And further west we went to the forests of the Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon. Where the cold wind blew and toook our breath, just like the amzing landscapes did. We're almost ending our trip and still natures wonder's makes our mind having the one after the other blast.
And chipmonks, squirrels and stuff, always fun.
We stayed somewhere at the crossroads between Zion and Bryce, in a best western Thunderbird Lodge, where i had my won 'logde' quite spacy, nice bathroom, aircooling, nice restaurant, shop, wifi did work after a fex tries and complaints, gas station, and golf course. Pretty cosy,
Bryce Canyon you can do all of it by car. If you really want you can go hiking in it. If you jsut wnat to enjoy the spectacular views, well drive rom the one viewpoint to the other.
leaving page, you pass Lake Powell, youcan go to the great beach wher eyou have a view on Lone Rock. Amazing isn't it?
Zion Park we didn't quite vist, i tried to do it in an afternoon, but i realized Zion park is a hiking park more then the others. The shuttle brings you from the one stop to the other. At the stops there's nothgin to see. They are all arriving or starting point for hikers. Never the less, driving the scenic road through the cayon really is worht it and we did have to do it whil leaving back west to the coast.
Red canyon on the way over the vast plains to Bryce Canyon. I think you have to watch out as all tourist tend to stop their cars suddenly to take pictures.
And so we did. With a stop in a motel in Barstow, cheap, but not bad. Of all places in the godforsaken nothingness we came across some West-fluten verdikke. We were not social to them ha! we don't like to meet our own kind when abroad :p
So in the sun we arrived two days later in Arroyo Grande. Again a Best western with pool and with some nice restaurants on the high way across. We did try the Steak House: full of taxidermic wildlife: you can't even think of so many animals!! And great service and what portions and children friendly. We really did enjoy the noisy family restaurant (we were in silence on our won for too long hahah!)
Well that was a nice meal. Damn I can't remember the name of the restaurant.
The next day we went to Pisco Beach. Wrong choice. Worse then Blankenberge. As to the people. god white trash all over. Seems we had to go to pebbel beach in stead. a pity we didn't know.
But we enjoyed some special bakeries pastry there.
So we took highway 1 the coastal road: beautifull scenery. Makes me think a lot like te Corsican coast. great for driving, but not while passengers tend to get wagonsick :p
Last stop was Monterey. There was even a rollerderby-bout that evening. But we did not see a single spot o what Monterey had to offer as this was just a stop before taking the plane in SFO.
Getting to SFO was quite easy, just keep your eyes open when arrving to find the way to deliver the rental car.
And after 11 hours of flying: back home again!!!! in cold weather!!!! aaargghh!!! I wanted to leave again!
O yeah we did visit Hearst Castle too! I was thinking that would be a tourist trap. But it is really interesting to see. We did take the general tour so we didn't visit the rooms except for the main rooms.
It is maybe a tourist trap as you need to buy several tours to visit the whole of the domain. But Hearst was a remarkable megalomaniac. Well they consider him a hero. I don't have heroes ;-)
After visiting the Grand canyon and actually missing out on the great wild life that seems to be living there, we moved on to Arizona. Again East and more desert, more dust, more vastness, more stunning nature.
As to the wildlife, I'm actually really disappointed. If you are jsut a tourist and you don't make long hike of the tracks, the chances to see some beautiful animals is very small. An oocasional lizard, tons of birds, a rabbit, and almost domestic deers, it is as far is it gets when you keep yourself in the middle of the tourist centers. Anyway, nautre offers so much paintings beyong one's fantasy so actually I really can not complain.
The trip to Page was a long one....due to a blocked road which made us do 200 miles longer to get there. Page is in the middle of an native Indian reserve I believe. So Indians live here and we see some camper-villages in the red desert dust. Some heavy industries also and then just a city...Page lots of big supermarkets and our Comfort Inn straight nearby! The city center is jsut a 10 minutres ride a few miles further. There you can go eat (not that much choices though), yuo find a tourist office with very helpful people (i really wonder if they have somethig else to do then just sit there an knit or something) and then you have some agencies that sell tours. Tours indeed because this desert and nothingess hides some really really beautiful natural treasures!
So the info sheet i got from the tourist office told me the several trips on what day hours and rates for adults, children, toldlers and babyseats,...So we choose the one that fit our needs most. And we booked a tour to Antelope canyon, somewhere in the morning at 10 o'clock. We head the Indian people were not that friendly and indeed booking was almost somethign annoying for them. I must correct myself as on the day itself our personal tourguide did a magnificent job showing us around, giving lots of explanation and pointing out the musthave pictureangles and even doing it for tourist which really can not handle their cameras.
But first we went eating something. A nice burger. and then we wnet chilling in the pool of the hotel, getting update with life at home on the wifi resting, doing some shopping at the mall, resting,...
