Friday, August 23, 2013


The region’s best: from Navajo culture in Monument Valley to the glamour of Palm Springs.

The Totem Pole is one of Monument Valley's most famous rock formations. This towering spire stands more than 90 meters tall.

executive summary by darmansjah

Monument Valley

Best for the Navajo Nation

Miles into your trip: 575

From Silverton, take a 4½-hour drive along the US-160

There is a point on the drive from Colorado to Monument Valley in Utah where it becomes clear that here, the skin of modern America has been rubbed red raw. Every vestige has been stripped away with such ferocity that nothing remains but the dusty flesh of the earth. It’s as if the land itself has been turned inside out.
Colour here comes in the most primal of shades: blood red, sunburnt orange, deep purple. On either side of the road – the sole reminder that we are not deep in prehistory – gnarled rock figures disappear into the horizon. Ridges circle their bases like the rings up to ragged red fingers or sandblasted outcrops silhouetted against a sky so blue it hurts.

Keep driving and the road begins to straighten up and out, until there on the horizon stands the trio of monoliths-the East and West Mittens, Merrick Butte-that are the show-stopping introduction to one of the USA’s definitive landscapes. Monument Valley plays a crucial role in America’s founding myth as a pioneer nation, topographical short-land for the perculiar bravado bloodlust and wide-brimmed hats that conquered this immense land. Thanks to any number of Western movies, and even Forrest Gump, every director knows that a short of the sun alighting upon these towering brutes will get the heart of any red-blooded patriot beating faster.

The irony of this is, of course, that Monument Valley is at the centre of the Navajo Nation, the largest indigenous reservation in the USA. The history here isn’t exactly ‘God Bless America’ pretty. In 1864, the US Government forced the  Navajo from their reservation at gunpoint, an event know as the Long Walk, They were eventually allowed to return to their land four years later.

Monument Valley is a place of sacred significance to the Navajo, but inevitably tourism is the main source of income. It’s almost impossible to walk along a trail without tripping over a Navajo offering horseback rides, turquoise-studded jewellery of jeep tours. But the best way to experience the Navajo lifestyle is by an overnight stay in a Hogan, the mound-like earth huts that are their traditional home.

Visitors stay in a ‘female’ Hogan, held up by nine wooden pillars, representing the nine months of pregnancy, with a stove in the centre emitting smoke through a circular hole in the roof. Lead guide Carlos Mose (who also doubles as a drummer in a metal band – ‘We sing about Native issues, broken treaties, things like that,’ he tells me) explains the revitalizing effects of a night in a Hogan: ‘Each morning, it’s like being reborn out of your mother’s belly – a fresh start, a new beginning.’

The meaning of different parts of the Hogan are echoed in Monument Valley itself. Carlos points out the Rain God an Thunderbird Mesas, two table mountains facing the east that mimic the doorway. ‘And there are the Grandfather Gods, the rocks who receive our offerings,’ he explains. ‘The life way – how to distinguish right and wrong – is symbolized in the Hogan and Monument Valley. We are the stewards of this land, but the land is our protector an guide too.’

When morning comes, Carlos’s words have a ring of truth. Exiting a Hogan really does feel like  rising from the earth itself – just for a while, it’s possible to become an integral part of this primal land too.

To book overnight Hogan stay, see (from US$155).

Visit either the restaurant at The View of Goulding’s Lodge. The latter is a good option: the steak and eggs certainly hit the spot (from US$12;

Opened in 2008, The View Hotel is the only hotel in Monument Valley. It blends in beautifully with the landscpae, and the spectacle of the buttes as viewed from its room is incredible (from US$155;

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