Saturday, September 21, 2013

Utah - Arches National Park

The scientist will tell you that Arches NP is nothing special and just the result of erosion. Just like Ayers Rock is just a big boulder that's red because of rust (which is the result of the high iron oxide content). Luckily I'm not a scientist as I'm pretty sure I wouldn't appreciate and enjoy natural beauty as much if I was. So what if it's just erosion that created Arches? Van Gogh just used paint and hair tied to a stick to create his artworks. Arches, to me, is also a work of Art. Nothing less. 

Despite camping just 12 kilometres away from the entrance of Arches National Park, it took us a couple of days before we could see it. All the rain we've had the days before had caught up on Jeanette. 'Ihm vhine, I ohnnly hhavve a bhluckhed nhooze' she said on the morning we were to go to Arches. Mike and I knew better and only an hour later she went back to bed. Jeanette's bugs were well trained army versions I think, as they stayed put for quite a long time, and even managed to set-up camp with Mike and myself too. So instead of going to Arches we played 'Mash' at the State Park for 10 days. Of course after lots of rain the days before, we now had the best possible sunny weather… Mike and I made a little trip to the Castle Valley and for a moment all the bugs had been forgotten, this was Great with a capital G. What an amazing road, what an amazing ride and seeing Mike in my mirror enjoying it as much as I did made it even better! Squirrels ran over the road as the Triumph shaked his head over the ruts and corrugations, while we tried to avoid the potholes climbing up to the top of what I presume is Castle Hill(?) It's a glorious day and a glorious ride. Somewhere along this amazing road I found a squirrel hiding in one of the potholes, only his head sticking out to see what was coming!

As we're going down again we also upped the speed. The hairpins got tighter and the road bumpier. The front wheel had by now serious trouble in staying in contact with the road. Maybe going down at 60 mph instead of the 25 mph limit had something to do with that :-)
We bought some ice-cream for Jeanette, as she had said this morning she would like some. Of course that meant keeping the speed up a bit to prevent it melting :-) Jeanette wasn't really happy with the 2 litre tub I bought... "I can't eat all that, why did you bought that much?"... "But that's the smallest one they had" I said. She wasn't convinced. The three days after went by in a blur. A green blur as we were all three stricken by the bugs.

We tried everything to get rid of these blasted microbes. Drank loads of Coca Cola en even tried an overdoses of McDonalds to see if that would kill them. It nearly killed us, but the microbes couldn't care less. We tried to get antibiotics too, but that can only be described by a doctor, who's bill would make me even more sick and be  substantially more that the antibiotics. "Just sit it out" said Jeanette, who hadn't been sitting for days. In the end she was right. The bugs decided to leave before we made them sick with our eating habits and slowly life came back to normal'.

As Arches was fully booked, and Canyonlands wouldn't be any different, we decided to stay put at the Big Bend campground next to the Colorado River and do day trips. Arches was first on the list. There is so much to see there that it took us two full days, and we weren't even up to walking much as the microbes had weakened us somewhat. Forget the scientific explanation about Arches and imagine a couple of giants playing with modelling clay… and red paint. It's magic. The most bizarre shapes of gigantic proportions dot an already bizarre landscape. A landscape that has seen a lot of rain over the past weeks and shows bright green plants against bright red rocks. Some of the Giant's artworks, because that's what I call them, have clearly recognisable shapes too. We see giant faces, a hand and even a submarine. Others are as abstract as can be, but still very impressive. It's an almost mythical place that needs time before you fully appreciate it, which is why we took two full days (which is, if I'm honest, still not enough).

As if the microbes hadn't done enough damage, a couple of teenagers in a Dinky-Toy version of a Jeep, tried to run Jeanette off the road. Jeanette could barely manage to avoid going down or worse. The teenagers thought that was funny… 5 minutes later they were hiding under the dash, looking somewhat terrified after a one sided conversation with an angry motorcyclist :-) To crush some remaining microbes, that were trying hard to re-establish themselves, we bought a couple of 'medicinal aids' like an immune booster and 'throat-cleaners'. The last one is a tablet that needs to slowly dissolve in your mouth and tastes horrible. According to the label it should be cherry flavour… the cherry taste they tried to copy must have been more sick than me… The immune booster was supposed to be homeopathic, but wasn't appreciated much by my stomach and only boosted my urge to go to the toilet… Jeanette couldn't handle them either, but Mike had no problems at all. Teenager stomachs are bullet-proof.

