Silly Foam Fight

Squirt guns have been left at the door, as it seems every kid in town is now toting an aerosol can of Carnaval Foam.  This looks like a cousin of the “silly string” we have terrorized friends with in past years around New Years.  A broad spray of foam is sent out to the hapless passerby.  A few minutes later only the laughter of the kids remains.

Bring your sun block!  The clouds have been constant since we arrived, often black and threatening, though there have only been a few scattered showers.  I forgot to use sun block yesterday (who needs it when the sun can’t be seen?), and today I am paying the price.  My face is sunburned, and my ears have scabs from the burn.  Sun block will be on my face every time I leave the apartment for the rest of the week!

We went walking into town again this morning, in search of Bananas, a highly recommended breakfast restaurant.  We got hopelessly lost, and ended up eating at Cafe Austria, which was across the street when we gave up.  There were only 4 breakfasts on the menu — American, Continental, Austrian and <can’t remember what #4 was called>.  I ordered the Austrian – eggs, bacon and juice.  Evelyn saw pancakes going by to another table and asked the waiter.  Turns out they were available, even though not on the menu.  Evelyn’s pancakes were better than my passable eggs.

Afterwards, we walked over to Parque Calderon again.  There was a band playing, and about 3 dozen varieties of rocking horses around the plaza, with a vendor taking pictures of kids sitting on the horses.  While Evelyn was photographing, I sat down on a concrete bench to watch.

A Peruvian woman came over and started talking to me in rapid Spanish.  When I replied “Hablo muy pequeño Espanol” (“I speak very little Spanish”), she sat down and we worked out a crude conversation with the limited Spanish Evelyn and I could muster.  She was another example of just how easy it is to meet and talk to people here — even if you don’t share the same language.

At one point, she asked our plans for the day, and we said were going to Banos.  She was confused, and said that was a 4 hour drive, so we couldn’t possibly be going this afternoon. I told her I thought it was only 20 minutes away, but she insisted.  Oops, further than we thought, so I guess we can’t go after all.

Later, our first Google search “distance from Banos to Cuenca” confirmed the 4 hour drive.  However, after more research tonight, we discovered there is a “Banos resort” near Quito (the 4 hour drive), and another “Little Bano” with hot springs 20 minutes from Cuenca.  Could have gone after all, but too late now.  We will have to do that when we return to Cuenca sometime in the future.

After leaving the square, we walked about a block away and came across a flower market, then on to the local indoor co-op market where Peter and David (both Gringos we met earlier on the trip) shop for their produce.  There were rows of open-air counter-tops with butchered beef, pork and poultry, just as we have seen in many Asian markets.  The difference is there were no flies on this meat — a benefit of being at 8,500 and too high for most bugs.  We were later told that the merchants are required to sell the meat on the day it is slaughtered, and any remains are fed to dogs in the evening.

We tried to eat at Tiestos restaurant tonight, but it was closed.  In fact, the first 4 restaurants we called were all closed.  The city is largely shut down for Carnaval.  

We ended up eating at the Akelarre restaurant in the Hotel Inca, which was recommended to us by the California Kitchen when we called to get in there.  The food was fabulous. We opened with a great potato soup (a specialty of Cuenca), then had the best sea bass béarnaise we have ever eaten.  I talked to the owner for awhile. He said they have been there for 7 years, and are just starting to get positive reviews in Lonely Planet and other travel books.  I added a 5-star review for them in Trip Advisor.

Squirt Guns

Shot in the back!  Squirt guns rule the roads!  All flee in panic!

Carnaval is upon us, and here in Cuenca, Carnaval is more “water war” than booze.  The weather is warm and (mostly) kids roam the streets, often in the back of their parent’s pick-up truck, spraying anyone they see — with Gringos being an especially favorite target.  Within a few minutes of the passing attack, you are dry again and can probably expect another shot Real Soon Now…

We had an excellent breakfast at the Kookaburra Cafe.  An Australian couple opened this place 4 years ago, and have recently sold it, to move to Paute. The Canadian couple that has purchased the restaurant have not yet taken it over though, so we had a nice chat with the original owners.  If you go, I recommend their “stuffed omelet”, though you should probably skip the veggie juice unless you are health nut that likes that kind of thing. Give me good old fashioned jugo naranja (orange juice) any time.

