A Travellerspoint blog

14. Flip flopping round Vegas and the rides

Saturday 20th August
It was nice waking up in a proper bed this morning, although I was still wide awake at 6.30, I had to pack up all my stuff again because Lisanne was leaving today so I'm going to be sharing with Rhiannon tonight. I decided to keep some stuff out and do a bit of laundry, it turns out I've only worn about half the stuff I've brought, all my nice / civilised stuff (half my case) is all still unworn. It cost me $25 for the hotel to wash my clothes - eek! I nearly didn't bother but couldn't be bothered messing about going to the nearest outside laundrette which was a few miles out of the city centre and it really needed doing.

We had a free day today which meant Kelsey wasn't organising us (or looking after us), I'd decided I wanted to go on the New York New York Rollercoaster and the stratosphere rides and asked the others if they fancied it, some did so we arranged to meet in reception at 10.30, some turned up, some didn't so the ones there set off. Talking about the hotel reception, the entire time we were there there was a convention in for anime - some Japanese cartoon things and there were hundred of people dressed up as characters, some hadn't made much effort but others must have spent hours getting ready, funnily Molly is petrified of stuff like that and had to move every time she saw one.

It turns out Calvin Harris was djing in one of the hotels last night, wish id known I'd've tried to get tickets.

The ones who'd made it to reception set off walking to New York New York which took about an hour, this place is vast and the strip is a very busy main road which you can't just cross like you would a normal road, you've got to cross using bridges - the bridges generally start and finish in shopping centres! The ones who hadn't met us in reception got there before us because the clever buggers had got a cab, why didn't we think if that?!? New York New York was huge, just like Paris has been, loads of shops and restaurants and a huge casino - this is the hotel I'm staying when I come back - woop woop, I think I'm going to enjoy it here! The Rollercoaster was good fun but a bit of a bone shaker, it took us past the Empire State Building, Chrysler building and the Statue of Liberty - well replicas of the real thing - mad just mad!

We'd not had breakfast before we left so were a bit peckish when we'd finished so called at the nearest food place - Nathan's, a pizza and hot dog diner inside the hotel, there weren't many veggie options so I had...... A slice of Mushroom pizza (for last nights supper and this mornings breakfast - oops!) and waffle fries (which weren't very nice)! After food, we had to say goodbye to my lovely roomie / tent mate / hiking mate Lisanne, she was heading for a last wander and then off to the airport.
The rest of us decided to go to the Venetian for a gondola ride. The Venetian is a hotel casino and basically a real indoor city, with a painted sky- complete with shops, restaurants and a canal (on the second floor?!), a real canal where you can have a gondola ride!! This place is mad and these hotels must have cost billions to build, it's amazing. I went in the gondola with Emily, Caitlin and Michelle and we got the campest gondolier (is that what they're called - the bloke pushing the boat with his stick) ever, who loved doing elaborate poses for the camera. We'd already noticed on the boats we'd seen as we were waiting that the gondoliers sang but we didn't know if it was all of them - it was which had us all giggling all the way round the canal, we even got our man to sing happy birthday to Emily. The ride lasted about 15 mins and was good fun, we even saw a couple getting married on one of the boats - with just them, the registrar and the gondolier which was quite cute.

When we'd gone, me and Emily decided to head to stratosphere to go on the rides there - they are at the top,of the building - 921 feet above the Strip! There's a bit of a Rollercoaster type thing, which wasn't as good as I was expecting, you sit in a Rollercoaster type seat which runs along a small piece of track over the edge of the building, the track is also a bit if a seesaw, the best seats are obviously the front ones, the ones behind don't get the same view, it would be much better if everybody had a front seat view (ie if the seats were at the side of each other rather than behind), the second ride is a spinny claw like thing which dangles you over the edge and then spins round, I'm not a fan of spinny things generally cos they make me a bit travel sick but I did enjoy this mainly cos of the height and the views, the third ride is where you sit on a row of seats and it shoots you up in the air which was cool but I was disappointed this one didn't last longer - especially as there was only us three on it - get me, Rollercoaster connoisseur, I'm never satisfied ha ha! There is another adrenaline fuelled thing on the stratosphere - called the sky jump, it looks like a bungie jump but is really a vertical zip wire, it looks pretty awesome so I think I might do that when I come back next week,

