Native country

Trip Start Sep 07, 2009
Trip End Nov 17, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Monday, October 19, 2009

19/10/2009 - We left Santa Fe in the morning to head on to our next destination of Canyon de Chelly, in Chinle, Arizona, which took us around five and a half hours. Our route took us west along historic Route 66 (most of which is now the I-40) to Gallup and then north to the heart of Navajo Country. Although the drive was mainly along a busy interstate, the scenery was still very interesting. Lots of casinos in the middle of nowhere too, a bit like a mini-Las Vegas! Route 66 is  supposedly a bit more interesting after Gallup, but unfortunately we didn't have the time to carry on westwards.

Chinle itself, is an interesting place, but very poor. The community is entirely Native American and it was an experience for us to feel like a minority in the local supermarket and laundromat. There were a lot of wild dogs around, as well as roaming cattle and horses. In fact, being in Chinle didn't feel like being in America at all, more like another country entirely.

We arrived at our hotel (a chain hotel with little character, but at least it had a duvet and not itchy blankets!) a bit travel weary after the long drive, so we got a takeout and researched our trip for the morning.

20/10/2009 - We woke up in the morning, checked out of the hotel and made our way to the Canyon de Chelly visitor centre, a few hundred metres up the road. The canyon is one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes of North America and still sustains a living community of Navajo people today. As well as breathtaking scenery of cliffs and caves, the canyon holds many examples of preserved village ruins, built between 350 and 1300 AD by the early indigenous tribe that lived there, the Anasazi.

You are only able to access the canyon floor with a native Navajo guide and the tours are very expensive. Instead, we opted to drive around the south rim of the canyon (about a two hour round trip), which provides a number of scenic overlook spots of the ancient ruins. As we looked down into the canyon, we could see some crops and small dwellings of the Navajo people that still live there on the canyon floor. At each of the overlooks, there were also a number of people selling handmade Navajo artifacts and jewellery.

We had a great time at the Canyon, and we were stating to see a whole different side to the America we had experienced already. The long history of Apache County, the breathtaking landscapes and the lifestyles of the people living there, couldn't be further removed from the fast-living cities Miami and New York.
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