Next we walked over to the main square (Parque Calderon), and visited iTur — the tourist information center.  Nobody at iTur spoke a bit of English, but we managed to muddle through (hurray!) and got the map and info we wanted.  We then walked around the square, where Evelyn photographed the cathedral.

I have variously read that there are 52 or 53 Catholic churches in Cuenca.  Though I am not sure which number is correct, I have no trouble believing there is one for every day of the week.  You can’t go more than a few blocks without coming across another one.

We hopped on the double-decker bus for a city tour ($5), since it had been recommended by two other couples.  Of course we sat on the top, and thus found ourselves doused by a water bucket throwing teenager as we passed under his balcony.  Oh, the joys of Carnaval again… 🙂

If you go on this bus, don’t sit in the front row of the top level. There is a barrier there for looking pretty from the ground, but it completely obscures your view.  We moved back a couple rows for a better view.  They take you through town, speaking almost exclusively Spanish at far too rapid a clip for me to pick any of it up, and then take a short break on top of a hill overlooking the city for a scenic view.

On the way down, we opted to get off at Mall de Rio, so we could see what a mall was like in Cuenca.  The anchor tenant there is Coral.  Think Walmart + Best Buy (sans computer) + Home Depot + Ikea + motorcycles + groceries, and you begin to get an idea of the size and variety of this monster store.

We decided to buy a space heater, since our apartment was so darn cold at night (it is setting records, much to our chagrin).  How do you say “space heater” in Spanish?  We tried various iPhone translators, and got a variety of alternatives, none of which made sense or which the clerk could understand.  Finally Evelyn just pantomimed being cold, and the clerk took us directly to the right place.  The magic of hand gestures works round the world, even when the spoken word is not understood!  The heater cost $42 + tax, so we were perfectly happy to buy it for a week’s use.

We also picked up some snacks for the apartment (we have a kitchen, so have occasionally made our own meals), and together with the space heater grabbed a taxi home.

Ah yes, the taxi.  Be sure to come down here with lots of $1 bills, because you will use taxis a lot, and they are $2 whether going one block or across town.  We came with far more $1 bills that I thought we could possibly use, and by the end of the week was running low. $1 buys a lot down here.

Back at our apartment, we met Vick and Joan, a retired Canadian couple that are now full time RVers roaming Canada and the US.  They have been in Ecuador a couple months, but Joan “did a face plant” as she tells it, in Quito in their first week in-country.  She now has a cast on both her wrist and foot, which makes getting around this hilly town difficult.  They are both full of life and fun though, and aren’t letting anything as small as some broken bones keep them down.

They found out about a show with great reviews for tonight, and invited us to join them.  The show was at Likapaay, but was a disaster.  The normal “traditional dancers” were replaced by a so-so Cuban singer, and the food was reduced to just appetizers. We asked the owner if there would be dancing later, and she said “yes, the guests will dance.”  I look around the almost-empty room, with literally nobody engaged with the music, and said “I don’t think so…”

We asked for the check, and they tried to charge us much more than we had originally been quoted.  We told the owner we would not pay that much, and were leaving in the middle of the show.  To give the owner credit, she apologized, accepted the $10 originally agreed to, and called a taxi for us.

When we left, another group of 6 also left (that meant that 10 of the 21 patrons walked out with us).  Martha (pronounced ‘Marti”), from the other group, invited us all over to another restaurant that she said had good food.

We all took 3 taxis down to the Eucalyptus restaurant (Gran Columbia 9-41 y Benigno Malo), where we had an excellent meal together.  Marti was born in Ecuador and left at the age of 17 to go to the US.  She later married and settled in San Francisco with a silver jewelry business.  After 40 years, she decided to visit her home country for the first time — and ended up with a damaged meniscus in Quito (sounds like a dangerous town — two people we met on the same day were hurt there…).  She was forced to stay in Ecuador for medical treatment, and by the time she was back on her feet, found she had fallen in love with the country.