Em decided she fancied an aft at the side of the pool so got a cab and headed back, I'd got more exploring to do so decided to wander back down the strip and call into whatever I passed. Before I left the stratosphere though I decided to have a look round the casino and spotted a wizard of Oz slot machine so decided to put a few dollars in, as I sat down a lady asked if I wanted a drink so I ordered a voddy and coke and put seven dollars in the machine - I didn't win a bean and the waitress woman didn't bring my drink. As I was loitering (waiting for the drink) a woman came up and asked me if I'd done on the machine cos she wanted a go, I let her go on but didn't hang around to see if she won any of my money back, I did tell her to keep an eye out for the drinks lady and that the voddy and coke was hers if she wanted it.

I headed off out and started my stroll down the Strip - blimey it's a long way! First off I called in circus circus, I imagine it was grand in it's time but compared to some of the other hotels it's very tired and dated. There are circus acts on throughout the day but I'd just missed them and didn't want to hang about for an hour til the next ones. I walked past some of the little wedding chapels, I didn't see any weddings going on but I did see a couple who had just got married and were having some photos taking and I shouted congratulations to them. Between stratosphere and the next big hotels there's a bit of a gap where a hotel has been demolished and here is just the hugest pile of tangled metal, there's also a big blue hotel which I'm not sure if it's new and almost complete and been abandoned or if it's not new but has still been abandoned, it looks a bit sad. There's quite a few homeless people but they are no hassle and don't even bother asking for anything.

My poor flip flop clad feet were starting to ache by this point and I was a bit peckish so decided to find myself some tea. Trip advisor told me there was a veggie place near by but it turned out it was closing in five minutes so I found an oriental place called PF Changs at planet Holliwood, the restaurant was huge and packed but they managed to find me a table for one. the food was yummy- veggie spring roll and tofu Buddhas delight - but the waiter was awful, I'm not sure if it was because I was on my own but he was super helpful to everyone else around me and hardly gave me the time of day - he banged my glass of water down on the table so hard it splashed over the side, he didn't mop it up! I asked if he could help with my chopsticks (those stupid cheap ones you have to snap apart) I'd already broken two sets and he was very snarky about it. As I was finishing eating he asked if I wanted another glass of wine, I said yes please and he brought me it in a plastic glass so I could walk home with it - I'd have preferred it in a proper glass to drink in the restaurant but couldn't be bothered saying anything so I walked out of the restaurant and back to my hotel sipping wine out of a plastic cup I felt like a bit of an alki, but it's normal here a ha ha! Back at the hotel it was time to say goodbye to lovely Claire - that's both the other newbies who started the trip with me gone now - boo hoo! I hate the saying goodbye bit. I'm going to be sharing with Rhiannon now!

My poor feet were throbbing, it turns out me and my super comfy flip flops have walked 12 miles so I didn't hang about in going to bed.

Steps: 29,500 / 12.2 miles.

Posted by cazbatt 21:57 Archived in USA Comments (0)

13. Vegas baby

Friday 19th August

Early morning rise this morning, we're off to Vegas - woop woop!! I am sad to be leaving the Grand Canyon though, it's amazing here and I could easily spend another week just exploring and doing more of the hikes - the views are ones that you would never get tired of seeing - just all those colours and ruggedness. We're packed up and our way by eight, we've got a long drive but we're having a little stop off at one of the little towns on the original Route 66 called Seligman. Apparently, lots of little towns along Route 66 were thriving up until 1978 when the I40 highway was opened which by passed the old Route 66 and all the towns along the route, the economy in the town failed and lots of people moved away and businesses failed. A men in Seligman decided enough was enough and got together a group of people from towns suffering the same fate, the created a group which petitioned to get the original Route 66 a "histrionic highway" status, this was granted in 1987 and that was the beginning of Route 66 becoming so iconic. These days the town is a bit of a caricature of itself and apparently is the town that the film Cars (the cartoon) is based on. There are loads of souvenir shops and cafés to stroll round, I had a wander round and then passed through a little milkshake shop which was one of the businesses owned by Angel Delgaddillo - the man mentioned above, it was only a tiny little shop and covered with notes, business cards and dollar bills which people had signed their names on, it was partly cute but partly way over the top in a claustrophobic kind of way but the milkshakes were very nice, I had a Peanut butter shake and just as I walked out of the shop, all the rest of the group were walking in to get shakes too.

