November 27

Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly

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If only my brain worked as well as the alarm clock did on this morning... We got up, packed up and headed north to the Monument Valley, the sky still perfectly black with a few stars visible - no moon though, which may have helped. If you take a map of Arizona and look for the Monument Valley, you will see that it is just north of Kayenta. Also, the operative word in the last sentence was Arizona, not Utah, dummie. At the latest when we crossed the border to Utah I should have realized that maybe I have overshot; unfortunately, I always remembered that the Monument Valley is after Mexican Hat, forgetting the little detail that so far every time I was coming from the north, not south - and the last time was seven years ago and I was well rested. When the daylight broke and I realized where we were, it was too late. So it happens that we have two sunrise pictures from the Monument Valley, even though we were right there - we just didn't see it. BTW, when you look at the picture, please note that the rocks ARE actually crooked, it's not my usual horizon disaster - I was using a level =)

Back in Kayenta we had a quick breakfast at what appeared to be the only food joint - the BK at the 163 / 191 intersection. The ordering procedure was probably the most chaotic one I have ever seen, but eventually we got what we ordered, more or less. The Mitsubishi got a tank full at the local Chevron, and a friendly Native American who was filling up his car at the opposite pump not only shared with me his life story, but also a tip on how to get to Albuquerque on the shortest path. We promptly followed his advice and found out that contrary to the map's opinion the road to Many Farms was actually paved. This shortcut saved us some 40 miles to Many Farms alone, from where we proceeded to the Canyon de Chelly, which was both a scenic detour and part of another shortcut over other unpaved roads. At one of the canyon overlooks from where we could see the ancient ruins of a native settlement we purchased a painting from a local artist, a painting depicting a Rain Caller - someone I could have used right now, too, to get some clouds into and haze out of the sky.

Click on the first image to start a slide show for this day (11 pictures)
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From the canyon we headed further south to Gallup, and for once the map did not lie - the road was indeed unpaved and rather bumpy at times. Essan recalled her very fond memories of our trip to Utah in 2000, when she had to suffer through a SUVing experience over truly rough terrain - and I really mean SUVing, not just some wussy unpaved road experience - something I probably would not have done if I had known that for the next three hours I would be stuck on something not even the Mongolian army could call a "path". This time, it was not so bad, even our Mitsubishi mastered it. Just around the AZ / NM border was also about the time when the iPod ran out of battery power and we were forced to switch back to the radio. We could even choose between three stations, one of which featured reasonably acceptable tunes.

Once in Gallup we inhaled a quick snack and called my friend Andrew Stone to announce our impeding arrival. Somewhere there must have been a communication glitch between him and me, as he thought we'd be arriving on Friday, yet we were in the hood on Thursday, right for the full turkey experience. This way we invited ourselves to a TG party which was hosted by one of their friends, and gave him about two hours of advance notice. When we arrived in Albuquerque we were greeted by Carl, Andrew's 1.5 year old, 125 lbs adolescent, then by the rest of his family, and had just enough time to take a badly needed shower.

For us two non-Americans the whole Thanksgiving experience is something rather unusual, and specifically we have spent the last four TG breaks in Oregon on our Annual TG Pilgrimage to Crater Lake, but that's a whole different story. Before, we have been occasionally invited by friends to their turkey festivities, but this party was quite different. No less than 25 people, many of whom have never met before, gathered around a long table, and - well, ate a lot, that part is in common to all TG experiences so far. The six kids aged 2-5 were definitely adding a certain level of entertainment and an acoustic background.

For the night we retired to Andrew's nice little adobe guest house, which he built himself. This was definitely the most special accommodation which we have ever had - Monasterio in Cusco was nice, very nice indeed, but we had only one room; here we had a whole house =)

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