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Published: October 30th 2012
We generally have to use the Bus parking areas.
We started Day 3 by heading out to Phoenix airport to pick up our rental car. We had a rather interesting cab driver, who had no hesitation in sharing the troubles in his life. His current predicament being that his son's friend was getting a little too friendly with the wife. This was interspersed with random mumblings that we could not hear and did not follow up.
Our car was a little bit of a surprise. All I was really hoping for was something somewhat modern, nothing fancy, and certainly nothing that looks like a giant silver brick on wheels. Rats. I've seen shorter entire cars than the hood of this thing. I get into the car and I'm greeted by a column shift. Awesome! It definitely brought back memories from Mum's old Kingswood. Netherless, it is a solid car, drives well and gets the job done. And I would feel quite secure that I would come off best in a head-on smash. With a truck.
Our first day of driving saw us heading along the historic and scenic Apache Trail. It was once a stagecoach trail running through the Superstition Mountains. Our route also saw us pass by
Theodore Roosevelt lake (and Roosevelt Dam), as well as the Tonto National Forest. We saw lots of mountains, lakes, cacti, an old historic town and drove a 22 mile unpaved section of road not for the faint-hearted or jiggle-phobic. Total distance for the day - 360km.
Our town for the night was Holbrook, or as Jamie and I fondly nicknamed it, Hole (or Trainville). There is a major train line less than a mile south of town with one passing through every 5-10 minutes. I'm not sure if there is a strain of Tourettes that involves repetitive and uncontrollable horn-blasting, but if there is, these train drivers definitely had it. A great night's sleep was had by all.
The next morning we headed out to Petrified Forest National Park. It is named for its large deposits of petrified wood, some of which pre-dated the dinosaurs. Generally the wood becomes 'petrified' when the trees and forests are buried so quickly they remain intact and become fossilised. It also comprises the Painted Desert which are eroded and colourful 'badlands'. The park was interesting but lacked some wow factor.
Next on the route was Canyon de Chelly National Monument. I
Canyon de Chelly
wasn't sure what to expect as I didn't know much about it prior. After a couple of hours there I was definitely left in awe. It contains 3 major canyons on ancient indigenous lands. Tribes made a living on the land and carved out homes into the sides of the canyons. Some relics are still on display. The canyons themselves drew the air from our lungs instantly as the photos will hopefully testify.
We fuelled (gassed) up in a town called Kayenta. Don't bother looking it up or remembering it, its not worth it. As Jamie walked out of the gas station after making payment, I noticed a shady looking character in tow. Trying but failing to conclude 'coincidence', my instincts were correct as we were about to get into our car. This 'native' looking fellow (my ignorance can provide no further clarification) asked where we were heading. Correctly determining that he was after a lift and not just a friendly chat with two friendly-looking chaps, I said we had a long distance to travel yet. After some awkward banter we just decided to get in the car and not extend the conversation any further. Showing no signs of
hint-grasping, the fellow thought it prudent to tap on my window. I reluctantly lowered it and waited for the request to which I provided the appropriate reply. No, I didn't have a few spare dollars he could 'borrow'. I suppose this little event did provide me with some sage wisdom - 'Don't trust anyone'. Especially people.
Last but certainly not least we rolled into Monument Valley in time for sunset. This was one of the major highlights I wanted to see on this trip and it did not disappoint. There is not much I can really say to describe the place as I would certainly be doing it an injustice with my feeble words. It's simply magical. As the sun lowered on the horizon we were left with a complete and resounding natural high. While the photos can provide some form of replication, there is no substitute for seeing the sandstone spires, buttes and mesas in person.
As we departed in the dark, we crossed the border into Utah and arrived at our night's destination - a place called Mexican Hat - population 31. I'm not sure why they didn't just name it Sombrero. You're probably already trying
to figure out the origin of the name, but you'll be wrong. There are some rocks balancing on a ledge just outside of town that look like a Sombrero - err, I mean a Mexican hat. This was the first time we noticed the weather being much cooler. But we were to experience much worse in the following days. Total distance for the day - 430km.
The next morning we returned to Monument Valley to get some daylight snaps and drive the dirt road route through and around the valley. Photos below.
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