The rest of journey went pretty fast and before long we could see the familiar skyline of Vegas - yeaaaaay! I've loved the last few days in the national parks but I'm really looking forward to this too. Everything is huuuuuuuge! The first thing we did was call at the famous Vegas sign and have a photo stop - even the sign is huge! There was a queue to get to the front but it wasn't a ridiculous wait, everyone was very well behaved - well other than a hen party (who we decided weren't a real hen party) who spent ages with their different poses, I imagine a Naomi Campbell photo shoot wouldn't have taken as long - ha ha! I got talking to a lady in the queue who very kindly did some group shots for us which are pretty fab.

Next stop was our hotel, I love camping and have had a fab time in the campsite even the crappy ones but it is nice to be in a hotel, Lisanne was already there when I got to our room and sprawled out on the sofa - she looked sooooo comfortable, the first thing I did was jump on my lovely comfortable bed and just lay there for ten mins - bliss! The hotel wasn't very posh but would do us just fine - it had a nice bathroom with a nice shower with hot water, there were no dead bugs in the sink, it had carpets, a sofa in the lounge and a mini kitchen - ooooooh very nice! We had half hour chill, I unpacked my suitcase - I've only worn half the stuff I brought so far!! And that half is chucked in a pile of stuff that desperately needs to be washed. The Hard Rock Cafe was just across the road from our hotel so I'd decided I needed to call for the obligatory magnets and shot glasses and suggested to Lisanne we could call there for tea too, we did and the food was good - veggie leggie burger and chilli fries washed drown with a cocktail.

We headed back to the hotel and met up with the others, our activity tonight was a party bus, we were being driven around for two hours in a bus which was like a disco inside, there were us, some of a group who have been traveling the same route as us and another group, some of who were joining up with us from tomorrow.

The bus drove us up the strip to the Vegas sign and we had a group photo take again, this time by a professional photographer for a couple of dollars each and back in the bus again with the drinks flowing until we had an unexpected stop off because one of our group was sick - and we had to pull over for it to be cleaned up - the driver was going to charge $250 but said if she paid cash he'd knock it down to $100. We were let back on and partied away til time up when we were dropped off at the Bellagio to see the fountain show which was lovely.

By this time we'd lost off the others so me and Lisanne went for a wander round the Paris casino. Paris was huge, like walking round a proper city, it has a replica Eiffel tower outside (although it's a bit shorter and fatter than the real thing so reminded me more of Blackpool tower. Inside there are proper streets with shops and restaurants and cafés on them, then there is the casino - it's huuuuuuge!! There are hundreds upon hundred of slot machines and then the tables where you can play all the card games, I recognised poker and roulette but that was it, I didn't know what all the others were. It was mad, there were people with stacks of chips - a lot of them getting through them very quickly, some people were concentrating very hard, some not looking very happy and one woman looked so bored, she wasn't even looking as she dished her chips out. It was amazing to watch but I can't say I fancied squandering my money away, although i do have $33 which work gave me for my birthday which I am planning to spend in a casino at some point. Lisanne had a few plays of poker and lost $30, even the dealer commented how quick she'd lost which didn't enthuse Lisanne to spend any more. I did put a dollar in a slot machine and won back $0.20 - ha ha! Even though the burger if had earlier was pretty huge, I was a bit peckish - well I wasn't, but I passed a pizza shop which sold slices of mushroom pizzas so I couldn't resist and had a slice - I say a slice, it could have actually fed a small family and was pretty delicious.

We then headed home, it was a lot longer walk than we expected, everything here is huge. By the time we got back it was almost 2 o clock, the strip which we'd left behind was showing no signs of slowing down, they're right about Vegas being the city that never sleeps!!

Posted by cazbatt 21:34 Archived in USA Comments (0)

12. Grand Canyon - WOW!!

Thursday 18 August
We were up and off the campsite for 5,25 this morning - groan! But it was worth it, it wasn't a perfect sunrise over the canyon, there were lots of clouds but it was still stunning, there were a fair few people at the same spot as us but it was still easy to get an uninterrupted view - cue a few dozen more photos, probably all very alike - ha ha, will cull them later!

