Characterised by gigantic stone structures, arid landscapes and clear blue skies, America’s wild west is a postcardesque sojourn.
Blistering heat, alien landscapes, long road trips, Statue of Liberty, canals of Venice, pyramids of Egypt and the Eiffel tower — there is only one place in the world where one can see most of the wonders in the same place, whilst enjoying an unlimited buffet, and that place is Las Vegas, Nevada. This is not a story about the sin city, plenty of those are out there. This is a story for those who are willing to venture into the desert, into the great unknown, where each turn is a vast and a new postcard worthy view. A convertible, a girlfriend, the open road, classic American road trip soundtracks and the wild Wild West is how it all began.
Arches National Park — there is something about the gigantic orange colored rocks that makes us question our place in the universe. The mid-morning trek under the scorching desert sun leads us onto a paved path. Do the stones carry the story of humanity with them? Millions of years in the making, inching towards the sky, they’re worshipped in the local lore. Many dialects of english echo through these rocks, as couples, kids and the elderly hike. It’s a popular route — the seemingly stronger motivating the tired to push onwards. The oncoming crowds, who have seen the Promised Land, nod subconsciously encouraging others to keep moving forward. The path becomes steep and dangerous. You start to realise that you aren’t as young, you’re a little out of breath, and have a new found fear of heights. As the narrow steep paths open up, it reveals the Delicate Arch, as if designed and not formed naturally. We join the crowd in awe. A trip to the area makes one forget living in cities and realise that it is nature that owns us and not the other way around.
We drive out of arches 150 miles south to Monument Valley. Everyone’s had that moment; you’re driving through a seemingly normal road when suddenly, something grabs you by the heart. Something worth the camera, something that isn’t just for the memory. That is the road to Monument Valley. Most of us have seen the scenery of Monument Valley, probably in an old western movie starring John Wayne, or as a background for those clichéd travel memes.
If America’s Wild West has a spirit, then it lies in the arid plateaus of Southern Utah, carved in Monument Valley, showing its beauty to the world without race, religion or discrimination. We find refuge from the cold desert night, in the midst of Navajo nation, a touristy, yet somewhat realistic Native American Tipi. No artificial lights to block the milky way, so bright, it casts a shadow on the floor. The morning sun holds a promise. A Navajo tour guide welcomes us in her jeep. We see the usual tourist spots — the Three Sisters, Big Chief Monument and Sleeping Dragon Rock. Then we go off road, away from the tourists, to the ‘real monument valley’. Not a single soul to be seen around, just silence and no movement; just our tour guide with us. If the car breaks down, our life depends on the survival skills of our guide. We wouldn’t survive here alone for more than a few hours. We ride along, seeing the highlights as the trip draws to an end — a sad ride back to Vegas, back to everyday.
Back at McCarran airport, in the safety of man-made structures, you start to wonder how the trip has changed you, as every trip does. You question your mortality. We may have subdued nature in our cities, but she thrives out there. She is not welcoming, but if you embrace her beauty and take a chance, she will open her world to you.
The author is a travel enthusiast and an environmentalist