Canyons of the West

Trip Start Apr 10, 2012
Trip End Apr 06, 2013

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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, May 11, 2012

Day 1
We left San Fran in the evening & quickly became familiar with the other people on the tour. Some of the people on the large sitting area on the back of the bus by us were Jelle & Jonas, the Dutch & German lads who we were already pretty familiar with from the Green Tortoise hostel. Hayley, who is a kiwi with a great friendly personality & someone who SJ became pretty good friends with in a short time (they quickly realised how similar they are and got on really well from there). Kevin, he was a nice French lad who was travelling solo. Shy at times but he would talk to anyone. George & Niamh, they are a nice couple who livedyy in London. Niamh is originally from Ireland, while George is a cockney Greek. Paul was the youngest on the tour, he was a nice 19 year old lad from Belfast, with a strange but great sense of humour, everybody got on really well with him. Doris was a friendly, nice Austrian girl who laughed at everything you said. Yuan was a great Chinese lad who was travelling the US, he was always upbeat and had time to chat to everyone. Lyn (her name is spelt wrong but we don't know how to spell it!) was a lovely girl from Vietnam who had a smile on her face from the moment she woke up til the moment she went to bed, her smile was infectious. Enzo was another guy we already knew from the hostel, a nice Italian man with a lot of character who was trying to improve his English, he was always telling us he was tired but still did all the hikes! Ellen was an Australian girl from Melbourne with a bit of travelling already under her belt. Evan was a nice guy from LA who knew a lot about the A list around Hollywood, he'd travelled for a living & lived in some cool places so it was great chatting to him. All the others we would get to know more along the way.
No sleep on bus for SJ as it was uncomfortable for her (no surprise there), people were talking & drinking beer...including AK, who coincidently had a good sleep (no surprise there). We travelled over night to Vegas to pick up four other people.

Day 2
Had breakfast in Vegas, then picked up the extra four travellers. They were Vesner, a woman from Serbia with a crazy character. Sue & Corey, who were a really nice mother & daughter from Nebraska. Then there was Benoir, a nice French lad who'd spent some time working in the states. He spent a lot of time helping AK out with his French, he was a really good teacher. He also liked to talk about footy which made AK happy. We then drove to Zion NP, when we got there AK decided he was ready to properly break in his hiking boots, and set off with Paul, Yelle & Jonas for a lengthy hike. Meanwhile SJ & Hayley had decided they were going to take a nice steady walk, to nowhere in particular, until they were tired. By the time AK & the other three lads had hiked the 1070 ft ascent 7610 ft above sea level hike up to Angels Landing, they were greeted by SJ & Hayley already there, not really a nice steady walk to nowhere in particular after all and was partly accomplished by stopping at every switch back and complaining constantly....something that they both have in common but which really helps! The lads had done another trail before this & were relieved to reach the top...which is no easy feat by anyones standards! The climb took ages, narrow cliffs with chains to help you pull yourself up. Jonas' enthusiasm on the tough uphill trek soon earned him the nick name "Germinator", which stuck with him since. Got back to camp late & had mexican for tea, which everybody polished off after a good day hiking! We slept under the stars (even SJ) & used cushions from the bus to sleep on. AK, Jonas and Yelle nearly got busted by the super american, authority happy, park ranger, drinking beer as Yelle is underage (20).

Day 3
Drove to Bryce Canyon NP in the morning, SJ and Hayley didn't feel like hiking after their tiring achievements the day before, so they decided to stay around the park entrance and have a shower and pizza....perfect recovery! AK, Jonas & Jelle decided to do the opposite & done another decent hike around another spectacular NP with stunning landscape.
In the evening we drove to mystic hot springs, a wonderful hippy hideout in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. We set up for dinner outside in the sun & enjoyed another great meal. SJ & Hayley went off to see the farm animals (alpaca, horse, goats, emu), while Alan & the others went to try out the hot springs in the back, SJ & Hayley joined after some animal time. The springs were really cool, they poured down from the hill & the guy who owned the property, basically harnessed the natural hot water, into about 8 single bath tubs & 2 pools. We all stayed in them as the sun went down, and then watched another amazing spectacle of stars.
AK was having a great time so far, and SJ not so, at bed times! We drove through the night to wake up at Arches NP the next morning. SJ had another bad sleep because we only had space to sleep on our sides due to a few people being slightly selfish with the sleeping space!