We talked well into the night, and Marti helped turn a potential disaster into a night of fun and laughter.  She was another of the people we kept running into all week where a stranger one minute became a friend the next, with little more than a Hello needed to make the switch.

Cuenca

We took a 30 minute TAME flight from Guayaquil to Cuenca at 7AM. While in the airport and on the flight, I attempted to read the Spanish language newspaper, and was very pleasantly surprised at how much I could understand.  I have rarely attempted any spoken Spanish since we sold our last airplane in 1992 and stopped taking weekend trips into Mexico. We have been an occasional tourist to Spain and other Spanish speaking countries since then, but not really tried to use the language very much in the past 20 years.

I also listened to the speakers around me.  Though I didn’t know much of the vocabulary, I found that I could hear where one word stopped and the next began.  I have never been able to do that in other Spanish speaking surroundings.  What we have read about Ecuadorian Spanish being spoken more slowly and precisely seems true on first impression.

Most of the ground below was brown for much of the trip.  Just was I was beginning to think Cuenca might be a brown featureless landscape, we topped a mountain and saw the green valley ahead — we could now see Cuenca.

We had arrived to be picked up at the airport for a “rental real estate tour” to see the kind of rental properties available in Cuenca, in preparation for possibly returning in December for Spanish lessons.  This was arranged with Cuenca Real Estate (www.CuencaRealEstate.com).  A few hours before we had boarded the plane in San Francisco, an email exchange with the owner made us worry that they were backing out entirely.  We looked around the airport terminal, and found nobody waiting to pick us up.  Uh-oh. Bad start for the trip…

We decided to wait a half hour in case there was some mixup.  Our Cuenca Real Estate contact was William, and he arrived about half an hour after we had collected our bags.  He had been given the wrong flight time, and thought he was arriving early to pick us up.  A trip to their office allowed us to meet other members of the team.  It turned out that the email just before our departure was a misunderstanding.  They assigned a “rental real estate guide” and we were off and running.

Svein took us around to see several apartments that were vacant. We got a good idea of the range of living spaces available for a month’s rent, though of course we will have to see what is specifically available come December.  Svein also gave us some good information about the city in general, and even helped us go to a Claro (mobile phone) store to get a SIM card put into Evelyn’s iPhone4S (which failed, but that is another story).

One apartment Svein showed us was currently occupied by the owners.  We met Peter and Chris, a couple from Montana that has purchased an excellent Cuenca apartment and plan on living here during the Winter, while summering in Montana.  We talked with Peter for quite awhile, and finally had to continue our rental property tour.  Before we left, Peter offered to get together later to talk some more, and we jumped at the chance.

We continued our rental property tour, seeing some nice units, and seeing others that we decided weren’t desirably primarily because they were in “Gringo Land” — where many of the expats lived.  We prefer staying more among the Ecuadorians, where we hope to have more chance to practice our Spanish — once we have much anyway…

Svein also gave us a running commentary on the best places to go in town:
    – Inca Lounge for Best Burger
    – Junes had biggest burger in town
    – Mall de Rio was largest mall
    – Almacenes Chordeleg for electronics
    – Coral for a wide variety (think Walmart)
    – San Blas for ice cream
    – Kookaburra for breakfast

Svein dropped us off at the condo of Peter and Chris, and we offered to take them out to lunch.  We walked to “El Tunel”, where we had “menu de dia,” which means you skip the printed menu and just have whatever the restaurant is serving for lunch.  Juice, soup, main course and desert came to $2.25 per person — filling and delicious for the price of a cup of coffee at Starbucks!  After lunch, Peter and Chris took us on a walking tour of the area, including their favorite local market co-op.

For dinner, we went to Gringo Night at California Kitchen.  We met David Morrill (author of “Ecuador: The Owners Manual” available through International Living), plus an American couple from Florida whose name I neglected to note.  That couple was an interesting side-note, in that they had come planning on retiring in Cuenca and decided they did not like the city.  They were the perfect poster couple for why you need to investigate in person before deciding to move here.  As they went through the things they did not like, Evelyn and I just smiled and nodded, while thinking “those are the exact things we do like”…

One big lesson from today’s travels — when taking a Taxi, you must know the address and cross-street of your destination. Every time we just gave a name of a hotel or restaurant, the taxi drivers had no idea where we wanted to go. We always had to go back and get an address before they could get us where we were going.

