Day 14-18 - Moab to Las Vegas
Trip Start Aug 01, 2007
67Trip End Dec 19, 2008
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Late rise because my legs were so sore they just wouldn't get up. Long scenic drive out of the Rockies. The route I took (Interstate 70 West) is the most scenic but difficult drive so far. Very winding and steep
road but worth every minute.
Stopped off at a place called Silver Throne for a feast of a lunch for the princely sum of $5.50 (corned beef hash, hash browns, 2 eggs and 4 pancakes...Jesus my guts gonna regret that one). Nice resort town this
and in the winter is probably packed. Further up the road is the famous Aspen, ski resort for the rich and famous.
I'm noticing a dramatic change in the landscape from mountainous forests and green valley's to desolate stretches with red rocks and loose shrubbery. Starting to look like a place for Cowboys (no, not like my mate Arthur the plasterer...proper Cowboys). Saw a few proper Cowboys at a petrol station in full gear. Full boots, pearl encrusted shirt and huuuuuge brimmed hat...looked kind of cool.
Finally crossed the state border from Colorado to Utah (the original home of the Ute tribe of Native Americans). I decided to leave the Interstate for the rest of the drive (can get a bit boring after 5 hours driving) and was lucky enough to pick a beautiful drive that followed the Colorado (extra special as I had just seen it at the source only yesterday) and also cut through red rock canyons (nice).
Arrived in the tourist magnet town of Moab quite late and spent the next hour looking for cheap lodgings. No easy task as it was peak season and it seemed I had arrived just when 2 million Italian
tourists had decided to descend here (lots of ciao bellas' and prontos'). Finally found a great little motel called the Inca Motel. Had a smoke and a chat with the owner and it seems a lot of the family run Motels are being bought out by big chain Motels (Super 8, Motel 6, Holiday Inn) and then closed down. So from now on I'm boycotting the greedy bastard chains and sticking to small Motels (well, not unless I'm desperate anyway).
Dinner was enjoyed at the kind of place I had been looking for (unsuccessfully so far)...a good American diner with sideways seating and good, cheap food. Got a steak, salad, potatoes, bun and coke for $5.99 (God bless the diner). Very hard to find them anymore because there are McD's, KFC's, Burger kings, Subways and Taco Bells everywhere (no really, everywhere).
Had a late night swim in the pool and was splashing around when I realised the pool was directly outside the main windows of a packed out restaurant full of staring tourists having dinner. A bit of muscle flexing, 5 press-ups and I quickly scarpered out of there).
Tomorrow a lot to see. A slow drive through Arches National Park then onto Monument Valley and finally reach the Grand Canyon to find lodgings.
Day 15 - Gray Mountain (50 miles from Grand Canyon)
"I was born...under a wandering star"
Early rise as there's a lot of driving and a lot to see today. First stop was Arches National park with its amazing natural rock formations that all look like arches. Sadly the place was absolutely packed out with traffic jams like a Monday morning on the North Circular. My patience ran out so that part was cut short. The thing is
everywhere you drive round here are amazing rock formations so I wasn't that gutted about missing out on Arches National Park.
Next stop was the Mexican hat formation. Really amazing how this shape has been naturally formed into what looks like a huge hat balanced on a body.
Then another 130 miles to Monument Valley and crossing from Utah into Arizona. Wow, the rocks here and the whole landscape is just brilliant. Reminded me so much of the Western films where the Cowboys would ride off into the desert. Although this area is a huge tourist trap (I think the Italians followed me from Moab) it's easy to escape the crowds.
This area is Navajo country and you can see it's more tribal than anywhere else. Stopped off to have a look at some Navajo curios and had chat with a local guy. He said this is Pow Wow season and every 2 weeks until October all the Navajo people travel around to drink, smoke and generally have a good time (at this point I was dying to get invited to one especially as it was due this very weekend. Never happened...gutted). Oh, and he also told me his 21 year old daughter regularly comes second in the Navajo dance finals (double gutted).
As it was late in the day I had to make tracks and head for the spectacular (I hope) Grand Canyon. As is becoming a regular occurrence I couldn't find anywhere to stay (I bet it's those pesky Italian tourists again) so I had to drive 60 miles from the Canyon and settled for a pricey room at a Navajo run Motel in Gray Mountain
($40! well, I was desperate).
Tomorrow I will behold the mighty Grand Canyon. I'm still not sure how inspiring it's going to be so I'm going to try not to expect too much and I'm sure it's going to be packed with camera toting tourists scrambling for the ultimate photo. As I didn't do any Colorado rafting at the Rockies I'm hoping to do some here, at least for half a day. We'll see how busy it is.