One of the things I foudn on the internet was the Horseshoe bent, just 10 minutes ride from where we were and a short walk into the desert and then suddenly gaping from the abbyss lies a nice canyon with dark green water streaming thorugh it: the Horse Shoe bent: amazing how big that actually was, you couldn't tell from the pictures on the internet.
Ok, watch your step as yu want to have the picutres of the year as there's no safety or protection and when you walk on the border fo the canyon it can be that your jsut standign on some rock with nothig underneath, so if it breaks under your weignt, you're going down. Deep, Spectacular deep. A fine way to die definitely!
i went on my belly to the side :-)
Next day, Antelope canyon, ofter a small breakfast at the hotel we managed to get thre in time, changed our babyseat into the tourdriver's truck and with some 20 people we took off to Antelope canyon again in the desert off road.
There must have ben cheaper ways to visit Antelope Canyon. A 105 dollars per person is not cheap. But hey you don't want to miss this!
let's say: look at the pictures. They are selfexplanatory. And as I told you: tons of groups are visiting at the same time so you really have to follow the instructions of your guide but if you do you have plenty of time to get a nice view and a nice photo to show off at the homefront.
From Las Vegas to Flagstaff isn't that big for a roadtrip. But the difference in landscapes is. From the dusty vast desert planes to the mountains again, with woods and rocks and waterfalls en peaks with snow on.
Well well. Williams didn't feel like being interesing for lodging so we ended up again in a Best Western: pretty lam and old and shared accomodation and crappy wi-fi but we managed to install ourselves for 2 nights and enjoy the environment. Though we wondered of the wildlife park in Williams would have been interesting paying a visit.
We found a local restaurant which was pretty nice and we also went visiting the town itself. A bit charming. We were kinda cold, but the locals girl wore like almost nothing as temperature was risgin from deep freeze to a ultra hot 16 degrees... well we came from over 25...so i was wearing my fleece and the local pizza girl was being her sunny self in a light summerdress. I didn't care for it it added jsut that spice to the delicious pizza she served us.
Anyway the town of Flagstaff is a bit dead, it has some charactristics and it has it kind of people and dodgy sides. Apart from that you find everything you need: gs station, supermarkts all over and nature. Beautiful nature.
We kinda underestimated the distance to Grand Canyon. But taking te shuttle spared us a lot of time. The problem with the Grand canyon is it's too big. So big you can't even feel overwhelmed by it while standig on the edge as yuor mind has no ideao about the bigness of that thing.
And most of the shuttlestops jsut serve you the same view but different. Alas we didn't find and didn't look for the spot were you can walk over the canyon on a glass floor.
We were tired and returned home in the afternoon.
Breakfast in the best Western was not that great either but hey as said everythig you need in the supermarkts a few miles along the highway.
When leaving Flagstaff we tried to visit some other natural parks but as we didn't have time to hike over there, we just could imagine what we were missing out on.
So, Flagstaff: great stop to visit the GC in the middle of nature and of you want to hike: lots of possibilities.
breakfast in Luang Prabang, Laos, 2009
Always nice enjoying breakfast outdoors on the porch of the restaurant with the sun coming up driving the morning chill away. Hot coffee and eggs and sausages. What does one need more. What I remember the most of all my trips are these kind of outdoor breakfasts. Back in Indochina, where i had my own little cottage and breakfast was served on the porch. Back in Nepal the last day of the Anapurna trip when i had e few hours of sleep in the storeroom of potatoes on a wooden shell...aboven the ktichen which was oprative as sunbreak (5 in the morning) with the golden view of the Himalaya shivering down my bones.
And so we wen ton, packing the Tuscon and calppin gthe trunk with force to close it as puzzling the luggage went more difficult at those times ha! Long trips over the dusty roads right to nevada, the other state and to another state of mind LAS VEGAS.
I really did not knwo what to expect. Traffic was more hectic and rushing than evrywhere else we have been before but hey we Belgians are used to that kid of driving. we had reserved ourselves a suit in de Signature at the MGM grand through internet. We chekced in the car, and ourselves. I stayd at floor 28 and my friend at floor 19 I believe. A huge suite!!! The one of my friends was almost as big as the place where I live back here in Ghent. And the got a little terrace with a nice lookout but big noise from the dancing bar at the pool. A pol which i never went visiting. A pity as i really got tired after a few hours of aimlessly dwellin gcasino by casino. Las Vegas was meant to be relaxing to have somethign else, to drown a bit in luxury. But gambling, no... I really was tempted and i went looking at tables to follow the games a lot but i never went for it. As i did not fully understand the rules it would have been the same as just throwing my money away. Temptation was really hard anyway. Bt i spent it on frozen yoghurt and good food. Becasue one thing Vegas has is good food. OK you pay average Belgian princes for a dish but it's really good. And that made me happy. I wnet walking the night to shoot some nightpictures. But where i was, really there was nothgin but stupid crowds...not like in the TV-series with beuatifull stylish people. i guess that all happens behind the corridorwith teh 'high limits"-signs.
