Each week readers share their travel adventures in the STM Wanderlust pages. This week,Tracey and Bruce Sivalingam went off the beaten track in search of an ancient American civilisation.

Why Colorado? When Bruce was seven years old he was fascinated by a story about ancient Native Americans who lived in villages they’d built into the cliffs of remote mountains. So when his Texas-based cousin, Dawn, and her husband Tom retired and emailed “Now we’re free — wanna go?”, we jumped at the chance to visit the Mesa Verde National Park.

How did you feel when you arrived? The drive into the Colorado high country is full of great scenery. From the top you see these really flat mesas (tablelands), just like tabletops, cut by ravines and valleys. Nature is all around — trees, birds, deer, foxes, prairie dogs — yet it’s so peaceful. All this is a prelude to the cliff dwellings, which include houses, communal and ceremonial areas, water and grain storage. The amazing thing is that it was created by the ancestral Puebloans in the 1190s. Blanketing it all is a blueish haze, which creates a sense of otherworldliness. We were mesmerised.

Best-kept secret? The existence of Mesa Verde National Park is something few travellers seem to know about. Few people even realise it was one of UNESCO’s first World Heritage sites. It’s the whole package — wildlife, scenery and antiquities. You can rough it by camping, stay at caravan parks or enjoy all the creature comforts of hotels and motels located in the park.

What will you never forget about the ruins?How it’s all come together. The Ancestral Pueblo people built it, committed explorers found it, experts restored it, the Park Service maintains it. And we get to see it. People can do amazing things if they put their minds to something. You can’t beat a ranger-guided tour to a cliff dwelling called Balcony House. It’s not for the claustrophobic or those nervous about heights. But if you can get over that, you’re in for a treat.

How did you relax on this trip? Gazing out over the mesas at sunset from the Terrace of the Far View Lodge or the balcony of our room, while sipping a Spiced Agave cocktail.

What would you do again?For a relaxing outing in the cool, a twilight tour of the largest dwelling, called Cliff Palace, is a must. Chapin Mesa Museum is quaint and compact, has beautifully presented displays and dioramas to satisfy everyone, from the enthusiast after more depth to those seeking a basic idea.

Where did you stay and how did you get around? Far View Lodge in the national park is in a great location, has good facilities and nice restaurants. Dawn and Tom had an RV and a Jeep to run us around, but many people fly in to nearby Durango, rent a car and drive to Mesa Verde.

Would you return? For sure, especially if a time portal took us back to 1250. This period is fascinating as it was a time of major (building) construction, many of which are preserved. And it may also hold clues as to why the Puebloans left. Archaeologists and anthropologists know something of where they went, but they don’t know why. In any case, a civilisation dating back thousands of years simply vanished in less than 50 years and no one knows why. That’s the final mystery.

Where is your wanderlust taking you next? Queensland and Machu Picchu for one of our significant birthdays.