At about 6.30 I headed to find where we meet the ranger for the ranger led hike, Lisanne had decided that she fancied it too so we met at the board where the details were and it turns out it wasn't on today - it's run on Wednesdays and Fridays and not Thursdays - grrrrr!! We decided we were going to do the hike anyway but before nipped to get some breakfast and a coffee at the cafe near the visitor. The sandwich sounded lovely, a veggie breakfast burrito - egg, spicy potatoes, cheese and a tomato salsa which we had to warm up in the microwave ourselves, it was horrible, the spuds were hard and it was tasteless! I ate it anyway because the hike we were doing was a six mile round trip so I needed fuel!
As we were walking towards the shuttle bus (which are free and run all along the rim throughout the day) to take us to South Kaibab point where our hike started there were three elk just wandering by nibbling on the grass and the trees - they're pretty huge and completely oblivious to people. There were also lots of chipmunks scurrying about, they're soooo cute!.

The shuttle bus dropped us off at South Kaibob point and off we went over the rim, we'd decided to hike until 10.30 and then turn back with the aim of getting back to the top for 1.30. Obviously, the downhill bits were easier that the coming back up bits but still tricky as there were some very steep bits and the paths were made out of rock and sand, the paths were switchback trails so we zigzagged down into the canyon, around every corner the views were stunning. The first point was Ooh Ahh point - which did make you want to go "ooh","ahh"! That part of the trail was 1 mile. On the way down we'd seen Emily and Molly a bit further in front of us, when we caught them up they were in stitches, turns out they'd just taken a timed picture of themselves mooning - not realising that people could see them from up the path or further down the trail - ha ha! We took a few (more) pics then carried on down the trail to Cedar Ridge, here we decided to stop and have a snack, we'd been warned about pesky squirrels who are cheeky enough to try and get into bags for foods and they did, Some of them just stood nearby watching with pleading eyes and others were cheeky enough to just walk straight up to us and try and get in our bags - the little scoundrels!

The next spot was Cedar Ridge a further 0.6miles down which was a ridge with cedar trees on would you believe and some Eco loos (just wooden huts where the loo just leads to a hole in the ground - they were surprisingly clean (much better than the efforts on the inca trail!!) and on we went the next 1.6 mikes onto Skeleton Ridge, there want anything to say why it was called that. We'd got there for just after ten so decided to walk for a further twenty mins and then turn back so in total we think we walked about 4 mike into the canyon - now we had to head back up, Oof that was tough in the legs, coming dine is painful on the knees but going back up got my thighs and my calves - pure leg burn sometimes! We weren't silly though and took it steady and thankfully it was a bit cloudy so not as hot as it could have been. It took us three hours to get back up, we had a few mini stops but only for water and to catch our breath again, I was pretty chuffed at that. As we passed Ooh Aah Point again there was a volunteer ranger talking to people and trying to talk people out of going any further as you could see a storm coming in the distance, we'd timed it pretty well. He was also just chatting and telling people that out of the millions of visitors who visit Grand Canyon every year only 3% decide to make a trip below the rim.

At the top Lisanne decided to head for the shuttle, I decided to walk back to the visitor centre - another 2 1/2 mile, the main reason was that I'd not seen much wildlife - just the odd bird, a spider in her hole keeping her egg sack safe and the squirrels, I wanted to see a snake, a bear and / or a mountain lion (I'm an idiot!!), needless to say I didn't!! It took about forty minutes and by the time I was at the visitor centre my poor legs were knackered and my feet were throbbing!
I'd got forty mins to kill before I had to meet the others, I had a wander round the visitor centre which is very good and then spotted that there was a short film showing that would finish just in time for me to get to our meet point. As they switched the lights off I decided it would be best to set my alarm, I knew the film would be interesting but I was a bit tired and comfortable seats and the dark could mean I'd be nodding off before long. I didn't and really enjoyed the film which talked about the geology and history of the canyon.

