Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 32: Monument Valley (Tribal Park, not a NP)

Day 32: Monument Valley (Tribal Park, not a NP)

Objects in a park suggest static repose rather than any ongoing dialectic. Parks are finished landscapes for finished art.
Robert Smithson

Bonus quote: All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie, B Dylan

Pics: Do pictures lie? The usuals of sunrise and sunset, fitness center, protected utility box, and a ton of Monument Valley events of the day.

Meals: Breakfast buffet augmented with grape nuts (we’re early enough to scarf up the majority of blueberries and strawberries), $14 with $10 discount; Lunch see below; Dinner of chicken with baked potato, salad bar, non-alcoholic wine and beer, $46.

Fitness center before the crack of dawn (helped by the fact that we were asleep at 8pm). This FC is missing towels, clock, and water cooler.

Nineteen truths and one lie:

1. DB attempts to sign us up for Daniel’s Monument Valley tours, she found a brochure at Boulder Mountain Lodge (so you know it is many moons ago); after numerous phone calls, e-mail exchanges, and left messages, the tour is confirmed the night before the 8am pick-up. We even price other tour operators, range is from $90 to $190.
2. When we arrive in the lobby, there is a Navajo talking on a cell phone. He takes at least one more call before approaching us and introducing himself as our guide, VTG (V The Guide).
3. We have two guides (VTG passes us on), three vehicles, one flat tire (found before we actually drive the van), two different estimated times for start of the morning tour, all before the tour really starts (meaning, when we hit a unpaved road).
4. We can now smell the dead cow before we see it, and we see it twice.
5. HTG (H The Guide) makes a stop first, to buy water at a gas station mart, and does not fill the gas tank.
6. We start by sitting in the cab of the tour truck, which is fine since it is a private tour, and we find out that HTG is suffering from what might be a persistent cough, maybe even consumption.
7. The morning tour includes the 17 mile drive (not THE 17 mile drive) and roads that only guides are allowed to take. On the morning trip, we visit many monuments and other notable spots, most complete with (many) stands selling Navajo jewelry. At one stop, HTG tells us that it is his grandmother tending the sole stand. They do not exchange greetings.
8. At another stop, we visit a hogan, complete inside with a woman selling jewelry and another spinning sheep’s wool into yarn. HTG explains that the spinner is the daughter of a niece of his, and tells us to make a donation for this demo (of which the wool breaks before being placed onto the spool of yarn); $5.
9. We enjoy the vistas and the monuments; on the way back HTG advises us that the truck is running low on gas. THB assured DB that he is making a Navajo joke. We run out of gas 30 yards below the hotel (quarter mile by the road), and DB and THB climb the last portion, which is a sandy non-trail.
10. When we pay for the all-day trip ($125/person) first thing in the morning (between the two guides, before the flat tire), we are told the tour includes lunch. During the tour, we find out it does not include lunch. At lunch, the person we paid in the morning shows up and sits at our table and tells us lunch is included. Lunch is included: chicken sandwich for DB, tuna on toast for THB: they come with chips and we get fries (British chips?), which we barely touch.
11. We originally were told the afternoon tour, Mystery Canyon, would start at 1pm. We are actually taking a different truck (our 4th vehicle?), and that it isn’t back from a morning tour (it’s 4WD, and we need that for the next tour). At 1:30, HTG appears and tells us that now we’re leaving at 1:45; we leave at 2pm. We ask if there is enough gas for this tour. Yep, at least half a tank and a gauge that works.
12. At one of the first stops in the afternoon, there is a cliff dwelling about 20 feet up and THB decides to go investigate further by climbing the side of the cliff. Easy, 20 seconds up. Uh-oh, the route down looks very steep and there is a decent size drop off. 4 minutes later and some gentle coaxing from HTG, THB is back at the van. DB checks THB’s pulse to see if it is beating too fast….NOPE! Elliptical training is working.
13. After the first few afternoon stops, THB and DB get out and do some investigating on foot (not uncommon); when we return, HTG has put down his seat and is sleeping. We climb in the back (it has better visibility than the cab) and the truck is rocking back and forth, HTG does not awaken. After banging on the cab for a few moments, HTG arouses himself and off we go for more touring.
14. At one point, the truck appears to be stuck in sand, despite having 4WD. HTG confirms that a bit later that yes, indeed, we were almost stuck and that it has happened more than once to him….this is many miles and hours from the highway, and we see very few other tours this afternoon.
15. We stop at the Honeymoon Arch and HTG proceeds to play his flute (THB thinks we may need to provide an Advair inhaler to help him get through) and then pulls out his drum to play, explaining all the symbols (and DB refrains from asking him what the duct tape represents). Very romantic!
16. We hear many Navajo and Monument Valley stories, a few of which appear to be based on historical evidence, and many that appear to be as accurate as THB’s blog postings.
17. Two different times, HTG gives advice on the best routes to head up to the easiest trails and both times they were the steepest (including the one after the truck ran out of gas in the morning).
18. At one point in the late afternoon, a jeep starts following the truck. HTG stops (and thus so does the jeep, this is a one lane, no passing, dirt/sand road and you don’t want to go off road), and as far as we can tell based on hand signals and voices (it is in English, not Navajo, and the fact that HTG was driving in front), HTG is asking for help on getting back to the Lodge (see trail selection skills in #17)
19. DB and THB have a great day with terrific scenery, great weather, a nice break at lunchtime: it is another adventure as only a blogger can wish for! Nice tip given to HTG, who squeals in delight (maybe he DID remember the sleeping, the lack of gas, and all other various trials and tribulations).
20. There were ice cold drinks aboard the various trucks, and a nice stop at a snack stand in both the morning and afternoon where we enjoyed softies.

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