Chooshgai, a puzzlingly deserted desert community
Heading north up state highway 491 from Gallup, New Mexico, the community of Chooshgai appeared on top of a flat hill on the right hand side of the road just a few miles inside the Navajo Indian Reservation.
The tops of street lamps were visible from the road, as were the roofs of small houses which peeked over the rise in a manner reminiscent of shy children wanting and not wanting to be seen.
From the road it looked like the perfect opportunity to take some pictures of a Navajo community with rocky outcrops and cliffs in the background and the highway below. A few shots of families and cars outside houses with a desert backdrop that would look good on reuters.com.
On closer inspection, however, this entire community appears to have been deserted. Some 100 homes stand empty here, all with their windows intact indeed some appear to have relatively new windows.
The paintwork on most of these basic, single-storey homes seemed in good shape, with only the fire hydrants in the street faded to a merry pink instead of their regulation red though in the heat of the New Mexico desert that fading process is not so slow.
The street signs seem new, as do those signs indicating a speed limit of 15 miles per hour and warning drivers to watch out for non-existent children at play.
The houses at Chooshgai brought to mind the Mary Celeste, the famously abandoned ghost ship found off the coast of Portugal in 1872, where the 10 crew and passengers were never found.
How this community came to be abandoned is probably not a mystery to people in the surrounding area, but on this day there was no-one anywhere around to ask.