Anyway the roller girls who went to Vegas todl me I had to go to the old strip but anyway what could i've been doing over ther eon my own?
So Vegas, really i can't give you any points. Glad I saw it but it's even more dump than the local Kermis or Sinksenfoor in Antwerpen.
Good food thoug, We went eating our first dish at the rainforest restaurant, exceptional place for kids, but gloomy and every 15 minurtes the animated animals make a deafening noise.
Mister E was fascinated. We also at at great fresh ravioli with truffles at Fiamma's, and italian restaurant near our hotel with great friendly service and they didn't even mind Mister E throwing all things in his neughbourhood with full force to the ground. I even drank a big coffee after dinner, which i normally don't because of the fact I fukking can not sleep at night when i drink coffee.
It's also ironic, that now i had my own place far away from my friends and baby, sleep was really not that good. And seems my friend spent a horrible night that night too :s which had some consequences on the tempo of our trip but we managed to go on anyway luckily!
So because we really were not able to do big things in Vegas we bought ourselves tickets for Cirque du Soleil, they had their own Ka-theatre. I've never seen such breathtaking things like this. The full theatre is used as a decor with moving floor and spectacular smoke and light illusions. I really really enjoyed it so much. I think the tickets were like 170 dollars or somethign per person. We didn't care. It was worth it. I also did finish my enormous ginger drink without having to pee in the middle of the show. Afterwards my friends went sleepig and i wnet for a little strool through the casino's as people seemed to be dressed up , typically for a fridaynight. But no bet placed.
Finding good breakfast in vegas is anohter weird thing. The little bar at our hotel didn't serve what i wanted and all other restaurants served also greasy stuff. Coffe I could find in the starbucks. And I bought myself some egg-dish with toast but I really didn't enjoy it.
Back to nature!!!!
So The next day, there was no alarmclock from another room that was waking me up from 6 o'clock in the morning. Even Mister E managed to sleep a bit longer. And after breakfast we packed the car and drove off to Death Valley. A long road. A very long trip. But as I said traffic on US-highways is really relaxing. And beautiful weather and again marvelous landscapes. And ok, watch the fuel! And yes there it happens. We're driving for hours in dusty desert planes with no town or gasstations for miles. And suddenly when you think you will get to the next city, the range of miles drops like a rock in the sky. So you drive for minutes with zero miles on your computer till you find a very little gasstation at the side of the road. You also want something to eat because it's way in the afternoon it's hot and you're tired and thirsty. Luckily the lady of the house tells us we can drive the next road off and follow the road for 14 miles to California City where we have plent of choices in gas and food. And so we do.... so the civilization in the desert lies far beneath the dusty roadtracks.
Lots of sand covers the road as do warning signs and yes police speedcontrols like in the movies hidden beyong a littel bush...really...
We entered the city...and had some Subway. We really did get addcited to subway during our roadtrip. And actually i kinda liked it and always took the BMT. Lot's of charcuterie like we call it in Belgium and i love the jalapeños and pickles.
At the local gas station you see those idiot warnings like "no shirt, no service" and other really offending warnings that makes you watch your moves and behaviour. Anyway the kind of people you see in these kind of town is what you can expect: what kind of business or employment is there here in the middle of the desert?
So now we had our tummy filled the diapers refreshed and hydrated ourselves and our car, we could go on through Death valley. And there it lied, breathtaking surroundings. Panamint Springs Resort.
A camping along the road full of tough bikers and campers, a cottage, the only cottage we had reserved for us and some other buildings with rooms. We had to register ourselves at the gasstation next to the restaurant and bar. The lady at the gasstation is kind of robotic in her answering and doings...i couldn't help laughing. Really really weird lady. Anyway we got the keys of the cottage and installed ourselves and just enjoyed the tranquillity of the vast surroundings. The mountains at the horizon where the moon rose that evening. Amazing. The restaurant serves quite nice food, not that much choice and if you want alcohol you have to buy it at the gasstation which opens till late at night luckily.
Breakfast is all you can eat for 10 dollars and coffee is not that bad!
From Panamint Springs you just drive 45 minutes to Stovepipe Wells and the Mezquite Sand Dunes: amazing again and early morning it's still not that hot in the sand. From Stovepipe Wells you drive further to Furnace Creek: the most recent village and resort. We moved further on the Bad Water: the lowest point of the park beneath sea level: salt lakes But when you have seen Uyuni Desert in Bolivia: this is nothing. Actually whole of Death Valley reminds me of the Bolivian Andes but less pretty. Anyway the desolated vast landscapes still are mindblowing and makes one wonder about existential things. But maybe that's just me. I love this kind of nothingness. You can learn a lot about the history, geology and things like that. So there we went back to Zabriskie Point: the most amazing look out I've ever seen. Such colourfull rocks, mountains, i never could have imagined that.
