Wednesday morning, and I was really looking forward to to-day’s desert experience.
We’d booked a trip to visit Antelope Canyon. It’s on the local Navajo land near Page, and one can only visit as part of an organised tour. The prices vary throughout the day, as at noon the bright sun shines directly down through the “slot canyon” and produces absolutely stunning effects. We’d been reliably informed though that because it wasn’t quite Spring yet, the light wouldn’t in fact hit the canyon directly, and it wasn’t worth the extra money. There are a handful of tour operators and we picked Antelope Canyon Tours.
My own strategic thinking also figured that if we took the first possible trip at 8am, the chances were higher that we’d get less people on our session, and therefore more chance of getting better shots of what I expected to be amazing views. This strategy worked out wonderfully. An early breakfast (more dodgy scrambled eggs and spicy sausages), and we were picked up promptly by Rick from the tour company. They had these light trucks with covered benches in the back. It was still pretty crisp in the morning, and I was glad I’d brought along a wind-proof coat as we headed back to their office to pick up another couple of visitors – from Sedona.
At the allotted time, we were off. A couple of miles East of town we reached the site, and the gate was opened for us – the first tour of the day. We’d sped along the open roads at quite a lick, and it was pretty windy in the back. As we left the road though into the Navajo park, we had a few kilometres to go on a broad sandy dried up river bed. By the time we reached the slot canyon I was quite sure my teeth were all loose.
Rick our guide later told us that they experience around 20 flash floods a year, and that people have even died when caught out in the open when the waters hit. It was hard to imagine this river flowing with water, but obviously it did – when the mood took it.
We eventually arrived at a very unassuming slit in a cliff, and Rick told us how it had been discovered in the 20’s when a young Navajo girl tending her sheep had come across it. A few metres inside, and Rick told us to face back to the opening where we were met by one of the “classic” views of Antelope Canyon – The Flame. It was breathtaking.
And over the next couple of hundred metres, it just got better and better. We didn’t need to share the views with anyone, and the small group – 5 of us plus Rick – seemed appropriate for the serenity of the place.
Eventually we popped out at the other end of the canyon, and Rick spent a couple of minutes chatting about the canyon in general. I really took a liking to him with his calm, measured way of speaking and great knowledge of the area. As we retraced our steps though, I was horrified to find the entire canyon now full of groups of tourists. Each was at a different stage in a facsimile of the tour we’d just had, separated by a few metres from each other. It seemed so much less in keeping with our own experience, and I was so very pleased we’d taken the early morning trip.
Despite only being out for an hour or so, I felt like a lifetime had passed by the time we re-boarded and were returned to our hotel. It wasn’t a cheap trip – around $35 each for the early morning tour, but it was worth every penny. We regrouped, packed a few nibbles, and headed off to the tourist information place to learn what else we could do that day. We were offered a tour of the hydro dam, but frankly once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all… and I’ve seen a few in my time! We were offered Horseshoe Bend – seen it. Antelope Canyon – seen it. I felt like a cheesy tourist, but couldn’t believe that in such a beautiful environment there wasn’t more to be seen – in a controlled, environmentally sensitive way. Sure, we could hack off into the hills, but I had a sneaky suspicion that not many people returned from such brash adventures! In the end, the lady suggested “The Chains”, which turned out to be a pleasant walk near the dam, and along an escarpment. We spent a very pleasant couple of hours down there and spotted a couple of lizards along the way too.
To be continued…