antonio. The city is beautiful because of the canals travelling through the city. So we made a boat trip to discover the city from another point of view and in the sun it was really nice (although we did not always understand the jokes of our guide 100% Texan ...). In the evening, there was the sound and light show broadcasted on one of the oldest cathedrals in the city. We were really amazed (well we must admit that we never went to the Festival of Lights in Lyon ...)
Our route then took us to New Mexico. We did not stay long but we were more than impressed by the cave of Carlsbad and by the Whitesands Monument desert. In the middle of the rocky ground and cacti we stopped at Carlsbad National Park. There are over 300 caves including the famous "Big Room" which plunges 486 meters below ground and the cavity may contain more than 10 stages of American football. So we followed the footsteps of Jim White, a 16 year old cowboy who discovered the cave in 1898. He was on horseback when he saw a huge cloud of black smoke; thinking it was a fire, he tried to approach to find out the source but arriving near the cloud he realized that it was millions of bats' flying from the bowels of the Earth. With a rope and a candle, he bravely entered the cave and thus opened the way for tourists who flock now every day to discover this place. Besides being huge, the cave is also very well decorated. Were discovered hundreds of stalactites, stalagmites, columns and other draperies. Some of these formations measuring just a few centimetres to tens of meters for others. In the room called "the king's palace," we saw a ... French royal family since topped by a guillotine! Ah it requires a lot of imagination to be caver!!!
After the visit of more than 6 km in the bowels of the earth (but on a tarred path now), we wanted to explore the cave in a more "natural" and intimate way. Equipped with a helmet, lamp and knees and elbows pads, we left for 3h30 caving in another galery of the cave ... accessible only by crawling! Wow, this is our second experience of caving (after Bolivia) and we love it, but it’s exhausting!!! Seeing some passages we thought we will never enter but the human body is very "surprising" ;-) !!!
In short, we loved the two days in Carlsbad (especially since we could camp for free in the desert) and caves are among the best we've ever visited.
New Mexico also contains another curiosity: the desert of Whitesands. This desert is the largest gypsum desert in the world. This mineral is generally not sandy as it is soluble in water but in a desert... everything is possible!!! What is impressive is that this desert is (in geologic time) very recent: it is dated from 4000 to 7000 years. In fact, the gypsum was deposited at this location (formerly flat) over 250 million years ago. With the movement of the plates, the mountains were formed and gypsum found himself on the flanks. Rainwater and snow began to dissolve gypsum. Once at the current location of the desert, in the basin, the water evaporates, leaving the gypsum in the open air. At this point, it is still not sand but crystals. Only after the work of wind these fragile crystals break and roll to become sand! Dunes move up to 10 meters per year!!! We spent three hours walking amid the white desert. Some plants and animals trying to survive have developed unique methods: for example lizards have a whiter skin than their counterparts in the desert because they can better camouflage. Some yuccas have developed a several meter long trunk to reach the ground with their roots and enjoy the sun while living on the sand dunes!!!
We loved being lost in the gypsum dunes and of course running barefoot (despite the cold) to make the most of this unique experience.
We now go to Nevada ("Silver State") where the Grand Canyon awaits us! Do not miss this post, the images are spectacular!!