Mystical Monument Valley

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

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Where I stayed
Gouldings Lodge

Flag of United States  , Utah
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

20/10/2009 - We left Canyon de Chelly and headed north to Monument Valley, a region of the Colorado Plateau that crosses the Arizona/Utah border and is characterised by iconic, red, sandstone formations (buttes) that rise up over 1000ft from the valley floor. The area is also well known as the back drop for famous Western movies and most of the John Wayne movies were shot there.

The drive was very scenic and we could see the famous red sandstone buttes on the horizon from miles away. Much of the area is still owned by the Navajo people and around 200 people still live within Monument Valley. During the drive, we happened to be behind a school bus that was dropping off local Navajo children. It was fascinating to see where they lived (see video).

We were staying for two nights at Goulding's Lodge, just across the Utah border and one of only two hotels in the area. Although we had read about the lodge and its unique position cut into the rocks, we were still bowled over as we drove up to the building. Our room also had a balcony with an impressive, uninterrupted view of the valley.

After eating in the lodge restaurant, we returned back to our room for an early night. We had booked an 8 hour tour with a Navajo guide the next day and we couldn't wait.

21/10/2009 - We woke early and met our tour guide for 9am. There were 6 other people on the tour with us. I made friends with one of the other women, who was originally from New Malden! She was a bit eccentric (she had a pet crow and owl at home, and was obsessed with seeing bird poop during the trip!), but it was so nice talking to someone from back home. Our tour guide was a local lady called Sandy, who leads tours off and on throughout the year, in between travelling 'the 48 states' with her husband and children. Her father had been brought up in a 'hogan'  (a traditional round hut built from cedar wood and earth, with a central fire and chimney) and as a child she had ridden her horse around the valley.

The tour was wicked and neither Jim or I had seen anything like it before. The valley is not really a valley at all, but rather a wide flat, desolate, dry, desert landscape. The weather was very sunny, but windy and by the end of the trip we were covered in a fine layer of red-dust that even penetrated through our clothes.

Sandy took us off road for all of the trip and showed us numerous Anasazi ruins and petroglyphs (rock art) around the valley. Some of the old dwellings were up high in shallow caves on the cliff face, which Jim happily climbed up to peer inside. Halfway through the trip, Sandy dropped us off and told us to meet her further down the track, where she would be preparing our lunch for us. When we got there, she was flipping burgers on a barbeque and had a pot of 'cowboy coffee' boiling. We were starving and it was without doubt the best burger we'd ever had!

After lunch, we continued on to visit a local Navajo lady called 'Suzi', who was 97 and had lived in the valley her whole life. She gave us a weaving demonstration in her hogan, and showed us examples of rugs she had woven, something the Navajo are famous for. It was incredible to see where, and how, she lived. She wore traditional dress and handmade turquoise and silver jewellery.

We absolutely loved the guided tour and Sandy was brilliant and taught so much, we had a real laugh with the rest off the group too. The roadtrip can be quite lonely at times and we had missed being around other people. We were very tired and travel weary by the end, but we had had one of the best days of our trip. Something we will never forget.
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