13th August, the journey from Page started out, a bit of the usual, paradise for the none existent goat, bags of scrub land, and these tufts of brush stuff. After 50 miles the topography started to change and quite dramatically. It was as if an artist (a sodding big one) had decided to try out some new ideas, sand, stone and calcite mixed and swirled together, pinks, reds, corals ( not bad eh for a bloke, I think coral is some kind of pink) and cream it all does look jolly impressive.
This artist did hold back a bit though, she didn’t make it look like you could live off the land. There is hardly anything growing, ” look! but don’t farm here ok? Try it and you will loose” There are quite a few gouges out of the earth as well, she liked to show she could throw a tantrum. We call these gouges, canyons , arroyos, washes, and gulches. The closer you get to monument valley, our artist starts to experiment with a change of style, sculpture, quite modest to start with is mixed in with the swirls and sweeps. She gets bolder and more confident until there you are, magnificent mesas’ and buttes, shapes like you’ve only seen in westerns it’s magic and massive.
A knowledge moment I’d like to share what I’ve picked up along the way, not the cigarette butt and the quarter, I’m keeping them to myself. A mesa is a lump of rock ( think mountain here) that is flat on the top but is wider than it is high. A butte is similar but is higher than it is wide! simple ain’t it?
We went into the park the stiffing was 5 bucks each, this is run by the injuns, it’s Navajo reservation land.There is an information centre in a nicely engineered building, a museum, and the usual gift shop with cowboy hats at 90 bucks! A restaurant and a hotel. I had a wonder round looking at artifacts and read the notices, on all of them there was the info you would expect but with an undertone of plaintiveness, basically “the White man shagged us”. Yes he did , now get over it and move on for Christ’s sake! Even the bit about movie making, here they have a section celebrating John “the duke” Wayne and loads of Waynesque souvenirs. Judging by the prices they make good money out of the movie stuff.
Here again it’s mentioned that the movie companies turned up and employed some of the Navajo as extras, wranglers, laborers and gofers. Then it ends with a whinge! ” but they bought there own camping equipment , food, and loads of other stuff and shagged us again” what a bunch of whiners. I am a fan of the indian on the whole, I liked it when Custer got it, I love it when the Indians win. I am beginning to form the opinion they just may, have gotten what they deserved. I know it’s not very charitable, and I do think they got the shit end of the stick. But!
This land where they live is a desert, it is unforgiving you can’t farm it or graze it, in short it’s crap.
Imagine the scene, 1870s the White house, Ulysses S Grants office. In walks the scout (he looks like Robert Horton, (he was “Flint McCullough” in Wagon Train) in my mind, but you can use who you want). Grant had sent Bob ( I call him Bob, he has the same last name as me, so its ok)12 months previously to report on the monument valley area. He is still dusting the trail from his fringe jacket with his hat.
The report is delivered verbally , the words above are used liberally. ” that bad huh” says Grant. “what do you think ? Should we give it over to the Indians as a reservation”? ” I’m not sure they would thank you” says Bob, “like I say it’s useless , its barren,they may even die out there.”
“yeah , ok good idea , we’ll give it the Indians then and to sweeten the deal they can have 100s of square miles, they will snap it up”. “once they get some trash spread around it’ll feel just like home.”
Ok they may Whinge about the past and their treatment but they are creaming us idiot tourists now, so pack it in, move on and for heavens sake get a sense of humor.
We did meet an Indian who had one. He was giving a talk at the Grand Canyon, on traditions and beliefs, magic, peace pipes and all that kind of injun stuff. He was quite a card, quick witted, told gags, made fun of most things and consequently put his point over very well. I spoke to him after and asked him about his sense of humor, is it unusual to have a humorous way as an Indian ? “Yes it is” he replied,” I am though, the black sheep of the tribe”.
He did explain however that humor for the indian was kept in the lodge, it is not an extrovert thing, so you are not likely to see Indian stand up any time soon.
In the valley we went for a hike by ourselves, after enquiring about guided drives, and horse rides. Minimum 70 bucks each! But the White man shafted us? yeah right!
The walk was 3.2 miles around the “right hand mitt butte”, these shapes of rocks have all been given obvious names like that and yes it was in a desert in the boiling heat. There was a whisper of cumulous so it shouldn’t look like a scene from Carry On Follow That Camel” , we took some provender with us though 2 liters of water, a bit of food and some sweets in a carrier bag, we are nothing if not stylish. We had hats and sun screen. Well I did. Sue thought she was either tougher than me or I was being a bit gay. Maybe the expensive hat bought in Page simply clashed with her shoe laces, how do you know a female thought process? It was hard though, bloody hard going actually’ especially the loose sand ares, uphill, down dale and sweating like a glassblowers bottom. About 1/2 way round Sue started to fade, physically done, her tank was drying, I have never seen her this state, It is usually me who does the sunstroke gig. I worked with an encouraging, upbeat, positive attitude shoving the water and food into her and we made it back, she was tater’d big time. It was lonely out there though, totally silent but less than a mile away there was the teaming mass of humanity in the visitor centre car park although you’d never have known it.
A great opportunity I’m so glad I experienced it, I think Sue agreed after she’d sat in the car with the air conditioning on and a “mountain dew” which turned out the best 2 bucks worth in the restaurant.
We left these amazing monuments behind and reached an area where our artist had another change of style, the swirling returned but using maroons and grays still chucking in the odd bits of sculpture, some quite mad, some amusing, like the Mexican hat stone, at , of all places, Mexican Hat, yep that’s what it looks like, a large, bloody large , head like stone with a big pizza shaped one balanced on top of it, in the perfect analogy of a sombrero! Magic.
Then we reached our overnight in a town more a village actually, called Bluff. we stayed in a nice B&B, and had a great dinner in a cowboy restaurant where we were given a cowboy bandanna as a napkin, this ended up being an after dinner bonus. I was developing a burning need for one of these things, even considering nicking it and now I’ve got one as a gift, a good day!