Day 4
Woke up at Archers NP after travelling over night, SJ & Hayley did a little bit of hiking but nothing too physical. AK did the whole hike with a few other people, it wasn't the toughest of hikes but definitely another great place to visit. After Arches we spent the rest of the afternoon at a small town called Moab, where there was wifi and lots of shops etc. For AK & the other lads it was somewhere to stock up on more beer, they were a bit mardy about the fact that Utah is a mormon state, so therefore doesn't brew beer over 3.2%.....oh but you can have 5 wives....selfish bastards! SJ and Hayley went to a restaurant with Sherman (one of the two bus drivers) and had a great American style lunch, the boys were buying last minute supplies for their trek down & back up Grand Canyon in a few days.
Along the way to our next destination we seen some more Indian petroglyphs and they were very detailed. We set up camp at the side of the Colorado river, the location was very western & looked very iconic, the way the river bent around the rock face, with an old railway track running paralell.
At night at the camp fire, we were introduced to the American camping tradition of s'mores. They were basically toasted marshmallow in between 2 honey oat biscuits with a piece of chocolate inside.....very very hard to eat when you have a considerable beard but very tasty apart from the Hershey chocolate. We will try them at home with Cadburys.
After swapping stories around the campfire, Jimmy ( the other bus driver) took half of us to the ohm tunnel, a small tunnel coming out of a hill face, and we chanted ooohhhhmmmm.....sounds like a weird porno but it was actually a good experience. Jimmy is an old hippy and likes his spiritual stuff so he was leading the way with the peaceful chants. It was only a matter of time until the animal noises were getting screeched by people who knew they couldn't be seen, you couldn't even see the person next to you it was so dark. When SJ heard the Yodelling, she knew for sure AK was involved.
SJ slept on the bus as it was too cold for outside and had a great sleep, AK slept under the stars anyway in his $13 Walmart sleeping bag....thank god for long-jons!

Day 5
We got up the next morning & left camp to go back to the shops at Moab, SJ got new flipflops, AK & the other lads seized the opportunity to buy another case of beer for the day/night ahead. After leaving Moab we went went for a long awaited swim in a freezing cold lake, AK got straight in, while SJ wimped out and fell in coz she was scared of mud, rocks and that monster she imagines lives in the murky water! The lake was too cold for most people to stay in for more than 5 minutes, One guy Mike swam virtually the whole lake, not sure how he done it as it was damn cold. Our campsite for that night was a stunning & unique place called Gooseneck- near Monument Valley. You would have to see it to believe it, the river meandered round like a snake for miles at the bottom of a canyon! SJ got spooky feelings and didn't like it much. The toilets were pretty far away and really bad, as were most of the toilets at the sites we were camping. Hot desert heat & holes in the floor for shitting do not mix well! SJ hated the toilets but realised she just had to get on with it. We Had a campfire and the whole gang blasted out a great rendition of bohemian rhapsody around the campfire. AK and the others slept under the stars again, while SJ had a good sleep on the bus. Camping under the stars at night in these desert locations was something special, no light pollution equals a carpet of millions of bright stars with a pitch black background!

Day 6
We had pancakes for breakfast and packed up camp to drive to monument valley via the Forrest Gump spot. By the Forrest Gump spot we mean the big long desert road in the movie where he's coming to the end of his epic run with all off his followers behind him, such an iconic scene. As AK had the more prominent beard on the bus, he was nominated to recreate the scene, so he donned a baseball cap, went a few paces down the road, and ran back towards the waiting crowd who all photographed the moment.

We also stopped at a place called 'Hole in The Rock' where you could have a look round an amazing home that some guy had made by blasting holes into a rock face. It was a pretty cool place, spacious and quite homely and it stayed cool in summer and warm in winter. The guy was a determined genius. The stuffed donkey and foal were a bit weird though, especially as the donkey spent its living days dragging out chunks of rock after the blasting took place and it's resting days stuffed and in pride of place in the living room!

