United States
Oljato-Monument Valley

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    • Day 35

      Trek America - Moab to Monument Valley

      May 24, 2015 in the United States ⋅ 🌧 6 °C

      We drove through a landscape of arid tundra and hillsides to the Monument Valley. The valley lies within the Navajo Reservation meaning that it is self-governed by the Navajo population and largely autonomous in this respect from the U.S. itself. The seemingly never-ending highway suddenly reached a point on the horizon where the dark but recognisable shapes of the valley's rock formations (buttes) began to stretch up to greet us. The valley has regularly been used in films, including John Wayne westerns and Forrest Gump because of its unique and dramatic scenery.

      As part of our trek there are certain additional experiences that we can pay to do, for example as a keen horse rider, Katie, chose to do horseback riding in Jackson. For Monument Valley we and the rest of the group unanimously decided that we wished to go deeper into the valley and stay overnight with Navajo guides, something not possible to do on your own.

      Arriving at the valley's visitor centre we met our large and steady Navajo guide, Ron (who took a liking to Alex's Guns and Roses t-shirt) and our transport, a large open-backed 4x4 with seats and storage space.

      Ron guided us through the various buttes that dominate that landscape and were originally formed as a result of up-thrusts from the earth's trembling surface during its early creation. The different shapes of the rocks allowed your imagination to create faces and pictures from them and Ron advised us on what each were named by the Navajo.

      We drove to where we would be sleeping for the night, a structure made from cedar wood and the red clay of the valley floor called a Hogan. There are male and female Hogans with the male version being narrower with a pointed end to represent a man holding a bow, which is only used for ceremonial purposes. The female version is a dome with a hole in the centre of the roof for a fire/stove pipe to project from. The female hogan represents the womb and its structure is supported by 9 outer cedar beams for the 9 months of pregnancy. Each hogan can take 8 people working 8-10 hours a day, 3-4 months to construct.

      Inside the female hogan that we were designated to sleep in, a female Navajo guide demonstrated Navajo weaving. She explained that genuine Navajo stitchings will be left open at one point so to not close up the mind of its designer.

      After this we drove onto Hogan Cave, so named as at its top is a large hole letting through the sky and sunlight. We were invited to lie back on the rock and look up at the ceiling whilst a traditional Navajo song was sung with double flute and drum beat. On the ceiling you could make out the giant face of an eagle whilst drops of water hurtled down towards us, catching the sunlight as they fell. It was a visual and auditory experience that we don't think we'll ever forget.

      We moved onto the Sun Arch that is high up on a butte overhang and as we stood underneath it, Ron invite us to shout up as loud as we could, the result of which was a resounding echo that seemed to go on long into the fading light.

      We viewed glyphs on the rock face and saw wild horses grazing in the distance as we moved on again. This time we headed to a sand dune that we raced each other up and down. Lucky none of us tumbled head over heels on the way down, which would have made for a very dusty and itchy night.

      After some constructive 4x4 driving over the dirt track we made our way into a camp where we ate Navajo tacos (beef steak atop a salad of onion, tomato, lettuce, cheese and beans on a base of flat bread), which was very tasty and filling. This was followed by a display of Navajo dance with Ron donning traditional regalia to move around the campfire. We were all then encouraged to join in, with the men (warriors) and women (maids) lined up with each other to pledge to care for each other before dancing around the campfire ourselves.

      After the sun had truly set we made our way back to the Hogan under the cover of darkness. With the absence of light pollution in the valley, a galaxy of stars were on display and once back at the Hogan we all decided to sleep outside under the stars. Wrapped up with only our faces exposed to feel the cooling air brush past, the stars were the last thing we saw before sleep took us.
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    • Day 35

      Trek America - Porta-loo

      May 24, 2015 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

      This is a special post for an incident that occurred at the Navajo dinner.

      After dinner fellow trekker Jade braved the unlit porta-loo, using her IPhone's torch to light her way. The first we knew of anything was Jade shouting out something ineligible. When she returned to our waiting jeep she explained that she had managed to drop her phone down into the loo!

      Jade's phone had a huge amount of her photos, both from the trek as well as from her travels prior to joining us. It had a lot of her music and it was also her method to call/Skype home. 'Gutted' didn't quite cover it.

      As everyone was at a loss of what to do, Alex jumped out of the jeep, switching on his headlamp and heading for the villainous porta-loo. The rest of the group followed in sheer bemusement with another jeep of tourists forced to also watch as their jeep was sitting behind ours and unable to move on.

      Alex called out for someone to get him a stick as he flipped the toilet seat. A scene that can only be described as hell itself starred back at him whilst the smell was gag worthy. Unperturbed, Alex pulled up his Buff scarf around his mouth and nose. Kim returned with a stick but unfortunately this was only 6 inches long and would do nothing but stir up the madness sitting in the bowl. After some more furious stick hunting, the hunt for the iPhone was on as Alex sought it out with his makeshift prongs. One of Navajo guides offered a rubber glove before finding that it was full of holes.

      After what felt like an hour, but was more like minutes of searching, with some false alarms, there was ultimately no success in finding Jade's iPhone. We trudged back to the jeep with Ron telling Jade not to worry and that he'd call her from the phone if it eventually turned up. We might not have recovered the phone but as far as a memorable comedy moments go it was a success.
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