Four days. That's all it took to fall in love with the Southwest. Having lived in the States for most of my life, it amazes me to think that until recently I had failed to explore this extension of my own backyard. Perhaps for the better, a lack of hype surrounding this area has made it undoubtedly one of America's best-kept secrets. Here's to hoping it stays that way.
Upon arriving in Albuquerque, New Mexico, we hit the ground running, stopping only for tacos and elote (corn on the cob). Riding shotgun in my brother's old Mazda, I had a front-row seat of the sunset that night, and boy did it put on a show. Between the sleep deprivation and heat-induced trance, I was convinced we had landed on Mars. As the sun was rising, we hiked the rock formations of Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, in total awe of the terrain. After sweating out our bodyweight in water, we regretfully departed Arches and continued onto Page, Arizona.
Needless to say, it did not disappoint. We cautiously descended well over 100 feet into the depths of Antelope Canyon, a sandstone slot canyon carved by more than 1.5million years of flash flooding. And yet again we travelled on. Our drive to Alamogordo, New Mexico, took us through the expanse of Navajo Nation. The wild horses, herds of cattle, prickly pears and turquoise-clad women were mesmerising, offering insight into a vibrant culture. Nearly 10-hours later we had finally arrived at White Sands National Monument. Named for its stark white-sand dunes, we struggled in the heat to climb the gypsum dunes and avoid the rattlesnakes.
Hundreds of freckles later, it was time to return home.