Monument valley in Navaho Indian territory was our next stop, this is where we went to do the horse riding. Most of the people who wanted to do it had never ridden before...including AK, who was his usual layed back self about the whole thing. Some of the horses were quite rebellious, Paul's horse insisted on consistently sitting down, while George's horse decided to buckaroo & through him to the ground rodeo style....that was the end of his Navajo Indian horse riding session. So the group proceeded with the horse ride, lead by a Navajo Indian guy at the front. The first few minutes of the journey basically consisted of everybody getting to know their nags, SJ was quietly trotting along near the front of the pack when she heard a horse cantering towards her from behind....low & behold there was AK confidently storming past over taking everybody, riding his horse like John Wayne, as if he'd been riding for years. So here was SJ taking it easy, getting used to riding again after learning a few years earlier, while AK took to it like a duck to water on his first go....typical eh! Everybody really enjoyed it, even Hayley who was a bit scared at first. What a way to go horse riding, out in the heart of the US with Indian guides....a truly amazing experience! After the horse riding we then went swimming at Glenn dam, the water was still slightly cold but nothing like the lake the day before. SJ was a bit better swimming but didn't go too far out......that monster might still be lurking in the deep! It was a nice refreshing dip on such a hot day.
That night we stopped at a little wierd town called Page AZ, where we split up to our preferred choice of restaurant for dinner. After dinner there was one last stop at a supermarket where the lads bought last minute water supplies for their Grand Canyon hike the following day. There were some crazy homeless people pinching eggs from our bus and trying to get us to buy some liquor for them while lecturing us social and economic issues! We left Page to drive through the night to Grand Canyon, AK & SJ shared a cramped bottom bunk thing to sleep in that night, it was a bit too claustrophobic for SJ, who kept having to wake up and get out of the bunk and chill. AK punched SJ in his sleep coz he was dreaming about catching a frisby (we'd been playing frisby in the water that day)! At one point, when SJ needed some space, she got up when the bus had stopped for a while. She got off the bus and found herself in a weird windy truck stop thing with buildings but not a soul around. She got them weird spooky feelings again and promptly got back on the bus. We later found out about a spooky event Jimmy had experienced on a previous tour not far from that spot. We can't tell the story on here but we will tell you next time we see you!

Day 7
Arrived at Grand Canyon in the morning, and straight away AK & the other eight hikers got to work organising their backpacks for the big trek. They made sure they had their main supplies, which included headlamps, beef jerky, cliff bars & water. So they set off for their 10 mile trek down & SJ was worried the whole time as it is a tough trek that some people have actually died trying, plus the weather was really hot. SJ and Hayley, Niamh and George did laundry and had a shower. SJ washed and straightened her hair, then found out about two missing guys age 19 and early 20s who started a hike a few days earlier, and had not returned. It wasn't looking hopeful for them as without adequate water've got no chance! SJ, Hayley, George & Niamh hiked round the rim trail which was 4.7 miles! The views were amazing and we felt like we were on the edge of the world!
Meanwhile AK & the others were proceeding with their gruelling 7 hour hike down to the bottom of the canyon...where it was 20 degrees Celsius hotter than the top. AK, Jelle, Paul & Jonas made it down around 5pm, and immediately headed for a dip in the stream to cool down & rinse some sweaty clothes. They never had their camping permits for the canyon as Evan, one of the guys in the group behind, had everybody's permits. When the female ranger turned up asking for their permits, they thought they were going to get turned away...but thankfully the ranger saw the funny side of four guys from Ireland, Germany, Holland & England stood in a stream with nothing on but boxer shorts, trying to explain their predicament! She believed their story about the permits being with somebody else, and let them be! The bottom of the Canyon was nothing like they anticipated, they expected a load of nothingness, but it was actually full of plants, trees, streams & a river....and plenty of wildlife.
SJ went to watch sunset with the group at the top of the Canyon, which looked beautiful. They came back & had dinner. At bed time Vestner & Audrey emptied the bags off the bunk for the canyon hikers & Jimmy & Sherman were not happy! The atmosphere on the bus that might was tense.
At the bottom of the canyon the hikers went to sleep at 11pm, on just a bed roll with no tents. AK set his alarm for 3am, for some of them to leave early in order to avoid the long 10 mile hike up in the scorching sun.

