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People and Places

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

The air was warm, my mouth was dusty, the horses were smelly and my bum was sore. I hadn't washed for two days and two nights as there was no water in our camp, and I had hardly slept, as forty or so drunken young people had been lurching around the campsite shouting and puking until four a.m. We were in a real cowboy camp - no tourist comforts here- where the men and women lived, breathed and worked horses, and talked and smelled of little else.

The scenery was dry and rocky, the only colour I could distinguish was sandy brown. The vegetation was stunted, straggly and starved of moisture. My fingernails were full of clay, every facial line was highlighted in grime so that when I saw my features reflected in someone's sunglasses my cheeks looked like a relief map of the Rockies.


I was of course having a ball. We had limped here in a minivan which had worked its way through three batteries so far, something being amiss with the wiring between the van and its trailer. Apart from being pursued by an amorous Frenchman, I was enjoying the company of our group, which included a thirty-something Englishman with a typically dry, Brit sense of humour. He had introduced himself as Dickon and we all waited for the shortened version which never came, and none of us had the courage to ask.

Jason, our loud, over-enthusiastic tour leader, did a very good job of imitating the word 'referee!' even though he had no idea what the joke was. Nor did I come to think of it. We had lain together, literally, on the benches of the minibus, whiling away the hours waiting for new batteries to arrive from far-flung townships in deepest Utah. A very large man dressed in high heeled cowboy boots and chequered shirt had sashayed towards us at a gas station, to enquire in a threatening drawl,

'Who are yeeoo?'

We were all too aghast to reply. This behaviour was certainly not British. No manners, these Americans. And when they get excited, well!

'Yeehaw!' became our pet expression of enjoyment, employed during various activities from gazing at the Highway mark where Forrest Gump stopped running to splashing each other in Lake Powell.

We spent a day among the Navajo Indians. A jeep tour took us into the valley where four families lease land from the government. They have no water supply, no electricity, and have to drive sixty four miles to fetch firewood. Many make a living selling handmade artefacts to tourists, or driving groups into the desert to explain their history and pose for photos. Our guide played us a haunting tune on his flute while we watched tiny frogs writhe like water bubbles just under the surface of a muddy pool. Another Indian beat a haunting rhythm on his drum as the sun beamed through a hole in the roof of a cavern.

At sunset we rode on horseback, in single file and in silence, through gulches past Medicine Hat rock, and felt like the stars of a western. Yeehaw!


Wednesday, 27 January 2010    Section: People and Places
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