Well the day haven’t started well with breakfast, and I started to get a bit worried when no bus had arrived at 8:30, another couple turned up with their teenage daughter, we got chatting and they were doing a similar tour and their pickup time was 8:35 . Another 10 minutes had gone and I rang the number on my piece of paper. The man on the other end was very nice and said he would ring me back in a few minutes. The other couple also rang the number on their piece of paper and then we discovered we were both talking to the same man, no real surprise there. I had booked a North and South Rim tour, or so I thought. They weren’t sure what they had booked. So a bus arrived about 10 to 9 but he was only looking for three people, that was me out then. By this point I was thinking that I could have had another half an hour in bed. I rang the man again and he said I was booked on a different bus and should arrive any time now. The driver from the first bus came over to me and said he did have a spare seat on his bus if I wanted it, he was quite kind towards me actually which was nice, but I told him I was ok and my bus was on its way.
So two buses turn up and the driver of one approached me and asked me if I was Elisabet, yes I said, you are with me then, said he. The other bus emptied it’s passengers out and they joined my bus. The buses were small with room for 15 passengers. And we had about 6 spare seats. Our guide was a Hopi Indian and immediately started telling us all about their folklore and how it interacted with the area we were driving through. Our first stop was to be at the Sunset Crater National Park, but on route we stopped at Bonito Park for a quick photo opportunity.
Driving through the park it is full of black lava rock from the time of the eruption, it reminded me of course of the drive from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik in Iceland. We were able to get out and walk along a little area, among the rocks and there are plants growing out of all sorts of places.
We were then taken to a point were we could see the top of the crater which was called sunset because at sunset it shines bright red. We had to view it from the bus, which was a bit of an anti climax but it is what it is I suppose.
Our next stop was the Wupatki National Monument, where there are the remains of pueblos built by native Americans, there were basically three areas, the housing itself, a small arena where young adults were brought to be given their adult name and their purpose in life is given to them and then another smaller arena which would have been used for special ceremonies. Our guide said the purpose of this second arena was said to be for playing some sort of game with a basket attached to the wall, some kind of basket ball I think which ended in some sort of human sacrifice, the winner losing their life which seems a bit unfair! However he maintained that the walls were not high enough for it to have had that purpose, and that the were entrances to the North and South, and that East and West were looking out at pointers for special celebrations,occasions like the solstice and sunset. So the Hopi’s believe this was a place were special ceremonies would take place. All the buildings and rock were bright red, in contrast to the landscape of volcanic rock. Much like the Utah scenery. There were some stones in the building which were said to be for grinding the corn to make bread. The diet of these people was mainly corn but they had many varieties, referrred to by colour, blue corn being one of them. I bet you thought that was an interesting fact, I did look it up to make sure it was true.
After this we were driven towards the Grand Canyon with a stop for lunch at the Cameron Trading Post. I have to say I was a little worried about lunch, I was dreading the prospect of another burger. When I saw the lunch menu on the board in the doorway it looked like that was exactly what I was going to get, but when the menu arrived my eyes alighted in Navajo Beef Stew with Fry Bread. I have to say it was delicious, and although the fry bread was probably very bad for me I ate two thirds of that too, it was lovely. Real food for the first time in days. Lunch gave us a bit of time as a group to get to know each other, and It wasn’t long before I was being quizzed on Brexit, it seems to be a bit of a theme. I almost got myself into hot water countering about the shock of Trump getting the Presidency, I need to learn to keep my mouth shut, clearly. There was needless to say a huge shop you had to get through to get to the restaurant and we were twice given time to do some shopping. I was very good given my packing constraints and only bought some postcards and dried apricots, ritz crackers, cheese and gum! Just in case I didn’t get to eat again that day, and guess what I was right so my purchases came in very handy. By the way when I saw the postcards I realised how remiss I had been having promised to send lots of postcards, so I am now aiming to send one from each country, so if you receive one from me, you now know I am adjusting your expectations. I haven’t got time for postcards as well as all this writing.