Day 8
After having 4 hours of restless sleep, the alarm went off at 3am. AK, Jonas, Jelle & Paul got up & packed away, to then notice that Doris, the only girl on the hike, had already left on her own. The much needed water bottles were filled up & they were on their way up in the pitch black, with just headlamps to guide them. The first half of the walk was a real adventure, jumping across streams & other obstacles in the dark, and even came across a small scorpion (they were glad not to have been bitten by one through the night only sleeping on bed rolls). After stopping for only one 5 minute break, they made the half way point in 90 minutes, which was a brilliant time....but the worst was yet to come.
The second half of the trek up had steeper slopes & a lot of switch backs, plus the sun was well & truly up at this point. Leg muscles were aching & the sweat was dripping profusely....this is where the water was essential. After a total of just over four hours from the bottom, the four guys who left in the dark, made it to the top. What a exhilarating feeling that was, they were well & truly shattered & starving, despite eating all the time on the way up to keep up their energy.
After a quick ride on the shuttle bus back to camp, SJ & Hayley were there to greet them & SJ was relieved to see them back in one piece. Also they found Doris on their arrival, after speaking to her she informed them that she went to bed at 9 & was up at midnight to hike all the way up in the dark, she done really well being on her own as it must be hard without the motivation of somebody else.
They had some food, a well earned beer and a shower....actually the first one in a week, rested for a couple of hours then went on another little walk to see & photograph some more of the Grand Canyon (it's not called grand for nothing).
Dinner outside that evening was great as usual, and afterwards the whole crew went off to see the sunset that the 9 canyon hikers missed the night before....and it was spectacular! That night AK, SJ & a few others slept under the stars one last time....they would miss this!

Day 9
We woke up the next morning after a really cold nights sleep, the bottom of the canyon was a lot warmer! Another nice breakfast was scoffed & we were on our way to our last destination....Las Vegas. Everyone was excited about gettin there, not so much AK & SJ as they had already spent four days there a few weeks previous, and found out you can't do much on a budget. After a few hours drive through the desert, we arrived in a typically roasting hot Vegas around 4pm. We were leaving at 11:30pm so only had a few hours there. Instead of having a flutter in the casinos, a few of us decided to buy cinema tickets to watch the dictator (not your typical Vegas activity i know). After buying the tickets we took full advantage of Vegas' drinking on the streets law, and did exactly that, then went to a really nice, recommended burger place for dinner. It was here where AK, SJ, Jonas, Jelle, Hayley & Doris devised a plan for a week long road trip down the pacific coast from San Fran to LA....which you will read about further on in the blog. This was an idea that came out of nowhere & everyone was so excited about because it was spontaneous.
Jay, a guy on the tour made a very kind and generous gesture by paying everyone's food bill after we ate, which we were all surprised about but very grateful for. We then went to watch the film, which didn't turn out to be as good as we anticipated, but still had a laugh. Afterwards we went to watch the water show at Bollagio, and drank some more beer as we walked around.
11:30pm came & it was time to leave Jonas & Hayley temporarily, and start our long over night journey to San Fran. Jonas was staying with a couch surfing host in Vegas, he was travelling alone through the states & often done this to avoid paying accomodation, he also had some really funny stories about people he'd previously stayed with. Hayley had planned before the tour to stay in Vegas for a few days, but cut it short the day after after deciding San Fran with us was maybe a better prospect!

Day 10
After a good nights sleep over night on the bus (on the last night SJ tried one of the bunks and realised they are in fact the best spot!), we woke up to have breakfast at a great little cafe somewhere in California. At this point everybody was tired from the long tour, camping & hiking everyday, so couldn't wait to get back to San Fran. A few more hours on the bus & we arrived at AK & SJ's favourite city in the states!
We all checked back in to the Green Tortoise hostel, got showered & changed, then met up with Sherman & Jimmy at a Chinese restaurant they recommended, across the street. As good as the fresh, outdoor meals were on the tour, a nice Chinese meal was very welcoming for everyone. After this it was back to the hostel for beers & live music....and a nice reminisce about our big adventure through middle America. The people we met were fantastic & the places we seen were truly amazing!

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kiwihayley on

"Hayley cried the whole way" thanks for telling the whole world :P Horses are scary ok!!!!

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