At the meeting there was just Lisanne and Kelsey there, all the others had made their way back to camp (why?? I'd only gone back because we'd got plans for late afternoon otherwise I'd have made by poor little feet explore some more!!). We headed to pick the others up and I thought we might have half an hour to freshen up cos I was a bit filthy. we didn't, we were heading to the airport for a helicopter ride over and in the canyon- woop woop!

At that point we weren't sure it'd definitely happen because the storm from earlier was still lingering, we registered and got weighed in and then waited about half an hour before they confirmed we were good to go - woop woop! It was bloody amazing! We flew over the trees for a few minutes and then swooped over the ridge and were flying for a good 45 minutes, it was brilliant and our (rather cute!) pilot BJ was fab too, he talked to us our entire flight and was very funny. Molly was in the front super excited, like a kid in a sweet shop and me and her babbled on to BJ most of the flight. It was awesome and we didn't want it to finish. Just as we were lending we saw a flash of lightening in the distance which was cool. We got back on the ground, had some pictures taken with BJ and then headed back in, cos I was buzzing so much I did my usual and bought the DVD - ha ha, I'm just a marketer's dream!

It was the A Teams (us) turn to do dinner, we'd decided to do a proper BBQ and were hoping to do it on an open fire but the rain put paid to that, although I did manage to cook sweet corn and tato tots (mini hash browns) on an open fire while the rest of the stuff was cooked on the stove.

I went across to the shop with Molly, James and Michelle where we spent a while just messing about and looking at the random stuff they sold then headed back and I went to bed. Today I gave been down in the canyon and up over it - awesome, just awesome!!

Steps: 32,275 / 13.2 miles

Posted by cazbatt 00:06 Archived in USA Comments (0)

11, Monument Valley to the Grand Canyon

Wednesday 17 August
It was a surprisingly good night sleep last, I woke up twice with cramp in my hip but other than that I slept pretty well - dreaming that I married Russell Howard - no idea where that came from - wonder if shooting stars make dreams come true as well as wishes - ha ha! I'd set my alarm for 4.45 because we were getting up and going off to watch the sunrise but there was no one else stirring then so I just watched the stars, at about 5.15 some kind if native flute music started gently playing and then got louder as the Navajo guides all came to wake us up. We all clambered in the van and set off for a 15 minute drive to a place where we were going to watch the sunset, the sky was already getting light but the sun wasn't peeping over the horizon yet, as we stood and watched we realised we weren't actually going to see much of a sunrise because it was so cloudy but it was still beautiful anyway. As I was watching, a woman came up to me and asked if she'd been talking to me the day before - it was the woman from the service station, apparently she'd only just woken up when I saw her yesterday so wasn't quite with it - that was obvious! Today we had a proper chat so my faith in the friendly folk was restored!!

We hopped back in our wagon and went back to the camp area where breakfast was waiting for us, I was thinking it would be traditional Navajo fayre again - it was Cheerios, Special K, alpen and sunny D juice!!!! And a bit of fruit. They were making coffee in a big pot so I skipped over thinking it'd be good proper coffee - it was even worse than our camp stuff so I chucked it behind a tree! After that we packed our tents up and Vera our guide took us back to the monument valley visitor centre. By this time I was desperate for the loo, I hadn't fancied the portoloos at the campsite cos I'd been told they were in a bit of a state so I legged it into visitor centre loos - because people staying on the reserve hadn't had anywhere to shower / change etc people were getting changed in the loos and taking ages, after ten mins of hopping from one foot to the other I'd had enough and yelled at them to hurry up that people outside needed the loo - it worked and several people behind me smiled and thanked me!! A quick wander round the visitor centre and we were on the bus again heading to a Grand Canyon.

The bus journey was around four hours, I snoozed a bit and watched the landscape change from the bright red of monument valley to yellows and little bumpy hills as we were getting closer to the Grand Canyon, it's amazing how it changes so quickly.

We called at Cameron trading post which has been a trading post since the early 1900s, it's a bit of a tourist trap theses days with a huge souvenir shop, restaurant and a post office. We were supposed to have lunch here but decided to head off and go on to Grand Canyon instead. We got inside the national park, we're stopping on the South Rim side, and parked up in the parking lot and Kelsey told us all to put our bandanas on as blind folds, put us in a conga line and led us to the rim. When we took out bandanas off it was breathtaking, it's huge and so colourful - reds and yellows and whites and blacks and blues..... Just absolutely stunning. In fact it doesn't look real, it looks more like a painting or a movie set. The depth of the canyon from top to bottom is a mile and you can just about see the Colorado river winding away in the bottom.

