I quickly became attuned to the spirit of the place, and realised why this parched expanse has long captivated seekers, such as artist Georgia O’Keeffe and historian and costume designer Cathy A Smith, whose anecdotes on the rich Native American history transfixed me. Sitting and staring outwards as the vista, the buildings and mountains danced in a play of ochre and terracotta, and I found myself at total ease.
But all good things must come to an end. And, setting off on the famed Route 66, next stop Viva Las Vegas, brought an abrupt interruption to the meditative perfection of days past. The Navajo desert, undulating and morphing before my eyes, is like a mother’s lullaby, dissolving into the sweetest calm. Although Vegas is the antithesis of restful Santa Fe, it makes up for this with its utterly exuberant sensory assault: from miles away the lights alone herald the approach of the city in all its ostentation.
I lived out my Vegas fantasy from a plush room overlooking the 24-hour carnival that is The Strip. The iconic Mandarin Oriental provides the best views of the sprawling surrounds and is well worth the charge of a Negroni, or two, as it provides a sanctuary in the insanity. Las Vegas is a bizarre desert town, curious in its unashamed hedonism. Unlike visitors to Santa Fe, Sin City attracts those with a need for more worldly pleasures. The contrast was stark, and the following day I made a beeline straight through the Mojave Desert en route to the next oasis, Palm Springs. Hotfooting it back into the wilderness could not have come a moment too soon, nor could I have been any happier to quickly shake off the tawdry build-up of the last day’s ventures. What happens in Vegas is more than welcome to stay in Vegas!
Winding through the seared scene that is the Mojave is hypnotising, and at the end of this road is picture-postcard Palm Springs, California, home of #ThatPinkDoor, a design-lover’s paradise, with at least three sun loungers per inhabitant.