Chaco Canyon


Having been born in India and having since then had the opportunity to visit and study other countries gave me a perspective privy only to those who pull themselves out of their home and re-plant themselves elsewhere.

Soon after arriving in the US, I felt old, like really old.  Everything was sparkly, clean, white, bright, in its place, proper. Thinking back to the scores of dusty, hot, and often dirty and chaotic streets of India, I felt old. Here, the buildings were new, and people’s clothes were bright, not faded, like mine.  So, that’s what the weight of an old civilisation feels like, I thought, wrapped up in the romance of the honeymoon stage of this torrid affair.

And that weight has always felt good to me, a perfect way of remaining connected to my birth culture, this culturally inherited hypercard of cumulative knowledge and experience that is not unlike a vastly developed root system that nurtures and strengthens all at the same time.

I have lived in the United States since 1987, and have traveled in this vast land whenever I could. But this visit marked a milestone for me. For the first time in all these years, I felt that I was connecting to something ancient in the US. Because it is ancient, dating back to 850-1250 A.D.

I rode behind Jamie on his motorcyle for this 120 mile roundtrip back into time. I have been on motorcycles before (never driven one) but that was back in India, eons ago.  It was quite fun, really, until we got to the unpaved section of the road.  This access road is 20 miles long. As we vibrated and bumped along the washboard ribs of the sacred ground, I guessed it was left unpaved because they want to protect and conserve its delicate ecological environment and the architectural remains that probably would have been eroded by now due to high visitor traffic.

Had it rained, we would have had to turn around and go home because we would have been unable to navigate in the mud. But sun was shining on us and the temperature and light were perfect. Jamie packed us a sandwich and pickle picnic which disappeared quickly after we reached our destination. After lunch, we visited two pueblos, promising to return again for the others. The first one we visited was Hungo Pavi and the second Pueblo Bonito. All the pictures in the gallery below are from these two sites.

At Pueblo Bonito, I encountered a man sitting silently at the edge of one of the great kivas for what seemed like forever. As I walked by him, I tried imagining “a day in the life of…” the Chacoans. I could sort of reconstruct the walls, their thicknes, how high they stretched, and pictured ceilings bolstered by great big beams. This place would have been very cool in the summer but in the winter, too. The high desert is pretty rough living, and food, what did they do for food? These and many similar questions raced through my mind as we wandered through the remains of these clusters of dwellings and meeting houses.

I wanted to post all these pictures soon after I got back but did not want to spoil the experience for a couple of friends who were going to visit us over Thanksgiving. We wanted to go back there with them and experience it again. And so we did, on the eve of Thanksgiving Day. Another dry day, but very cold and very windy. I did not last very long out there, despite my leather jacket, scarf, gloves, etc. etc.  The pics our friends took that day and some of our own are included in the second gallery (still in progress). Enjoy browsing through them at your leisure.

If you get a chance, make it up there, you will not regret it.

And,  just for fun, I’d like any readers of this post to tell us what is the oldest human-built site they have visited in the US. It was thrilling to make this trip a reality. My general guess is nothing as old as the pueblos of Chaco Canyon.

Note: It will be easier to view these pics if you clicked on one of them