We took a few (lots) of photos then went back to the van and got our lunch. We were just at the side of desert view watch tower so had 45 minutes to explore that. It's perched just on the edge of the rim so the views from the top are fabulous, the watchtower is great itself, it was built in..... And was created to fit in with it's backdrop but then has random native Indian art work dotted all over it, it's lovely.

We headed to the campsite and put the tents up - they're up and all ready in five minutes now. This new campsite is a bit of a dump and they have very strict rules about everything - where you can sit, not loitering near the loos (as if we'd want to anyway, they're horrible), what time you need to be quiet, the wifi is only good outside the office - but when you sit outside the office they come out and tell you off for being noisy (we were just chatting not being raucous!). It costs $2 for a shower, this is supposedly because water is so scarce in Arizona, which is fine but walking round the camp there are loads of dripping taps and leaks!! Talking of the showers, they were grim - the shower curtains were tiny and tatty so there was hardly any privacy and you couldn't get the temperature to stay consistent. Our group pitch didn't have a working water supply and we didn't have a fire pit - it was also apparently the most expensive campsite of the trip - phew rant over but this one will be getting a bad trip adviser review!!

The only good thing I liked about the site was some information boards up telling about some of the famous / infamous people who had been through the area - including Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hicock, but the true stories weren't half as glamorous as my favourite film, apparently, she had stints as a prostitute and was a drunk and he was playing cards when he was shot in the back of the head! :-( apparently they are buried together though which is nice to know.

We weren't having dinner at camp today but were going for pizza and eating them on the rim of the canyon as we watched the sun go down - it was a bit cloudy but still fabulous and we got to see a thunder and lightening storm in the distance. Before heading back to camp Kelsey took us to the visitor centre, we have a free day tomorrow so at the visitor centre there were loads of suggestions of stuff to do. I immediately went in to see if there was any rafting on the Colorado that I could do- there was but I couldn't fit it in to our timings, the nearest place to do it was a three hour drive a way at a place called Page and the rafting takes 2 1/2 hours, we had to be back at camp for 3.30 tomorrow so I couldn't fit it in - boooo! There is an expedition to raft the Colorado river through the full 277 mile length of the canyon - it takes about 17 days - that had been added to my ever growing bucket list. Instead I found a ranger led hike into the canyon that started at 7am til 11, that looked good and it'd be also nice to have a ranger pointing stuff out and answering questions, I made my plan to do that.

We'd been up since early and had another early start to watch the sunrise over the Grand Canyon tomorrow so I went to bed about half nine after another fabulous day!

Steps: 14,907 / 5.9miles

Posted by cazbatt 00:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

10. The Cliff Palace and getting to Monument Valley

Tuesday 16 August
Today we could have a bit of a lay in as we didn't have to have camp packed up until 7.45 so I had a shower and a leisurely breakfast. This morning the entire group are off back to the cliff dwellings, this time to see Cliff Palace, they don't think it was really a palace but it's the biggest dwelling on Mesa Verde so that's why they called it that. Our ranger again was very good and very passionate. This particular dwelling is closing in September as some of it wasn't built on bedrock but on softer ground that has moved over the last 700 or so years and is causing some of the walls to crack and crumble, they need to do exploratory work to see if they can stop the damage and preserve the dwellings. These weren't quite as difficult to get to as cliff house was but there were still a few steep ladders to climb up. This place had several kivas which are little windowless circular rooms built into the floor and because of this are a constant temperature throughout the year, the have little fire pits and sort of funny chimneys which are kind of an early form of air conditioning, as the hot smoky air rises from the fire, the funny chimney pulls in cool fresh air at the bottom and circulates so that the air in the kiva is nice and clean to live in.

On the ways up and down to the dwellings we got to call at a couple of stop off points to take some photos, the scenery is spectacular and you can see for miles. We also called into the visitor centre to have a look round, their are a lot of assumptions about the cliff dwellers as there was no written records, just what the archeologists have found while doing their excavations.