Have clocked a total of 3,450 miles now and its starting to get a bit tiring but never enough to stop...just too many great things to see. I've managed to save 1 whole day extra because of good roads so will spend a solid 3 days at Yosemite National Park chilling and relaxing soon.
Day 16 - The Grand Canyon
"Come on baby light my fire..."
After 60 miles of driving I found myself at the Grand Canyon ($25 entrance fee). Before I got there I tried not to raise my expectations too high to prevent disappointment. Not necessary at all as my first glimpse of the Canyons was spectacular. A vast canyon with rolling hills of all kinds of shapes, colours and sizes. Really difficult to describe but just amazing. I wasn't even put off by the hoards of tourists (mostly Italians...are they following me or something).
I decided to escape the trillions of tourists by going on a hike around the rim of the Canyon (called the Rim Trail). Saw some amazing views and around every corner the Canyon would look different. There were moments of near heart-attacks as the trail went mere feet from the edge. I have a serious vertigo problem so for me this was rough.
During one of my breaks I sat down and rolled a ciggie staring at the view when I heard rustling in the bushes and a squirrel jumped out, ran up my leg then onto my shoulder and just sat there staring at me. Scared the shit out of me for a second...thought it was a rat.
Decided to stay at the Canyon until evening so I could catch the sunset. Very beautiful and only slightly less so because of the cloudy sky.
After the sunset (7.15pm) I had a long drive (160 miles) to a town called Page which will be the springboard for the journey to Zion National Park in the morning. Arrived at what I thought was a sleepy town at 11pm and after 2 hours of searching found all Hotels full. Turns out this is a holiday resort and this is peak season. Got myself a late night snack and was told by the shop assistant there is a Motel a few miles out of town. Indeed there was and got a fantastic room for $29.
Sleep, glorious sleep...
Nope..at 2am I was awakened by banging on the door and sirens outside. It was the Fire Brigade and there was a fire in the motel. They were hosing a room down and ripping the plastic ceilings down. Luckily nobody was hurt so it was an exciting distraction for everyone in the Motel (would have liked some kip though).
Day 17 - Zion National Park (Utah)
"Like a lion...in Zion..."
Absolute nightmare sleep last night because of the fire so plan B for today was a swim and splash about in Lake Powell (Glen Canyon) to wake me up. As is my habit I frolicked in the sun too long for my own good
and got well burnt (medium rare).
Early afternoon was a 150 mile drive to Zion National Park. I'd heard some good things about it so was pretty excited.
The place was stunning. Beautiful rocky formations and hills with greenery. Actually for me Zion ranks top of my eye popping beauty chart. Like it a lot. Went for some short hikes (very testing for my fear of heights) and liked it so much I decided to stay an extra day. Found a room within the park (not easy in this season) so I could explore as much as possible the next morning. At night had a soak in the Jacuzzi and watched the stars in that big ole US sky.
Tomorrow it's more of Zion and then a 150 mile drive into the state of Nevada...and particularly Las Vegas. Viva!
Day 18 - Las Vegas
"Viva Las Vegas..."
Woke up feeling buzzing due to too much Jacuzzi action. Spent a whole morning at Zion doing some beautiful walks and hikes. Went to one great spot called Emerald Pools with a waterfall that you can walk under (bit like the one in Last of the Mohicans). Would have looked way more spectacular in the spring as there's more water around.
Then it was off for a 140 mile to the bright lights and big city of Las Vegas. To be honest I thought it was going to be really tacky here and I wouldn't like it too much. Boy was I wrong. The place is fantastic...a real buzz around here. If only I knew I would have planned more time around here.
Although I am a skint backpacker on a tight budget it was decided that it was time to splash out. A room was booked at the Treasure Island hotel and casino (where the show that was the inspiration for the film Pirates of the Caribbean is from). Lovely room and great casino. Actually, my travel partner and good all round navigator Naomi paid for it.
Played a bit of blackjack in the casino and lost money incredibly fast ($20 gone like a flash). So off for a few drinks to work out a system of winning. Came back and played the slots. Bang, another $20 gone. In the end at about 4am I'd lost enough and had enough so off for a walkabout.
Went for a walk round the other casino's like Caesars Palace (it's huuuuge), and the Venetian (they have copied a whole part of Venice inside it, Gondolas and canals included). Then went to see the water display outside the Bellagio (as featured at the end of Oceans 11). Really was spectacular.
Walking down the Strip there are soooo many beautiful girls around its unbelievable. Vegas is the bollocks.
I would have liked to stay longer in LV because I like it a lot but its a real money drain on a backpacker with a tight budget. I'll definitely come back on another trip or holiday.
Tomorrow I head for the hottest and lowest point in the US...Death Valley. It can reach 50c there so hope I'm not too rough after all the beer consumed tonight.