6. Arizona Road Trip addendum

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

For those of you who like to read my ramblings, here some words on the trip….

As as been testified so many times before, words cannot really do the Grand Canyon justice – you just have to see it.  We hiked down Bright Angel trail for a little ways and admired the views.  We saw some deer and squirrels and even a chipmunk!

Later we made our way to Tuba City and a night in a Navajo Nation owned hotel.  In the morning we looked in on the ‘Navajo Way’ museum of Culture which told the sad and brutal story of the Navajo’s history of systematic destruction and enslavement at the hands of Europeans and later white Americans.  Since the 60’s they have been given more rights but still their situation is hard.  We learned of their creation myths and caught a glimpse of a culture that is deeply and spiritually rooted in their environment. A culture that has lived in beauty and accord with the Earth for 12,000 years only to be almost destroyed in the last 500.  It was good to see these proud people celebrating themselves and humbling to realise how much we could learn from them.

We drove across the desert to Kayenta and then through Monument Valley.  Scenery we’ve seen in countless films but still absolutely fantastic in reality and one of the places on Earth I’ve always wanted to visit.

And finally to our motel in Mexican Hat, an amazing place with the motel embedded into the cliffs overlooking a creek.  The place is run by Navajos and we met the son of the owner in the bar who told us of his life in the valley, of the heat of the summer and the snow in winter, of catching the semi wild horses and breaking them and of the kinship of the tribe which is still a powerful force.  As the sky darkens we look forward to our supper in the diner with the host of hairy bikers that have just turned up…

Left our motel after spending a wakeful night in the company of a kangaroo rat (according to our host the next day), much more of an annoyance than any bikers, who turned out to be very quite and polite. Also the rat earned us a 10% discount.

Drove on to Page and the wonderful Antelope Canyon.  As we approached the sky was looking pretty threatening and a big storm was brewing on the horizon.  We stopped at the first entrance to the canyon where a full ‘balouki’(crazy chaos) was in progress as 30 French Tourists were all trying to get served by one very harassed Navajo woman serving up fry bread from her small caravan.  After asking how long we would have to wait for a tour (you have to have a guided tour through the canyon), we decided to move on.  We stopped at the next entrance and decided to go for it, even though it cost us over $50.

We were loaded on to the back of a truck and drove off through the desert to the entrance, but by the time we got there the wind was picking up and our guide told us that we only had time for half the tour – in case we got caught by a flash flood and drowned!  We reluctantly went in and unfortunately the experience was marred by being harried and hurried and the flying sand which got into the camera and made the lens cover stick, much to our chagrin!  Anyway we got some pics and as the wind picked up and the rain started to fall we all rushed out and back to the truck which had a tarp roof and bench seats in the open sided back.  By this time it was raining solidly and we piled on to the truck and our diminutive Navajo lady guide drove off back to base.  As she drove off all the rain that had collected in the tarp slid off down my back leaving me completely soaked and for the next bumpy fifteen minutes we endured the trip, me bouncing around manically laughing trying to ignore the fact we had probably screwed up our brand new camera and Fran being extremely pissed off about the same thing.

We did the British thing and didn’t complain or anything, but sullenly strode off to our car and decidedly did not tip our enthusiastic guide who was hopefully waiting by the the back of the truck.

We compounded our growing misery by eating crappy burgers at a Jack-in the-box decorated with alarming leering clown creatures, at least it gave us a chance to change out of our soggy clothes though.

We had decided to stay in Page that night only to find that all of the motels in Page were booked out.  It was Monday and we couldn’t believe that everywhere was full, but we tried loads of places and this seemed to be the case, by now we were fighting a growing sense of persecution. By this time it was about 4pm and we set off for the 2 hour drive back to Tuba City where it was the same story!  Fran was getting her ‘Mary’(no room at the Inn) complex by this time and I was beginning to think that we would be sleeping in the car, but we eventually found a hotel in a really dodgy looking area that looked more like a prison, but thankfully had rooms available, it was really quite fine, (if you like Prisoner cell block H).