Our first day in Cuenca was full, and we met far more friendly expats and locals that we expected.  The trip is off to a good start!

Flying Down to Ecuador

Our trusty airport limo driver was outside our door this morning at 4:00AM sharp.  Oh well, I’m already up and showered, so no need to curse him for being prompt at that hour…

The American Airlines flight from San Francisco to Miami was one of the roughest commercial flights I can remember. I got a couple hours sleep. but was jostled awake repeatedly from severe turbulence over both the Sierras and Rockies.  

The flight was a completely full narrow-body plane, and the guy in the middle seat should have bought two seats, but that seems to be more common these days, making flying akin to a trip to the casino — who will squeeze between us this time?  To help make the trip more pleasant, the plane had a single movie playing on a tiny monitor several rows forward of our seat.  Of course they help to minimize the screen problem by only showing a movie I would never want to watch anyway…

In Miami, I approached a person at the American Airlines counter, and asked if there was a meal on the flight from Miami to Guayaquil (Ecuador).  He checked the roster, then said “Yes, but it is airline food, so don’t get too excited about it.”

Nice to hear an employee give an honest response occasionally! (and yes, the food was terrible — worst international flight food I can remember having)

The flight from Miami to Ecuador was another full narrow-body plane.  This time we were pleasantly surprised to find a very nice (and thin) man sitting between us.  His wife was one row back.

David Linn told us he is moving to Salinas, Ecuador for a year, or possibly more. I knew from prior research that Salinas is an up-and-coming beach resort town on the North Coast of Ecuador.  Warm days laying on the beach.  Sounds like a nice vacation, but I have a hard time envisioning retiring there.  I’m pretty sure I would get bored before very long.

David runs a printing company in Colorado Springs though ( TOPS printing — www.TopStops.net ), with employees back in Colorado that can run most of the business.  He says he can do his part over the Internet.  Now, that sounds like a life I could enjoy — sit on the beach and do my work in shorts under a thatch-roofed section of beach.

When we arrived in Guayaquil, we stayed at the Hotel St Rafael — a little hole-in-the-wall downtown.  Pleasant enough, and in a good part of town, for $42 per night (after taxes), so I would give a qualified recommendation for them to anyone else coming down this way.

We walked around the neighborhood, but only found one restaurant open at 10:30PM, so went in.  We paid $10 for a pollo (chicken) dinner.  Food was OK, but not great.  Certainly filling enough though.  Walked back to the hotel, and hit the sack, since we have a 7AM flight to Cuenca.

[Brag] Photos win Best of Year Awards at N4C

Our Berkekely Camera Club (BCC) belongs to a larger federation of photo clubs.  The regional level is N4C, which covers Northern California clubs.  Tonight we found out the winners for the 2011 Annual competition at N4C.  To my delight, three of my images won places this year.

To be eligable for any N4C award, the image must have already placed in competition at the local level, so all of these images have already won placement in 2011 BCC competitions.

My image titled “Peering Into The Future” won 2nd place in the Advanced Creative division:

 

“Preparing Breakfast” received an Honorable Mention in Advanced Creative:

 

Finally, “Eye Drops to Change the Color of Your Eyes” also won Honorable Mention in Advanced Creative:

New Years Eve With Champagne & Ribs in Antelope Canyon & Zion

We started News Years Eve day with a tour of Antelope Slot Canyon, which is something I have wanted to see for several years.  We really wanted to go on the longer Photography Extended Tour, but they don’t give that on holiday weekends, so we had to settle for the shorter standard tour.  Since the late 1990’s, people are only allowed in the canyon when part of a Navajo guided tour, and nobody is allowed in the canyon for more than 2 hours at a time, which is their way of keeping the crowd sizes controlled.

The magical light beams do not penetrate to the canyon floor during the winter, leaving the canyon suffused with a palette of pinks.  The canyons are every bit as beautiful as I expected, but the crowds were a bit difficult to contend with, making it hard to get the photographs I had hoped for.

