Monday, February 20, 2006

Sedona, AZ to Kayenta, AZ

Day and night: that's the difference between Sedona, Arizona and Kayenta, Arizona. While Sedona is home to the rich and famous, latte consuming crowd, busy with many expensive shops and restaurants, Kayenta is on the Navajo Nation, very spread out, with few stores and even fewer restaurants. Nonetheless, the beauty that can be found near Kayenta, is, in the writer's eyes, second to none. But more about that later.

To get to Kayenta, you find your way back northbound on I-17, then at Flagstaff I-40 for a few short kilometres, exit at Hwy 89, up to 160 to Kayenta, about 250 km of easy driving. Except for one incident when I was going up a grade at legal 120 km/h and a truck pulled out in front of me, in order to pass another, even slower truck, which forced me to slam on the brakes. Should've known: the truck that pulled out was from la belle province.... Even this far from home we have no problem being prejudiced.

We arrrived in Kayenta around 1:00 in the afternoon, and, after checking out the town (which took all of 2 minutes), we decided to head on up to Monument Valley. Now most of you, I presume, have watched TV at some point in your life. In particular western movies, the shoot-em-up-look-very-serious-die-in-the-end kind. Well, quite a few were made in or around Monument Valley, solely because of its dramatic, err, umm, dare I say it, monumental landscape. (Also, quite a few character actors were available in the area, at reasonable rip-off prices) And by gosh, golly gee whiz, they're right, it is a truly spectacular sight, it should be included in the wonders of the world. This only made the whole trip worth it. Giant buttes (pronounce: bjoots) rise up to 300 m high from the desolate valley floor below. It all has to do with plate tectonics within the last 30 odd million years or so, the details of which I will spare you.

We first perused the gift shop, since you never know what you might find there. Alas, no luck, very expensive. On the other hand, that made our earlier purchases look good. We noticed there was a walking trail, so we decided to reserve that for the next day, Sunday. Today, we'd drive the 25 km, so called "Valley Drive". How do they come up with these names? It's actually a dirt road with many sections suffering from either washboarding or rocks protruding out from the surface, not to mention dust flying everywhere but away from you. However, it's only a rental car, so who cares if you have to plug the oil pan with the root of a sage brush yanked from the desert floor. Fortunately, it didn't come that far, but I was passed by quite a few people in Hummers and other SUV's who can now brag to their friends at home they did Monument Valley in 10 minutes. Do I sound bitter, just because I had to eat their dust?

I hate it when I get carried away like that. The drive. It should be about the drive. Which is breathtaking, stunning, exceptionally beautiful and also very nice. There are waypoints where you can stop for scenic lookouts. When all traffic noise dies down, the solitude that creeps over you when you look at these strange rock formations that should not be, rolls up your spine, grabs you by the neck and makes you think there is a ... Looking at these 'things', it isn't hard to imagine that the natives came to believe their Gods were in this valley. It is very easy to see faces, shapes, human form in the rocks that rise up to the heavens. But have a look for yourself, even though the pictures cannot, by any means, convey the depth and magnitude of the landscape.

After the drive finished, I wanted to wait until closer to sunset, so the buttes shadows would be longer, giving a more dramatic effect. So we had some tea in the visitor centre restaurant. Wouldn't you know it though, this time of year, the sun from the visitor's centre is right in your back (Notice the shadow from the helpful amateur photographer in the pic of Anne and I). So that took care of that. We headed back to Kayenta.

Now what's there to do in Kayenta on a Saturday nite, you ask. And why shouldn't you ask. Well, since we'd been on the road for over two weeks, our supplies of fresh undies was getting precariously low. In fact, the prospect of recycling crept ever nearer. In order to head that off, we drove to the local laundromat, which is a truly happening place, so packed with people and noise, in fact, that if you closed your eyes you could imagine yourself being on the dance floor in some swanky Ritz hotel. Open your eyes though, and it is still only a laundromat in Kayenta. There we stood, like two klutzes, totally lost, surrounded by these peoples who were all experts in
running these machines. Fortunately, we were aided by a few very friendly people, in particular one, I would say, 13 to 14 year old girl, who kept on her eye on us, and was ever ready to give advice on how to properly start the dryer for instance. Otherwise, we'd still be there. Either that, or we'd be kicked out long ago, because of the laundromat flooding.

With bags full of fresh smelling laundry we made our way to Hampton Inn, one of the only restaurants in town, for a very good meal, indeed.

Tomorrow, Kayenta again (Spanish translation: 'Quando Calienta el sol'....)

Today's KML file here

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