Jun 22, 2008

Day 23 - Flagstaff to Vancouver (Part 1)

What an amazing day!

Although we had to wake up at 5:30AM knowing that not only we had to check out but also our tour starts from 7:00AM, we had enough sleep thanks to early night last night.

After finishing my quickest hotel check-out ever, our guide Billy from Detours started driving up to our destinations for our private tour. We chose to do a private tour because we had only two days in Flagstaff while we wanted to see things like Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend in one day. Jeff, one of the owners of Detours, said 'you have to get up early to cover everything you want to see, but we can do it' when I made enquiry in the first place. I like that kind of 'yes, we can do it' attitude, although I didn't know at that time how many miles we were going to cover in one day.

Billy had so much to offer in terms of stories to talk about the history of Arizona, including different tribes such as Navajo and Hopi, their belief, culture, etc. This is exactly the kind of tour we wanted. I didn't even realise that there are different tribes living in Navajo, and there have been conflicts and battles over lands. It's interesting to hear the stark difference between these tribes.

Driving on Arizona highway is so cool, a stretch of long straight road with a view of flat land, which is far from boring. We stopped at one of the Mesa, which remains anonymous, on the way up to the Monument Valley. We saw a stunning view of Arizona while there were some beautiful stones. We also stopped to see the Elephant's Feet, which looked so small from a distance but are absolutely huge. We didn't realise this was only the beginning of the tour.

After a long drive, we started seeing the kinda image I was looking for, and indeed we were fast approaching the Monument Valley. I started getting excited and anxious thinking if the Monument Valley was going to be exactly as I imagined, better than imagined, or disappointed. We arrived at the valley. WOW... This is what I had been looking for for years! The Monument Valley was better than I had imagined, if not exactly the same. Ever since I saw a picture of the valley on the Independent website, it had been my dream to see the valley before my eyes. Now the dream came true. I felt like crying with sheer joy. I had waited for that long to see the Monument Valley.

We had some lovely Navajo food in the canteen before get going with looking around the valley. Having lunch with the magnificent view of the Monument Valley was just great.

Billy drove around the valley to show us every piece of attraction in the valley, and Teruko and I enjoyed every minute of it. The valley shows a different face depending on where you are standing. Lots of photoshooting opportunities here and there.

After a long tour around the valley, we said goodbye to the Monument Valley. Although we had enough time to enjoy, I really wanted to stay longer.

We then started another long drive, this time towards the Antelope Canyon. Ever since I saw pictures of the canyon on the Detours website, I always thought this place is also a must see along with Monument Valley and Horseshoe Bend. When you say a 'canyon', I automatically thought that it would be on a hill or cliff. Instead, you go underneath the ground to see the Antelope Canyon, which was a surprise and very exciting. Inside the canyon is endless, and the waves and colours of the canyon are amazing. Now both Teruko and I understood why Billy told us to bring a spare battery for our digital camera!

Just like the Monument Valley, we could have stayed longer as you can take so many photos inside the canyon. Instead, we decided to head to the Horseshoe Bend, our grand finale destination of our North American trip.

Before arriving, I also assumed that you would have to climb up really high to see the Horseshoe Bend. The walk to the Horseshoe is not like that, but was a bit tough because it's so sandy.

OMG, the Horseshoe Bend is incredible. This place should rank up one of the top 10 world's natural wonder. The round cliff is surrounded by the Colorado River that presents some amazing dark and light green colours. It really was scary to stand on the edge of a cliff to take a clear photo of the bend. Teruko and I were just stunned by how magnificent, powerful, and beautiful the Horseshoe Bend is.

Initially, Billy was not sure if we could make it to the Horseshoe Bend. But, credit to him, he managed to take us here. And I am glad he did, because I had a mission to do here. I chose the Horseshoe Bend as the grand finale of our trip not only because I was desperate to see the site since I saw the Detours website, but also I chose this place as the one to propose to Teruko. It required me to control my breath for a bit before proposing, but I was delighted that Teruko gave me a positive response. I don't like doing things in a "normal way", so no engagement ring here, just yet. I wanted the setup to be perfect, and wanted to keep it simple. We can sort out the formality later.

On our way back to Flagstaff, I thanked Billy for bringing us up here for the two reasons, and he was delighted for us. He told us that this is the first time he had someone proposing while on his tour. I am glad to be the first!

We had some good long chat about all sorts of things while on the road. Both Teruko and I felt that we couldn't have had a better tour guide. Billy was perfect for us. Not only he is pleasure to be around but also he has so much to offer as a tour guide and is able to deliver. I am personally so glad that we chose Detours after a lot of Googling, and Billy delivered perfectly for the most important bit of our North American tour. Thank you, Detours! Thank you, Billy!

After Billy dropped us off at the Flagstaff station, we found out that, unsurprisingly, our train was going to be 4hrs delayed just like the other day. This was in a sense good for us because we could have a rest after our tour and eat. We headed to Billy's recommendation Beaver Street Brewery near the railway station. It was packed with people and we had to wait for a bit. No problems because we had 4hrs to waste! Their beer that had a raspberry taste was really easy to drink. They also served a massive portion for dinner without disappointing us with quality. It was a perfect dinner for our last dinner in Flagstaff.

We had to "rest" for over an hour at the railway station while waiting for our train, which was delayed due to the flooding in Midwest. At 0:30, our train finally arrived at Flagstaff.

This means that we would miss our train from Los Angeles to Seattle. Oh well, at least we can now sleep for a bit...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic place! You really are the master Jap tourist photographer, congrats on your wonderful news!! I could see the glint in your eyes when you were here last. It ain't always easy, but man, it's worth it. lot of love to both of you, rgds Harry's friends...