July 10th – Tipis, Indians, and Indians

We woke up early, feeling much less nauseous than we had the previous day. We went and filled our bellies at the continental breakfast, and then began the multi-hour process of packing the bike. Even without the tent and bags, “breaking camp” from the hotel still took most of 2 hours. The day before we’d been tipped off to the existence of a 420-friendly hostel in the area, called the Abominable Snow Mansion. It was about a 15 minute ride through the countryside to the neighboring settlement of Arroyo Seco. This is an incredibly tiny town, probably 2-3 dozen buildings total. We had heard tale of being able to work in exchange for staying there, so we asked about it. We could do 2 hours of labor to take $10 off the cost of staying in one of the dorm-style rooms. No trade could be arranged for the tipis that they had. We decided to just pay money, as the thought of sleeping in a tipi was incredibly exciting. I think it came out to $36 / night for both of us, and we had a tipi to ourselves, with beds and blankets.

Overall, I really liked the tipi. The extremely high ceiling in the middle makes me feel less constrained while indoors. The white canvas did a pretty good job of reflecting heat while letting in a large amount of diffuse sunlight. We met some of our neighbors at the hostel, and went to hang out in the smoking gazebo for a while. Several of them were going to a free vegetarian meal being served at the Ashram in Taos, and we decided to tag along with them.

It was perfect riding weather as we took the short journey back into Taos, winding quite a ways through small neighborhood streets to arrive at the very secluded Ashram. People were spread throughout the lovely gardens in small groups, enjoying the meal. The food consisted of rice, bread, salad, curried potatoes, and a few things I couldn’t identify, though it was all delicious. A large bowl contained a very respectable chai, which we drank and enjoyed. We spent the next hour or so conversing with our new friends from the hostel, and wandering the gardens of this secluded sanctuary.

I really enjoy staying at hostels. My friend Russell and I stayed in a few while we were in Colombia, and I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in most of them. Aside from being an inexpensive place to stay that comes with bathrooms, showers, and full kitchen access, they’re a wonderful place to meet other travelers. After-dinner conversation at hostels is always a lively and interesting time, as everyone trades stories. These are people with actual stories to tell, too. I feel it is entirely too common in my daily life for the entirety of a conversation to consist of “’sup?” “n[ot]m[uch]”. This conversation never occurs at hostels. Everybody there is actively engaged in an adventure of some sort, and odds are, this isn’t their first one. Plus, as everyone is a stranger, nobody has heard any of each others stories yet, making it an interesting and novel experience for everyone. If you don’t regularly stay at hostels when you travel, consider it for future adventures. I’ll probably eventually add a “places to stay” page to this site where I’ll review places I’ve stayed along the road. For now at least, let me say that the Abominable Snow Mansion is really chill, has tipis, and is located in one of the prettier spots in the country. Hard to beat, really.

While we were at the Ashram, we were given directions to the Taos Pueblo Pow-Wow that was being held in town this weekend. It was an annual festival hosted by the Taos Pueblo Indians to raise money and awareness of the tribe and their issues, in addition to being a time of celebration and festivities. As we rode out of town, we followed the signs to the Pow-Wow. Interestingly, following the signs was not at all the most efficient way to get there, as they directed you to drive past their casino before doubling back to actually go to the festival. Devious. When we arrived, it was clear that this was more an event for whitey than for the people themselves, but we decided to park and pay the entrance fee anyways. God knows if anyone needs more money it’s the Native American Indian tribes that we have fucked over so ridiculously badly since arriving on this continent. Go ahead Taos Pueblos, profit off my white guilt. You’ve earned it. The festival consisted of an inner circle formed by people and a ring-shaped shade structure made of branches; and an outer circle formed by vendor booths. An inspection of many of the goods for sale revealed that cheap Chinese shit is truly everywhere. I guess they keep the authentic stuff for the tribe.

We watched a young girl undergo some sort of coming-of-age ritual that involved drumming, chanting, and dancing. Overall an enjoyable spectacle, especially with the myriad of intricate costumes. While many of the older tribe members wore more traditional seeming costumes (though let’s be honest, I don’t really know what counts as traditional here), the younger tribe members wore things clearly made of modern materials, featuring fluorescent colors, and plastic accessories. I guess eagle feathers probably aren’t as common as they used to be. Though we’d heard rumor of a hoop dance being performed, we sadly arrived too late to witness it. Gianna was understandably very disappointed. We did see the stack of hoops that would have used, and it appears the traditional hoop dance for these people incorporates a dozen or so very small hoops (like poi-hoops for those who are familiar with the term).

Approximately satisfied with the experience after a couple hours, we headed back to the bike, and saddled up for the ride back the tipi. By the time we arrived back it was starting to get chilly. Amazing. It felt sooo good to be cold after the heat we had left in Texas. Gianna put on a jacket, while I opted to just relish in the sensation of not being hot for a while. We discovered there was an organic corner store and cafe across the street from the hostel, and a tea house behind it. For a town so tiny, this place really had a lot of the niceties I actually care about from civilization. The corner store was very expensive, as to be expected from such a business. The organic mark-up, plus the convenience store mark-up…Ouch. Whatever, we needed to eat, and I didn’t want to ride all the way back to Taos for access to a slightly larger grocery store. If I remember correctly we picked up a jar of tomato sauce, and a pound of ground local Yak meat. I’d never had Yak before, and it was the same price as the beef. While I try to be an adventurous eater at all times, I especially make a point to do it while I’m traveling. Exploring different food is a critical component of experiencing different cultures, so we made a point to eat local as much as possible, even while camping and traveling.

The food was pretty good. Yak is a little tougher than beef, though admittedly, I’m comparing it to Texas beef, which isn’t really a fair comparison. I think in a sauce was the perfect place for that meat, as it’s toughness would have been more annoying in a dish that more prominently featured it. We gathered in the smoking structure, and began the nightly exchange of stories and marijuana smoke. I think a few beers made it out at some point, too, but definitely the preferred drug of this place is grass, which makes me feel much more at home. The culture that grows out of regular cannabis use is much more peaceful and friendly than the culture that grows out of regular alcohol use. Now that I think about it, expect an editorial on this sometime soon.

We wandered off to bed around midnight. The inside of the tipi was definitely pretty cold, but it was fine in bed under the covers. Having another warm body in the bed really kept it quite a comfortable temperature for sleeping. We’d been given quite a few suggestions for stuff to check out around there for the next day, and we went to sleep excited about what the next 24 hours might bring.

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