The second day in Arches NP was just as impressive as the first. Mike is rather weak today but still wants to do it. 'It's too beautiful to miss' he said. A rubber neck is what we need! 
One of the Arches is blocked by a Chinese couple. We've met quite a few Asian people here but this is the first time we see them in traditional Chinese costumes. Newly weds on their honeymoon.
A German tour guide tries to impersonate a true Outback 'bushy', and fails miserably. He drives a group of Germans around in a minivan, if such a thing exists in this country. He's what you'd call a Super-German… fat belly, huge short pants and a head shaped by years of consuming bratwurst and beer in copious quantities. They take over a picknick bench while there were still people eating there and 'park' their van simply in the middle of the parking lot. All the time we hear nothing but loud German echoes bouncing off the rocks around us as the German fat bellies follow their tour guide with cameras bouncing on their beer shaped fat lump. Mike rolls over laughing and impersonates the 'Fawlty Towers' John Cleese version of the Germans. Jeanette hisses at him that the guy on the table next to us belongs to the same group… Mike looks at him and almost get's a seizure from laughing… the German leaves for the minivan :-)

Thinking that was enough for one day… someone knocks at the door of the toilet I'm using. 'Mike is fooling around again' I thought. He wasn't. It's an Asian woman that wants me to get out as she needs to go… The Americans call it a 'restroom' but she was in a hurry...
Outside the National Park, near Canyonlands is a series of rock drawings that we want to see. My body doesn't want to do anything but stay in bed today, but my head doesn't agree. Looking at the drawings I'm clearly loosing the battle and feel more sick by the minute. Close on throwing up I wonder why these scribbles on the rocks are so special. They're not exceptionally well drawn or elaborate. In fact the average teenager today with a spray pack would make something far more impressive. Which brings me to another point. If we scratch something in a rock face today, it's seen as defacing… and even fineable. Just because these were done 4000 years ago, it's art? How does that work? If they had fined them 4000 years ago, we wouldn't have these drawings today.
Still, I'm not all that impressed. A 5 year old can definitely make something better, which is emphasised further while we're looking at something of which all 3 of us can't work out if it's a dog, a wolf, a horse or even a cow… The kiddies that drew a motorcycle in the rocks a bit further on have done a much better job…! Leave it on there for a thousand years and people will be gaping at it.

Mike wants to ride a little dirt road into a canyon to make photos. I didn't feel up to it, but I had found a big rock to sit on in the shade, so I was ok! While waiting for them to come back. Wondering what was wrong with me, as this clearly wasn't just a flue or headache, I suddenly realised it must be those bloody homeopathic pills that made me ill. The damn things that are supposed to boost my immune system, as I was fine before I took them… While contemplating on filling up with junk food or not, a couple of cyclists come past. There is clearly some kind of cycle race going on as there is more lycra than ants here. The weirdest contraptions rattled past, from full on race bikes to 3-wheelers etc. One of them has the radio on… loud… in a steep walled canyon!

Although the forecast predicted 60% rain, we went to Canyonlands. We have a NP pass so better use it and staying home to watch the rain is a waste of time. Despite pitch-black clouds and lots of rain we saw some beautiful scenery. Beautiful viewpoints and a road along a cliff face down into the canon that we thought could be good… As the rain is only forecasted for one day, we leave that road for tomorrow.
Jeanette becomes the suffering end of a conversation with an American couple, type 33 times overweight, pork-colour, pork-legs and driving a Korean people/meat mover. I'm not in the mood for it today. Questions about where we are from, where we are going, how long it takes, what does it cost etc. asked by people this time who don't have a clue and for whom going to a different McD is an adventure… The skies are almost ink-black now and the rain belts down upon us. The road back to the campground is covered in red mud-slides. The council is trying to keep the road open with heavy equipment. The tents are soaking wet too, but the inside is dry! We love our Swedish Stugas!