After our all-too-brief Antelope Canyon tour, we headed off to Zion National Park, arriving around noon.  Zion has some spectacular scenery of multi-colored mountain faces, but they were surprisingly difficult to photograph well.  The afternoon did produce a few nice images though.

At one point, we came across a family of big horn sheep, which garnered the expected cluster of tourist cars, each of which attracted others to see what was being watched.

We continued through the park, until we found a location that looked promising for sunset images.

We then went to our hotel, only to discover there was no room for us!  We had reserved a room the night before using Expedia, but the hotel said they never received the reservation, and they were fully booked.  Oops…

The hotel desk clerk (whom I am pretty sure was also the owner) was very helpful though, and called around town to find us another room.  We ended up with a very nice room about a block away, and at a lower rate than we had originally expected to pay.  The night was saved – I was not looking forward to spending New Years Eve driving around looking for a vacancy!

We had asked the original desk clerk where a good place for dinner was, and she instantly suggested Oscar’s in town.  When we checked into our subsequent hotel, we asked there too.  That clerk gave three possibilities, with Oscars again heading the list, so Oscars it was.

As we were loading our luggage from the car to our room, a local came over and told us there would be a fireworks display at 7:00 at the local school ball field.  We set up our nightly photograph download to the computer, and headed out to see the display.  We got there just as the first fireworks went into the sky.  The display lasted 10 minutes, and was better than we usually see in such small towns.  We had decided not to bring tripods and large cameras, so Evelyn experimented with her handheld point-and-shoot that we always carry as backup.

We then headed over to Oscar’s for dinner, hoping to beat the crowds that would likely head over from the fireworks too.  We found a tiny restaurant with only 11 tables, completely filled with a short line outside.  We were right about the rush, as the line grew to a couple dozen people within 10 minutes of our arrival.  Evelyn had baby-back ribs that were fabulous (some of the best we have ever had), and I had the Murder Burger – “a burger good enough to kill for” according to the menu.  And it almost was, at that.

Utah is a state that strictly regulates liquor, so it can only be purchased in state owned stores.  It also turns out they are not allowed to sell any liquor chilled if over 5%, so we picked up a bottle of champagne warm off the shelves.  We had never tried “chardonnay champagne”, so decided to give that a try.  We put it in the fridge in our room, and waited till midnight to open it.

We don’t recommend it though… The “chardonnay” tasted more like apple cider, and not particularly good cider at that.  Evelyn got a headache from the “cheap champagne” and we tossed out half the bottle.

Oh well, bad champagne, but a warm room and an excellent dinner in exotic mountain surroundings.  Over all, not a bad score for ending 2011.  If we can score that well in 2012, we will be very happy with the year. 🙂

Happy News Years Everyone!

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To be content with little is difficult.  To be content with much is impossible.

Old Friends in Sedona

We drove into Sedona yesterday afternoon, an “artist community” in the Arizona mountains that Evelyn has wanted to visit for years.  We arrived early in the afternoon, allowing plenty of time to peruse the art galleries.  First stop was lunch at a small deli recommended by a timeshare salesman at an info booth.  The sandwich was fairly good, but they only had one choice – tuna salad.  Literally everything else was sold out, including only one bread choice remaining…

Wandering town, we felt like we were in a resort town with the cruise ships having just docked.  Tons of tourists, and most of the shops were T-Shirts and cheap native pottery crafts.  We finally spotted a “real art gallery” across the street, only to find it boarded up and out of business.  This was a major letdown, since we were expecting something more akin to Carmel.

We headed out in search of some good sunset photographs.  The first possibility we had heard of was a local park, which turned out to want $9 to enter for the last half hour before sunset.  Given that the lot was crammed with cars, we decided to pass and went to the other sunset location we had heard about, up near the airport.  We did get some reasonable landscape photographs on the drive around that area though.

 

This gave us a vantage point overlooking the city and a nice mountain range.  Unfortunately, low shrubs were overgrown and blocking the view, and a couple hundred other tourists (most with point-and-shoot cameras they clearly did not know how to use) crammed into the site too.  We got a couple interesting photos, but nothing to hang on the wall.

