Hospitality in the Inhospitable #MonumentValley #roadtrip
I’ll do anything for a good sunrise, it turns out.
We spent a “Night with the Navajo” at Monument Valley: a jeep tour of the valley followed by a barbeque, a pow-wow and what was meant to be a night in a Hogan, but was a night outside a Hogan, under the stars.
Monument Valley is unforgiving and inhospitable. The heat was unrelenting (but not a patch on the heat in Las Vegas, but that’s another story). The good thing about that is that there are no bugs to annoy you when you sleep outside. There are just random horses, dogs, rabbits and cows stoating about between the rocks. (I am sure there must rattlesnakes and stuff, but thought it best not to ask, in case there were.)
We had done our research before the trip, watching Back to the Future 3 with interest. Thankfully our jeep was better suited to the terrain than a DeLorean.
My favourite bit was a rock cave thing called Grand Hogan or Great Hogan that I find difficult to describe: it was like a chunk of a cross section of a natural cathedral in red rock, with a sloping surface to lie on as you look up at a hole in the roof that doubles as an eye of a hawk you can see in the roof. And it is also like looking up at a huge rock donut. Sort of. Other rock formations in the valley are iconic and appear in movies, but I hadn’t seen anything like this. So we had a wee rest looking up through the hole in the roof, listening to our guide sing us a random song about going to Utah and finding a drum.
For dinner we were given Navajo tacos – with fried tortillas, barbequed steak, baked beans and salad and then there was a random pow-wow that was a cross between a ceilidh and an episode of Blind Date.
Night fell, but the heat was still powerful. Despite us having the lightest of light sleeping bags, I was in for a night of not much sleep. But that was okay because we were in the middle of actual nowhere, lying in the ground in the dark with the plus point of that which is you get to see the stars properly with the Milky Way as a backdrop. The downside is that I wear glasses and I couldn’t see the stars if I took my glasses off to go to sleep. So, I took my glasses off and on to look at the stars while thrashing about in my sweaty sleeping bag trying to optimize my sleeping position, listening to other people thrashing about in their sleeping bags while someone else had a fit of the hiccoughs and a cow came wandering by in the darkness. And then the moon rose, which was great as a spectacle, but it was a little like someone was boring a hole in my retinas with a laser so, less helpful with the sleeping. Plus there was that full-fat caffeinated can of soda (like what I don’t drink any of in real life) that I had with my dinner that kept my head spinning, wondering what one would do, should one manage to have a snake bite or a freak head injury in the middle of nowhere with no phone signal or handy means of transportation…
The low point, or should I say the long drop point of the stint in Monument Valley was the long drops. (We had a wide range of toilet-based experiences on the road trip – but that’s for another post.) It turns out that the Navajo, while being big on friendliness and food hygiene are not at all that fussed on running water or bathroom cleaning. Or bathrooms, really.
There were two long drops in outhouses, some way back from the Hogan we weren’t sleeping in. One was worse than the other, but that is not to say that one was better than the other. However, the lack of bugs was noted (although I didn’t appreciate the lack of bugs until we were somewhere with long drops with flies, but, as I say, that’s another story…)
In the morning we got muffins and good coffee and a slightly less awful toilet before heading back to our own transport and our next destination.
So, the inexplicable thing about Monument Valley is how the people who live there live there – and how their ancestors lived there. There isn’t water for ten miles (except at the visitor centre… oddly), so the residents have enormous water tanks on the back of their pickup trucks and go and collect the water. Maybe there was more water in the past – I don’t know. But there’s certainly a lot of sweat and dust and barely tolerable heat.
However – before the coffee and the muffins we had the privilege of seeing a perfect sunrise, with the sky with colours graduating from the horizon upwards and crisp silhouettes against the skyline. You can see why the Hogans all face towards the rising sun in the valley.
A non-sleep and a dodgy toilet were definitely made up for by the spectacular skies in Monument Valley.