Ok, it's only been a few days since I last wrote but a lot has happened since then.
We left the charming Cottonwood Campground at about 10am and ascended up to the South Rim of Canyon de Chelly (pronounced "tSay") and started our tour of the various overlooks that let you look down into this magnificent canyon. Sadly our timing could've been better as the sunlight was mostly overhead making both our camera and video footage a tad flat, but the experience of looking into some America prehistory was worth every second. This canyon features ruins from the Ancient Pueblo People who lived in this Canyon over 3000 years ago and who manufactured impressive cliff carved dwellings as villages, often housing communities of 100 - 200 people. The valley floor is still occupied and farmed today by the Navaho, who own this land and hold the ruins and many of the rocks as sacred; therefore access to the canyon floor is heavily restricted unless accompanied by a guide.
It took us a good 5 to 6 hours to tour the south rim, so we set off for our next port of call at about 4pm, heading north, into our fifth state, Utah and into to Monument Valley.
We'd booked into Gouldings RV Campground the night before but upon our arrival, our booking hadn't made it through their system and there was no room for us when we turned up. All they could offer us was a dry site (no hookup), by the side of the road for a rather rich $27. However, after driving 170 miles and it being 7.30pm we weren't in a position to argue so begrudingly we paid our fee. The Gouldings complex is a sightin itself. Originally a trading post it now has it's own hotel, lodge, grocery store, gas station, medical centre, museum and campground as well as many other amenities. However, our lack of booking had put a dampeners on the whole Monument Valley experience and the general vibe of the place seemed all about wanting to get cash into Gouldings coffers at any cost so we decided to give the actual Monument Valley park a miss and drive on... but not until we'd got something out of the experience in return. So, at 5.55am (a small and odd note about time - Arizona doesn't observe Daylight Savings Time, but the Navaho Nation Indian Reservation within Arizona does) we got up and drove down the road to capture the sunrise on one of Nature's great achievements.
And it was well worth it. :D Have a look at the above images on my flickr page, and these are just the pictures from our little fuji camera.
After the sun had done it's glorious wonderment we set off in search of breakfast in the nearby town of Kayenta but all we could find open at this time was a Burger King, however this was no ordinary BK. This BK was (quite oddly) home to the Navaho code talkers exhibit. Breakfast was weird.
After a bit of shopping and cashing of travellers cheques (and securing our next campsite over the phone, rather than the internet) we set off down Highway 160, through Tuba City (it lacked Tubas) then north on Highway 89, past the beautiful Echo Cliffs and across the gorgeous Marble Canyon, up the impressive and aptly named Vermillion Cliffs up to Jacobs Lake, ready for our next Canyon: The Grand Canyon.
After such an impressive morning of both filming and photography we again decided to get up early and catch the sun rise, so at 4.45 am we got up and drove the 45 miles to the North Rim.
Once again, getting up early paid dividends. I was in two minds about seeing the Grand Canyon - after all we're seeing a number of canyons and, yes this is the biggest and most famous, but it's also the most viewed. However we opted for the less popular north rim just to try and see something more unique and to have a more personal experience. To put this into context, the south rim (which offers far better, wider and more colourful views) gets 5million visitors a year - it has it's own Imax cinema for chrissakes - while the north gets a more leisurely half a million. The drive to the north rim also is (once again) stunning - something we'd appreciate later - after a congratulatory and rewarding breakfast at The Grand Canyon Lodge.
We both ordered the same thing - buttermilk pancakes, two eggs (scrambled) and a side of hash browns and our jaws dropped when this arrived
That's 3 19 cm in diameter buttermilk pancakes in a stack about 5 cm high, so that's 1418 cubic cm of very delicious and fluffy pancake. Most of that jar of syrup disappeared into the stack, too. Please note the garnish of a wedge of strawberry and a slice of orange, making it a "healthy" breakfast and contributing to my 5 a day. ;) Though (those who care for our well being will be reassured to read) it did defeat us and we left half of the pancake mountain on the plate. Breakfast came to a costly but worth it $34 (including tip).
We got back on the road and drove back through the Kaibab Plateau, now lit for us to see the glittering, golden leaves of the autumnal silver birch set against the deep greens of fir trees and then a real rare treat:
a small herd of Bison, grazing and wallowing beside the roadside. After a few tentative snaps we got back on the road, heading north up Highway 89, into Utah. We did stop off at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park but it was a bit dissappointing so I had a nap, then on up passed Dixie National Forest, Red Canyon, onto Highway 12 and we're now in Cannonville for two days to check out the plethora of state parks here.