After sunset we called Cathy and “Stedy” – two friends we have known since the 80’s from Oregon that moved to Sedona to retire 15 years ago.  They suggested we get together for dinner at the airport restaurant, since we were already just a few blocks from there.  It turns out the Sedona local airport built a new restaurant just a few months ago, and the food was excellent, as was the reacquaintance of old friends.

Cathy invited us to her home for breakfast the next morning.  Driving to their home, we realized there was a lot more to Sedona than the tourist section, and the town began to appear more livable.

Evelyn had really wanted to see Cathy’s artwork, since Cathy is an art instructor, and Evelyn has been taking painting classes for the past few years.  I must admit that I was prepared to be polite about Cathy’s artwork, since I had never seen it before, but have been mostly underwhelmed by the “open gallery” artists we periodically tour.  Instead I was blown away by Cathy’s work. 

She seems to have mastered both painting and sculpting, with many dozens of outstanding pieces in her house of both types, in a wide variety of styles.  After leaving, we realized that we had both neglected to photograph any of her work, which would have been a good addition to this blog.  Instead, you will just have to take my word for it, and if you ever see “Cathy Stedman” listed as the artist, grab it up fast.  She is not currently selling her works, but if she ever does, I am convinced she can compete with the best of the artists we see in galleries in Carmel, San Francisco, or similar places.

After a breakfast of gourmet omelets, Cathy took us on a hike around the hills and favorite plenair art spots, along with her dog Asia.

After leaving Cathy and “Stedy” behind, we drove to Page as a stop-over enroute to Zion.  Before leaving, we discovered that Page was the location of famed Antelope Slot Canyon, so one more unplanned stop was added to our trip…

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You can’t change the past by worrying, but you can ruin the present by stewing about the future.

Canyon de Chelly

We got up early this morning to take a full day tour into the canyon.  It seemed a bad sign when we heard that 20 people could be packed into a single truck, but it turned out that everyone else was going on a half-day trip.  The 6 of us met the minimum for the full day trip, and it looked like we would have the truck to ourselves.  One other young couple from Foster City ended up joining us, but there was plenty of room.

The trucks were Korean era troop transports – 6-wheel drive monsters that could go anywhere.  Our Navajo driver introduced himself as Ron, and said that Ron was Navajo for “good driver”, so we knew were in good hands… 🙂  He proceeded to tell us what was coming up during the day.  He warned that we would be crossing many frozen rivers, and that if we got stuck, he had a winch, but we might have to get out and push.  He promised that if it came to that, he would use our cameras to take pictures of us pushing for mementos…

 

We had our choice of covered or open-top trucks.  Since the temperature was below freezing, we opted for the covered vehicle.  We lucked out, and our truck survived the trip. The half-day group’s truck died and they were moved to an open (Summer) truck.  I expect they were all frozen solid by the time they returned!

The first stop was at a petroglyph that dated back about 2000 years (I neglected to note that actual age).  It was surprising how well they were preserved, given the crude corn based ink that was used.

Initially the water we crossed was pretty shallow, and I got quite a few nice ice pattern shots that can later be used as background patterns in photo manipulations.

As we ventured further into the canyon, the water got higher and our truck turned into a virtual icebreaker.  At one point, we did get stuck after crossing a river with a couple feet of water covered by a foot of ice.  The ice got stuck under the wheels, and we just spun our wheels until Ron went back and freed the ice from the tires.  Looking down as we broke through the ice, we could see it piling up on the sides.

We were also shown several cliff dwellings that spanned multiple eras, moving from high up and crude to lower and more sophisticated.

The rock walls rose up on both sides of us, for 1000 feet of sheer vertical cliffs. We were shown where the natives were under siege from Kit Carson and the cavalry for three months before the army gave up and left.  The next year they returned and burned the natives out, killing most of them and marching the rest off to a reservation, where many more died.

The sandstone rock in this area formed seemingly impossible shapes as wind and water have eroded them over millions of years.  Evelyn kept looking up and saying she saw various animal shapes in the rocks.  They were “just rocks” to me, until she made the comment and the shape would suddenly spring to life in my mind.  Here is an “elephant” her mind caught:

We were given the history of the region, including the forcible removal of the Navajo, later repatriation to their land, US government giving each family two sheep in the late 19th century, and later taking back the sheep when the government decided the Navajo were over-grazing the land in the 1930’s.  We saw cattle scattered throughout, and many horses that ran and grazed the snow-covered fields.  We never saw a sheep or goat in the valley, though there were lots of coyote trails.