The next day we set off in our trusty steed and headed towards Sedona.  We’d heard a lot about this place, it’s hippy appeal, it’s beautiful scenery and the famous ‘vortexes’ of energy.  We drove down and down and down from Flagstaff through a beautiful wooded area known as Oak Creek and, stopping for a pee a couple of times, we reached the bottom of a valley overlooked by massive red rock cliffs.  Quite a sight, so we stopped to take a picture, only to find the camera was gone!  Oh no, not again, we searched and searched but it was nowhere to be found.  We drove all the way back up and checked the two places we had stopped by the road, but no trace.  It was a good camera too and we liked it a lot.  So despairingly we drove on into ‘magical’ Sedona only to find a hideous strip of phoney ‘new age’ shops and a mostly middle aged slacks and blouses brigade.  We stopped and had lunch, there was a camera shop and we checked out a replacement – expensive, but we went on to our hotel and installed ourselves for the night.  The ‘Kopakelli Suites’ was actually an okay place with a comfortable room.  I set down to some work while Fran tried phoning our last stops in Tuba City to see if we had left the camera there.  Unfortunately not, so we decided to buy the camera the next day from ‘Rollo’s Film’ shop.  It’s funny when you lose something, it seems so desperate at the time, but now a couple of weeks on, it’s just another thing.  Anyway, buying the camera was actually a good experience as the salesman turned out to be a nice guy, chatting about his life and how he came to be in Sedona and what a swell place it was.  $400 lighter we walked out of the shop with our shiny new camera.

We had already had a short walk by the bottom of the huge cliffs.  It was hot and dry with lots of cacti everywhere and lizards scampering across the rocks.  We were walking down a dry road and every so often a jeep would bounce past us with some tourists looking for vortexes.  Fran was on the look out for a vortex too, though not sure if she would recognise it if she fell in it.  A bearded man in a jeep stopped and said howdy, pointing out a trail we might want to go on – Fran asked about vortexes and he seemed skeptical – “I wouldn’t know about that ma’am” he said politely.  We walked on, me managing to insert tiny cactus spines into my finger by foolishly plucking a purple cactus ‘fruit’. The road wound on and after a while we turned back as we had no water and the trail was a good mile away.  It was good to get out in the country though, away from the rather disappointing town.

Another trip through Oak Creek and back to Flagstaff for our penultimate night in the States. I went out to find the Greyhound station as were traveling to Phoenix the next day.   The Greyhound station was a pretty grim affair, with down and outs hanging about and a general air of decay.  I’d heard that the Greyhound service was not what it was and there was definitely no romance here, just a transit stop with a bored underpaid woman sitting in the office determinedly not looking up in case she would have to deal with anyone at the counter.  Eventually after waiting for 5 minutes in my British way, I attracted her attention, my words echoing around the desultorily hall and people eying me suspiciously.  I only wanted to know what time the Phoenix bus went tomorrow.  Armed with my info I went back to the Weatherford and we had dinner in the hotel restaurant.  I’d never had a plate of ‘wings’ before… and will never again.

After an un-thrilling bus ride to Phoenix, we checked in at our motel by the airport. Fran used the pool and then we shockingly walked two long blocks to ‘Ruby Tuesday’s’ restaurant.  Sorry to moan about it, but walking is ridiculous in the States, you feel like you’re trying to escape down a motorway or have been left in some industrial estate or something.  Ruby Tuesday’s turned out to be good though, with a good helping shrimp fondue and an ‘endless’ salad bar.  We sat there and watched the Tennis on the overhead screens for a while then hiked back to the motel, taking our lives in our hands crossing the immense roads.

Breakfast was exciting, Fran explored the make your own waffles machine and we made good with cereal and fruit juice and bananas and coffee. Then to Phoenix Sky Harbor and up and away to Mexico City and our lovely friend Angeles! (Not forgetting Zaha the cat of course).

More next….

Mx (with a few F tweakings!)

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