Published: August 3rd 2008February 4th 2008
We crossed over into the USA at Nogales. We knew we had reached the border when we hit traffic and crept ever so slowly forward for over an hour. It was snowing and sleeting outside. We had been dreading the crossing but it was painless. Customs and immigration were pleasant. We saw the high wall that tries in vain to keep illegal Mexicans out of the USA. On the other side we instantly noticed more order, more cleanliness, and a more modern environment. We passed through Tuscan where we dropped off most of the Mexicans (they need special permission to go further) and picked up an American who Pieter talked with for the rest of the trip.
In Phoenix it was dark and we only had to wait 20 minutes for Amanda (a Couch Surfer
) to pick us up. A wonderful, cheerful personality, we were immediately at ease with Amanda. We stayed in her apartment in a sprawling complex, a nicely decorated 1 bedroom place. She had two lovely cats who unfortunately didn't like our company as much as we enjoyed theirs. We had a lovely evening chatting. Next day Amanda went to work and we took a bus into
Desert Botanic Gardens
The funny little quails
town. We jumped on the bus on 32nd street and were immediately facing a problem because it was exact change only and we only had a $10 note. But the driver was lovely and told us we could pay for the day pass on the next bus. Which we did after getting some change in a fast food restaurant.
We were both suffereing a little culture shock. Safeways, the night before, was so big and clean and diversely stocked compared to supermarkets in Mexico and the countries in South and Central America where we had been for the last 11 months. While on the bus we noticed that people were not walking here and the roads were jam packed with lots of modern cars. Hummers were popular. We went to a restaurant downtown where the waitress spoke english, the toilets were clean and had plenty of loo paper, there was no bucket for the loo paper, we got free refills of coffee and the bill arrived without asking for it. We were wondering when we would adjust to our new surrounding.
We visited the Science Museum where we spent a whopping $50 or more to see the Titanic
Desert Botanic Gardens
A curious ground squirrel
exhibition and the Imax Titanic documentary. It was worth it. The exhibition had lots of peoples stories and the objects from the wreck were plentifyul and interesting, from combs to jewellery and crockery and a persers jacket. The perser didn't survive but his suitcase did. We were given a boarding pass each with the names of real passengers. At the end of the exhibition was the list of survivors and those who didn't survive. Pieter's first class passenger survived and so did my third class passenger but her two sons died.
The next day we took another long bus ride to find the Desert Botanic Gardens. Our first stop was the cafe where I was advised by Amanda to try the prickly pear tea which was great. Sitting outside next to the garden we noticed a common desert bird, the quail. Very cute. Then we were visited by a ground squirrel who was even more cute! We enjoyed walking around the gardens which had such a huge variety of cactus and other desert plants. We overheard a guide saying not to expect hummingbirds for the time of day but we watched one for quite a long time, he was
Desert Botanic Gardens
A yound Saguaro, although it can take 75 years to develop side arms
too busy with a bush to notice us. We learnt a few things and bought a collection of lovely things from the gift shop.
Amanda was a fantastic host. We had lovely evenings talking politics (we were there for Super Tuesday) and watching new season Lost. We then went to stay with Angela who had stayed with us in London. She was kind enough to lend us her car while she worked and we headed off for Apache Junction. There we found the Superstitious Mountain Museum which had lots of displays about the area. Stuffed animals, army uniforms, gold rush objects. There was reference to a Lost Dutchman mine which we would find out more about later. There was also the history of the Apacheland film set. Built some miles away, the set had burned down twice. The church and barn were transported to the museum site. Various famous actors had made films on the set. The church featured in Elvis Presley's Charro.
We then moved onto the historic Goldfield Ghost Town. It was a real gold settlement and we took the cheesy train ride before heading to the restaurant for a traditional burger and chips in a
plastic basket on the porch at a picnic table with a cowboy singing westerns and real cow folk dining there and cattle calling each other. We looked around the shops and signed up for a desert tour. Our guide was Narly and he was really interesting and funny. He showed us the plants and how to survive in the desert, took us on a fairly wild and rough ride and when we stopped for a photo he shot his gun in the air. It was a real highlight. He also told us his version of the tail of the Lost Dutchman mine. Firstly, he was German but when he said was from Deutschland the simple local folk got confused and decided he was Dutch. To make a long story short he always had plenty of dosh while he lived and when he died gold was found under his bed that came from no known mine in the area. Since then people have been looking for the lost mine.
By the time we left Phoenix we were over the culture shock of leaving Mexico, but we were heading for another type of culture shock ... Las Vegas.
There are more photos below