Finally we were off to the Grand Canyon. I mentioned earlier that I had booked a tour which was supposed to be the North and South rim, it had become clear by now that wasn’t going to happen as it was early afternoon, but I decided just to make the best of it. It was another 40 minute drive to get to to Grand Canyon Park, once in the Park quite a long way to go, but there were some great sights as we kept climbing to get there. Finally we arrived and clambered out of the bus, a short walk and there is was. A huge chasm, rock of many shades, indescribable really. I will just have to let the photographs do the talking, I was so glad I had decided to add this into my itinerary pretty much at the last minute. There are birds of prey circling the canyon at the edges and then flying straight down, a wondrous sight indeed. They have managed to save the Condor here, it was almost extinct. After an hour or so of freedom we were taken to a few different viewing points and then to the village, and given an hour and a half there. The village has accommodation and restaurants and of course shops. I did buy myself a t-shirt, I know I shouldn’t have but you only live once. There are more amazing views here and some walks down into the canyon itself. When I got back to the bus, we had 3 new people we had to deliver back to Flagstaff, that upset the apple art a bit, taking other people’s seats, very amusing. A good hour and a half home, and as I suspected I was too shattered to go out anywhere, so straight to bed with ritz crackers for me.
I know there are a lot of photographs, but it gives you an idea of the whole size, and the beauty. I was desperately trying to take a selfie with the Canyon in the background, I failed miserably so I thought I would share with you the out takes.
The following day I spent resting after the arduous journey to Flagstaff and the full day tour, I was in quite bad shape. I took a walk into town about lunch time, found an Italian and had a Lasagne with Ice cream to follow and a couple of glasses of wine, then back to my executive suite, catching up on my blog.
After a good sleep, I was feeling more refreshed, and as I was leaving on the train at about 9pm, I was all packed and checked out at 11 with my luggage safely locked away in reception. I went downtown and found a restaurant to sit outside in and ordered a coffee whilst I perused the menu. I have to say I am not a great lover of Mexican food and it isn’t a great lover of me either, so I decide to take what looked like a healthy and safe option. Blackened Tuna and a salad of green vegetables with walnuts. The salad of green vegetables turned out to be a plate of lettuce, and although the tuna was cooked to my liking quite rare in the middle it still seems to be dry. Anyway another glass of wine solved the problem and I sat and wrote for an hour or so. I then treated myself to a pudding, which was called a sundae but basically a brownie with ice cream on top, it was very good, and I am not complaining about it, but I have to say the dining experience did not live up to my expectations at all!
I decided I better move on from there and found a square to sit in for a while, it was really hot and eventually I had to run for cover again, so I went into another place and order a drink and at about 5pm I ordered some dinner. It was the dinner of the day Coq au Vin with garlic mash potatoes and mushrooms and onions. I was really looking forward to this after my lunchtime lettuce with dry tuna. But first of all I had to laugh when the waiter pronounced it coq au veen, and then I thought to myself well mushrooms and onions are part of the recipe so shouldn’t really be described as an addition. It arrived and I was told the plate was hot, it was but funnily enough the food wasn’t as hot as the plate. Then I tried the mash and all I could taste was garlic, so much garlic. So the chicken was ok but the mushrooms and onions were completely inedible, I have no idea how they managed to massacre them so well.
Right enough is enough I thought. It was about six pm, I walked back to the hotel and ordered a Lyft to take me back downtown to the station. I arrived in the waiting room and was helped though the process of checking in by a seasoned train traveller. When I checked my bag in I was asked to remove any food or drugs, so I had to take out my supply of omeprozale, glucosamine and well woman night, exciting life I lead. The helpful lady provided me with a bag I could put it all in. The station waiting room filled up slowly, and conversations hummed. Eventually our delayed train arrived and we were sent to the appropriate end of the platform where we had our tickets checked and were given a hand written slip with our seat number on. There was a woman in her seventies who was worrying about getting up the stairs, downstairs was full, I said I would help her. A man put her bag on the train, which is very high up to start with. They put a step there to help you get on and she actually fell on to the train, what a mess, she could barely get back up on her feet but didn’t want any help. She was able to leave her luggage down there and I made my way up and found her seat for her and handed her the cushions and ticket. She was really stressed out by the whole thing as you can imagine. I then had to wake someone up so that I could get into my seat. The guard announced it was time to go to sleep and lights were out. I think I finally dropped off at 1am, and spent most of the night waking up and sleeping. However there was a lot of room and it was very comfortable, especially in comparison to the bus. They actually come and wake you up if you have to get off in the night. I would definitely use the train again. By the time we reached our destination it had been travelling for three days, it’s staggering how big this country is and how long it takes to get anywhere, which of course is why most people fly. So I will leave you here as I pull into my last stop of my first tour of the USA on this adventure, Los Angeles. But just before I go I have to say I don’t think I would ever want to go to Flagstaff again!