We call back at the campsite to pick up our trailer and off we go on our merry way again, this time to monument valley. The journey is about four hours and at one point we are on the crossroads of four states - Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico which looked pretty cool on google maps.

We have a couple of stop offs including one bit which is the first glimpse of Monument Valley and is where a bit of Forrest Gump was filmed - the bit where he decides to stop running cos he's tired. We got out here for a photo stop, it's amazing to see the rock columns jutting up into the sky in the distance as if they were man made sculptures. We also stopped at a service station where the queue was massive, there was a lady in the queue at the side of me who spoke to someone and was english so I said hello to her and asked her where she was from, she looked at me funnily and said "erm all over" so I asked if she was a group trip and she muttered yes and something about national parks and then got served, said bye and scurried off - so much for us Brits being a friendly bunch!

The original plan was that we were going on a jeep safari through monument valley which is Navajo Indian land, visiting a Navajo village and then sleeping under the stars, as we get to the visitor centre it starts to spit with rain and you can see it coming down in the distance so we make the call to take our tents just in case. We've all packed an overnight bag and our sleeping bags and I packed my blow up mat (well I have got old aching bones and my mat and sleeping bag together pack up smaller than most peoples sleeping bags so it wasn't as if I was taking up extra room.) we all clamber with our stuff into the back of an open backed wagon (with seats) driven by our Navajo guide Vera and off we went into the national park. Kelsey had bought us all bandanas to cover our mouths and noses from the dust and we all had sunglasses on to protect our eyes - we all looked complete berks but it did the job.

We drove around the rock formations for about two hours, they are absolutely amazing, some of them have names linked to what they looked like - I.e elephant, camel, mittens, snoopy, three sisters, Alfred Hitchcock.... Some of them you needed a very good imagination to see what they were. We stopped in several places for photos and in one place there was a massive sand dune - a bright rusty orange sand dune (the rocks and floor were all the exact same bright red) - where the thing to do was run up it as fast as you could in bare feet, I did it but running +uphill + Caroline does not equal fast!!! At the top was an overhanging rock with a hole in the roof, if you looked at it face in it looked like a Navajo Indian man, if you laid against the wall of the rock and looked up, the hole was the eye of an eagle and as you followed me rock round it formed the eagle's wing - without using any imagination. There were also some Navajos at the top of the dune playing traditional music. The fun (!) bit was running back down the sand dune, some people pegged it down, some people tried cartwheeling down- I spotted a nice little path down the side so strolled down that watching several of the runners ending up face planted in the floor! We called to see some typical Navajo huts which are built so well that they can last 300/400 years. The huts and the utensils and jewellery they make are remarkably similar to what the tribes in Kenya make which I find fascinating - in both continents they have traditions which have been passed down through generations - possibly pointing to a connected heritage thousands of years ago (?!?) or is it just coincidence that humans evolved in the same way with in connection to each other?

After admiring more of the rock formations we head to the place we're going to be sleeping which is just a rough piece of ground at the side of a huge chunk of rock. It's regularly used for camping as there are a couple of portoloos camouflaged in bushes. As we arrive some of the locals have made us dinner (there are about 60 of us all staying in the camp) which consists of a local special frybread - which is kind of a bready pancake, beans and salad, the meat eaters had a lump of steak (which one of the girls thought they said was snake!!). It was vey tasty, after we'd tucked in we went to put up our tents, it was virtually dark so it's a good job the tents are easy to put up. The rain clouds had blown off in the direction so we were still hoping to sleep under the stars, the tents were a just going up as a precaution. Once they were up we were treated to a music and dancing show by the locals in native dress which was great to see. At about 9.30 the show was over and everyone went to find their beds under the stars, me an Lisanne had set our ground mats just behind our tent just in case it rained and we needed quick shelter. There were a few clouds in the sky but it was mainly clear and we got a good view of the stars - not quite the best I've ever seen, Kenya and the salt flats in Bolivia take the crown, but it was still very lovely to be wrapped in sleeping bags with nothing else between me and the sky, we even saw three shooting stars and I think a space station at one point too.

I went to sleep thinking that this has been the best day of this trip so far.

Steps: 15,161 / 6.1 miles

Posted by cazbatt 23:56 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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