Really die hard people can go hiking in Death Valley and even to the famous Peak you see from everywhere around 12.000 ft high.
I'd do it on other occasions!
When we returned after lunch in Furnace Creek and after I send some postcards to the home front, of which the most important one arrived, the one to my grandmother arrived at the wrong adress and the one to my godchild never came through as I was mistaken in the road...again, now that i had the housenumber right..., we stopped by a old mine. This was where the 20-mule -team was going back in the dark days. Borax transported by a 20-mule-train over hundreds of miles.
Chinese workers sleeping on the spot. Tough life conditions...
After we returned I went also to visit the Mosaic Canyon but it was not that spectacular.
El Capitan, one of the famous peaks you can see along the road to Ysemite village
At our last day in San Francisco it was time to pack the luggage and leave for Yosemite National Park. On that sunny morning. Me and P left with the cable car to the Alamo Rental Car center. Just as we arrived we claimed our SUV which was not that easy as they were short on SUV and tried to give us anothe car a huge Chrysler 300 but alas the trunk isn't that big. The people that entered the room jsut after us also claimed a SUV so we were lucky to have the first chance. It was a Huyndai Tuscon, which hasn't got that big trunk either but no had to take it and we got it without any further trouble. So getting used to the automatic transmission and finding the warehouse to buy a babyseat. I went for a starbucks while my friend was searching his parking ticket which he lost and had to go to a lot of administration and 24 dollars to have his car out of the parking lot. So there we went, after a short puzzle we managed to get all the luggage and the baby in tha car and of we went to Yosemite. Ok we missed one of the highwayroads but then we were on the road to nature. And what kid of nature. Amazing landscapes just out of the city.
After a few hours we arrived in Oakhurst where we stayed in Best Western Plus Yosemite Gateway Inn shared accomodation as my bedroom was apart from the other, wi-fi not that good except in in the restaurant, TV full of white noise except in the bedroom of my friends. And of course Mister E made his terriotory all over the place ;-) They got a nice restaurant there where i ate a burger. Alas for me. the little guy had a little illness and the next day i really was sick....
but after breakfast we went to Yosemite, we already had paid for our annual park admission fee. The road were full of curves and yes it's not easy when you're sick...
In the park we stayed in teh valley and after a while we found out how the shultte worked. Everythign in the valley you just can do on foot. The waterfalls, you see El Capitan on the way to it, lots of other mountains and you can go for a hike, even small ones but anyway quite steep when your not that fit. So we still enjoyed the trip but it was a long first day in nature.
And all of the parks have visitor centers where they help you out with almost evrything you may want to ask. A pity if you're queueing and some tourists are asking irrelevant questions bout the weather elswhere and the road to undefined other destinations. We hadn't got time to visit the Sequoia's due to tiredness and of course Mister E needed food and to sleep.
That night luckily i got better and the next morning i even could eat some breakfast, except no pancakes for me.
If you really like to feel the latino vibes. U must take a tour into the heart of Mission District. Not only that neighbourhood is totaly different then the North side of San francisco, it does really feel like you are in South-America. So different then in Belgium where you have also neighbourhoods with immigrants but they still look Western with a exotic touch. There the architecture, the noise, the people, the stores really look like you're on the South of the Americas. But most important when you take the bus over there is to have a walk (guided is possible) along the great murals that speak of the indigeneous people that are oppresed by the European discovery missions. I will let the pictures speak for itself.
I didn't have time or oocasion to taste some of the latino food alas.
Definitely take your time to discover Chinatown. You can take the bus and cable car straight into it. Or just have a nice work out by walking. Don't forget your sunscreen, your sunglasses and a jacket because of the chilly wind. At first sight it might be just a busy nieghbourhood full of little asians and stores and tourist stores and grocery stores and noise and people and more people pushing you in the masses on the crowed jammed sidewalk. But hey, there are a few things we discoverd. A weird temple on the top floor of a warehouse. And yes that's aactually all we discoverd. Murals again. And we ate some veggie, no sorry, VEGAN chinese. Very very cheap but not always that good. At the time we ate it and we liked it.
We're budget travellers, but if you want to spent your moeny on food: chances enough. We did it the very local way in very local joints.
When you don't like crowed places: get there in the morning. When you wander off the sides of Chinatown, where no tourist are: you prolly get swarmed by the lcoals doing their shopping and goign out for dinner in the local joints. And they don't mind you. It's a stram and if you don't go with it: you get pushed. your own fault. keep walking. Quite Amusing. Watch your stuff and pockets. Not beause of they do pickpocket you, but because elsewhere in the world you'd be pickpocket in that situation.
views from the secret temple