Travel: Blazing Saddles ..and Toasted Marshmallows; OBAMA'S USA THE WILD WEST as Barack Obama Pushes Back the Boundaries of What Is Possible in America, We Head Back to the Frontier. First, NICK COLES Hits New Mexico

The Mirror (London, England), November 15, 2008 | Go to article overview

Travel: Blazing Saddles ..and Toasted Marshmallows; OBAMA'S USA THE WILD WEST as Barack Obama Pushes Back the Boundaries of What Is Possible in America, We Head Back to the Frontier. First, NICK COLES Hits New Mexico


Byline: NICK COLES

IT was a cool, clear evening as we rode out of Angelfire.

My trusty steed, Redford, skilfully picked his way up the rugged trail through a forest of ponderosa pines and aspen.

We were heading up the Sangre de Cristo mountains in New Mexico, the southernmost range of the Rocky mountains that stretch 3,000 miles to Canada.

This was where some theWest's most wanted outlaws and lawmen hid out, such as Billy The Kid, and Wyatt Earp - characters familiar from Westerns.

Now here I was WildWest adventure of my own.

Redford seemed to know more about carrying people than I knew about riding horses.

I hadn't seen the stream cutting across our path just after I'd given him a giddy-up - but he knew all about it, and as he leaped across I couldn't help letting out a "yee-haa"!

The Wild West is just a small part of New Mexico's rich history.

Native Americans, Spanish explorers, Mexican occupation and the relatively recent Anglo (everyone else) settlers all left their mark, creating an exotic blend of cultural influences, which is why the 47th State is known as the Land of Enchantment.

My trip began in Albuquerque, New Mexico's largest city and the main port of entry for visitors.

A must for any visitor is a ride on the Sandia Peak Tram, a cable car that climbs 10,378 feet to an observation point overlooking the city - and desert beyond.

In winter they ski on the eastern slopes - hard to believe when you've felt the fierce blast of heat from the summer sun.

Albuquerque is widely regarded as the ballooning capital of the world thanks to its international hot air balloon fiesta held every October.

Over 700 balloons take part in the nine-day fiesta, and the highlight is a mass launch that fills the sky with hundreds of creatively designed balloons.

A unique wind pattern known as the Albuquerque box effect means balloon pilots can often navigate the currents and land in the same area they took off from.

The best time to catch the box is at dawn so I set the alarm clock for an early morning flight with Rainbow Ryders ballooning tours.

There was barely a breath of wind that morning so the ride was incredibly smooth and relaxing as we floated up past the green banks of the Rio Grande out over the desert gardens of the city suburbs.

Once back down to earth a wander around the old town gave a good insight into Albuquerque's past - the first Spanish settlers arrived here in 1706 and some buildings from that time survive.

After refuelling on delicious enchiladas at Church St Cafe I visit some of "Albuquirky's" more unusual attractions.

The American International Rattlesnake Museum boasts the largest collection of rattlesnake species in the world. Thankfully all behind glass along with giant creepy-crawlies and tarantulas.

If that doesn't give you the heebie-jeebies try the National Atomic Museum, which details the history of nuclear development.

There's an impressive collection of nuclear weapons including replicas of "Fat Man" and "Little Boy" - the bombs the US dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945. America's most famous road, Route 66 runs through Albuquerque-check out its main drag of neon-lit restaurants and bars for a great photo op and a step back into the 50s with a chilliburger and milkshake at the Route 66 Diner.

One of New Mexico's major attractions is its cuisine, which is a fusion of Native American, Hispanic and Anglo. The first question you are asked in any restaurant is "red or green?".

It's a reference to the kind of chilli you would like. New Mexicans are incredibly proud of their chillis and like them on everything.

Red chillis are strung up to dry and hung as ornaments until being ground to make rich red sauces.

A great place for real New Mexican dishes is El Pinto restaurant. …

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Travel: Blazing Saddles ..and Toasted Marshmallows; OBAMA'S USA THE WILD WEST as Barack Obama Pushes Back the Boundaries of What Is Possible in America, We Head Back to the Frontier. First, NICK COLES Hits New Mexico
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