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Monument Valley by Lorraine Orman

05 October 2012


“I’d love to see the Arizona desert,” Jim said.

“Why on earth do you want to see desert?” I asked. “It’s just miles and miles of nothing.”

“I want to go to Monument Valley,” he said. “Where they filmed those old John Wayne westerns. You know, cowboys riding between enormous red mesas.”

“Uh huh.” I couldn’t remember the mesas, but I probably didn’t go to the right movies.

So we went back to the Insight tour brochure, and settled on a coach tour travelling through California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. The second half of the tour would take us through deserts, mountains, canyons and of course, Monument Valley.

The first deserts were the Mojave and Sonora Deserts – brown and dusty, with purple foothills lining the horizons on both sides. As we rolled into Scottsdale, near Phoenix, the Australians on board the bus burst into shrieks of delight – they’d spotted a Walmart! This was followed by groans of despair when the bus didn’t stop.

The next day we climbed into the foothills of the Colorado Plateau, stopping at Sedona to be jolted up a rough track in a convoy of jeeps to view the bright red and orange cliffs. The day finished at the Grand Canyon, which looked as unreal as an oil painting.

Finally we were travelling across Navajo land. Tumbledown shanties and rusty RVs were scattered here and there among the valleys and boulders as if dropped at random from the sky.

The Painted Desert was achingly beautiful – the massive escarpments surrounding us were layered with brown, red, orange, grey and green, while the desert was tinted in delicate shades of gold, pale green and blue-green.

We overnighted at Lake Powell, a manmade lake which looks completely out of place – like finding a deep blue lake on Mars.

And finally, we set off on the drive to Monument Valley. I could sense my husband’s pulse race as we drove further into the desert and passed groups of towering mesas (flat tops) and buttes (pointed tops). We stood on dusty red promontories and viewed these monoliths reaching to the empty sky, as if they’d just pushed up from the fiery heart of the earth.

The Navajo have given them names. It was easy to spot the Left and Right Mittens, but others clung to their anonymity. We didn’t spot John Wayne – but we came away feeling that we’d been to one of the most spiritual places in the world.

This spiritual feeling continued over the next few days - as we floated in a blue raft down the Colorado River between 1200-feet-high canyon walls - and as we viewed the lolly-pink spires and minarets of Bryce Canyon - and as we cricked our necks to spot the tiny red dots (climbers) hanging on the glowering cliffs of Zion National Park.

However all feelings of being at one with Mother Earth were shocked out of us when we finished the Insight tour in Las Vegas. But that’s another story...

Lorraine Orman


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