Wild wild west
Trip Start Jan 22, 2006
18Trip End Aug 17, 2006
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I think the last update left us in San Diego. I've put up a few pictures by the way - sorry there aren't many but we don't have much time in these internet cafes so it's impossible to put them all on here.
On Friday morning we got up early preparing to go to San Diego Zoo. Marcus and Tommy (the 2 Swedes sharing our dorm) were still asleep so we decided to go downstairs and take advantage of the all-you-can-make pancakes for breakfast. I take back all the mickey taking I gave to the person cursing the hostel for forcing them to make them themselves. It was a complete disaster! Embarassingly so. We had two awful attempts, both of which ended up in the bin (we're blaming the pans, the oil, and pretty much anything that isn't us) before settling with a cup of tea
The zoo was massive so we took advantage of the bus tour around the park which was fabulous. It meant we could then concentrate on the animals we were most interested in without feeling obliged to trek around the rest of the enclosures. We walked around the monkey trails and watched the gorillas and orang utans before heading to one of the shows. Unfortunately it was shut as they were refurbishing so they put on a presentation instead. It meant that we were able to stand less than 10 foot away from emus, eagles and an absolutely beautiful cheetah. Apparently when they train cheetahs, they pair them with dogs as companions. This cheetah was best friends with a lovely golden retriever and it was really quite strange to watch these two completely different animals care for each other so much. I doubt I'll ever get the opportunity to stand so close to a wild animal (despite how tame it must be), so much so we could even hear him purr.
The main attraction in the park was the giant pandas and they were the main reason we visited this zoo. I felt there wouldn't be many opportunities in my life to see these almost extinct creatures. I wasn't disappointed at all. We were able to see a mother and father panda with their cheeky baby who climbed to the top of a tiny tree - far too frail for his large parents to climb
On Saturday we finally checked out of our hostel and headed off to Joshua Tree to visit the national park that (amongst other things) U2 brought to fame. It was a long drive but worth every minute of it. The scenery was stunning and only got better the further we got into the park. We stopped at a point called Hidden Valley, a massive area of boulders and wildlife where cattle hustlers notoriously used as a hideout. We walked the trail around the valley which took a few hours. I'm not much of a walker but found the experience absolutely thrilling. The sun on my back, the absolute silence of the park and the most awesome surroundings. Dan became inspired by the multitude of rock climbers (many of which came to conquer the "Big Burrito"!) and climbed his own mini mountain. I wasn't quite as adventurous, knowing full well I'd never get down again.
We then drove to Keys View, a point overlooking the park at 5,461 foot high. Unfortunately many of the mountains below us were hidden by the smog coming in from LA (a sad reminder of how damaging these cities are) but the view was still spectacular. I really am going to run out of superlatives to describe the beauty of some of the things we've seen
After tearing ourselves away from the hotel, we headed back and checked into our hotel. Not long after we got out of our car, a man approached us asking "how do you like your menage-a-three?". I was rather alarmed at the blatency of these Americans and wondered how we were going to get out of this proposition. After 5 minutes or so of stuttering and him repeating the question, he asked how many miles we got to the gallon. Apparently he was referring to the car!! Thank God I didn't say anything insulting! After some polite conversation and a lot of blushing, we shuffled off to the check in desk. They drove from Oregon to stay in 29 Palms to welcome back the Marines from Iraq. It's a shame we didn't have more time here because I think that could have been an interesting thing to experience. Even as we drove away the next day to our next destination, the fences and pavements were littered with signs welcoming back the troops.
On Sunday we left California and drove to Flagstaff, a journey that took most of the day. We had a relatively early night in preparation for the Grand Canyon the next day. I'd been before but around 12 years ago and I really couldn't have come all this way without visiting again. Wow was it worth it. It's by far one of the most breathtaking and awesome (in the literal sense of the word) sights you will ever see
The first time we stopped, we walked down some steps to a viewing point hanging over the chasm and took some photos. We were absolutely surrounded by chinese people who gathered together and started singing as a choir. This has happened to be before in an amphitheatre in Turkey, and both times it's been a moment I know I'll never forget. The experience of seeing the Grand Canyon, a sight you can't quite comprehend, together with this hair raising and beautiful singing was a unique moment. I know I wasn't the only one who felt it as a woman next to me tried to secretly wipe her tears away from behind her sunglasses. I wasn't quite as moved as that, but I knew how she was feeling. It was just a lovely moment.
It was a warm day, contradicted by the snow and ice that covered the ground. It really is quite a strange place with the sun beating down on you by day and then dropping to below freezing every night while it snows. On the drive to Flagstaff, Dan and I thought the "watch for ice" signs were ironic as we enjoyed the 65 degree heat in the middle of Winter
Today we thought about leaving Flagstaff (and our hotel next to the railway lines, with the trains that like to whistle ALLLLLLL through the night...) but instead we took the 27 mile drive down to Sedona. We really only came down here to find an internet cafe but this town was a real find. Probably one of my most favourite places we've been to so far. You can really feel the Native Indian influence here in this town nestled between the bright red rock. It's obviously a tourist trap yet it's nicely maintained, with even the inevitable McDonalds and Dennys changing their colour schemes to fit in with the red buildings. I wish we had more time here, but the hotels are very expensive and just not in our budget. Maybe another time.
Tomorrow we are heading out of Arizona for the time being and going to Utah to see some of the national parks. If it's anything like the experience that Arizona has given us, we're in for the trip of a lifetime.