Evelyn said she thought it was the best tour we had taken in a long time, and Trip Advisor now has one more strong recommendation added for this tour.  If you ever go to the Grand Canyon, be sure to set aside time for Canyon de Chelly and take the full day jeep tour.  Seeing the canyon from the bottom is much more impressive than seeing the Grand Canyon from the rim.

(We did drive along the rim the next day though, and Canyon de Chelly isn’t nearly as impressive from the rim.)

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There is no right way to wrong things.

Grand Canyon To Canyon de Chelly

We got up before dawn this morning and headed over to Bright Angel path for sunrise photographs.  We walked partway down the hiking path for a better perspective, with the results still less than stellar.

 

After sunrise, we headed over to the mule enclosure.  I was thinking of maybe doing a series of close-ups of parts of the mules in a montage, but we were almost immediately chased away by the mule keepers… 🙁

On our way out of the Grand  Canyon, we stopped at several lookouts for last views of the canyon.  The ruins have nothing left but a single row of rocks showing where the Indian rooms once stood, and even those rocks were placed there by recent archeologists. Nothing of the original buildings really remain.  The last stop was at Desert View, with the iconic reconstructed tower.

From there it was a straight shot into Canyon de Chelly, a lesser known canyon area controlled by Native Americans 250 miles to the East of Grand Canyon.  The rocks and canyons we drove through were bright and colorful, but we were hoping to reach de Chelly before dark, and didn’t see any good spot to stop and capture the scene, so we drove through.

As we approached the Navajo-owned hotel at twightlight, the road was lined with bare cottonwood and Russian olive trees that looked like ghosts leading into Mordor.  Very eerie…

Upon checking into the hotel, we found that we have “high speed interent” for the first time all week.  Of course, “high speed” is relative, and the measured rate was actually about the same speed as the dial-up modems I used in the late 1970’s, at 1200 baud (seriously!). The only restaurant in the park is a cafeteria, which was out of pretty much all selections except hamburger and fries, and we just finished the worst such combination I can remember in many years.  Tomorrow we will go into town for some better food.

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Kindness is a language everybody understands.

 



Grand Canyon

 Christmas Day (yesterday) was spent on the road.  We left Death Valley behind and drove through the Artists Drive and Artists Palate on the way out.  It was a beautiful canyon of color that would probably look great at sunrise or sundown.  We might try coming back later.

One of our planned excursions at the Grand Canyon was to be the skywalk. We were surprised when the hotel desk told us that was actually 250 miles away, outside the park.  We also heard that many visitors panned it, so we brought up Yelp and discovered it gets a 1.9 rating out of 5 with 29 reviews.  Hmmm… guess we will skip that after all.

We had arrived in the Grand Canyon well after dark, so were not able to scout out any sunrise locations.  I used that excuse to sleep in, though Evelyn got up before dawn anyway and walked to the rim, which is only a 5-minute walk from our room.

I woke to find ice crystals in our window.  Whipping out my camera with my favorite macro lens, I took my first Grand Canyon photo without even leaving the hotel room!

 

 I have been rather disappointed with my shots at the Grand Canyon so far.  Mostly “same as everyone has already shot” stuff.  With our limitations of only being here a day, traveling with friends, not able to go to the North Rim (closed during Winter), and no longer able to hike to the floor, I expect I will just have to make the most of what we can get from the rim with all the other tourists. 

Unfortunately, I don’t have all my Photoshop and other editing tools with me on my travel laptop, so I am just seeing what I can get with some first pass edits.

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Be what your friends see you are, not what your enemies say you are.

Photo Galleries

At the top of this page is a menu that will take you to a variety of galleries showing our favorite images.

The most recent galleries include our recent trips to Thailand, Sri Lanka, Iran, Jordan, Israel and Egypt. You can see all our favorite images from our 2019 travel here:

Travel->2019/

Categories

Archives