The lady.

Lower Antelope Canyon, Arizona

The steps that lead the Lower Antelope Canyon.


This post is in continuation of my previous post about our road trip to Page.
After having reached Page, we alighted from our respective cars and without wasting a second started unloading our luggage and most importantly our prized possessions, our bicycles.  We filled two large luggage carts with our baggage while a few of us groggy with sleep and exhaustion barely managed to bring ourselves into the real world. In spite of all the pain, sleep and fatigue, we beautifully managed to get our bicycles, cycle carriers, luggage inside the lobby, unscathed. I spoke to the lady in the reception who seemed to belong to a Native American tribe. After verifying our credentials she asked us to show our respective credit cards to be able to charge us in case if we decided to destroy the rooms we had booked. Sangram groggy with sleep could not grasp the context. I merely asked him to give me his credit card which made him assume that the payment was not made. With sober steps he went up to the receptionist and produced his credit card while giving a confusing and half asleep look to Shray and saying in Hindi and English, "Machi, payment to nahi kia bolti hain. She says the payment has not been made". The lady horrified with the accusation by an almost half asleep man drew a long startled breath and said ,"Oh no, don't misinterpret me! The payment has been made. I need your credit cards as means of security in case anything goes wrong in your rooms." After straightening the kinks in our conversation we finally took possession of the keys to our respective rooms.

That night we slept like logs. We had such good sleep that I could feel the pain on one of my ear lobes because I slept on one side of my body for a long time throughout the night. Next day, we felt as fresh as lilies and hurriedly went downstairs to avail a hearty breakfast to fuel ourselves for the adventure that awaited us later during the day. The constant need to drink water was still there, we filled our bottles with water as much as we could. I wanted to dress appropriately for the canyon tour. By appropriate dress I meant physically that would shield me from the harsh rays of the desert sun.Therefore I smothered my face and any part of my body exposed to the sun in sun screen lotion. I wore an old hoodie to protect me from the vagaries of weather. I also wore a wide brimmed hat to shield my face from the sun besides wearing my fancy green sun glasses. Like any other lady of Asian origin, by Asian I also include people of South Asia i.e India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, I covered myself meticulously to protect my skin from the sun. The weather was cool in the morning hovering around 50 degrees fahrenheit but gradually the temperature increased as morning turned into day.

I am sure everyone loves food. I am no different, especially if you put me in the midst of a buffet, I get the same feeling as a child would experience in a toy store. The scrumptious breakfast buffet was laid out in front of us and we made a beeline to fill our plates with food.

We had booked our Lower Antelope Canyon tour with Dixie Ellis tour agency. After breakfast we finally made our way to the place where they were situated. I thought the agency would be in the heart of the quaint little town but to my surprise our GPS took us to a location in the midst of barren arid land, basically in the midst of nowhere. As we took the only lifeline that connected the town with the touring agency, I could see two large smoke spewing chimneys rising from the horizon.

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We reached the touring agency that was basically a tiny shack build on a large plot of land on one side of the main road. Our group of 6 was assigned one guide who took us to the canyon that was situated a few meters behind the ticket counter. There was a small fence separating the hut from the area that led to the canyon. People were forbidden to loiter in the area behind the hut for various reason, the primary reason being people could easily fall through an unassuming crevice on the ground and fall into a 40 feet deep pit. There were instances when livestock grazing on the ground fell through a crevice that led people to discover these majestic slot Canyons.



As we made our way to the canyon, I was expecting a large valley cut by a meandering river but it was a slot canyon that was accessible through a fleet of stairs hinged on the face of steep rock.  We were very curious about this geographic marvel. The terrain was also very different for us, we had never seen such majestic sandstone hills with different bands of color undulating as if God had frozen a big sand dune in motion. We felt as if we were in Mars, everything was red. We were told that this geographic monument is situated in Navajo nation which is the country of Navajo Native American people. We asked pertinent questions such as if the nation issues passports, what about heads of government, financing of various important departments such as police, natural resources etc. Our guide gave us the answers we were seeking Amidst all the banter and back and forth between us and our guide we were warned to be extremely cautious while descending down the steep staircase into the canyon.

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The moment we set our eyes on the interior of the canyon we were in awe. We stood in awe of the marvel that nature's forces had created in cohesion or confusion. Pictures do not do justice to the visuals. You might see a pretty picture but the picture can never recreate the feeling of majesty and humbleness within you when you realize that you are nothing in front of the wrath of nature. I could not comprehend how a narrow crevice on a rocky ground could lead to a canyon 120 feet below the ground.The atmosphere within the canyon was surprisingly calm in spite of so many people passing through the narrow passage. You could see the imprint of the momentum of water on the walls. The walls waved and undulated throughout in front of us. The waves felt as if different streams of water had gushed through the canyon and the walls moved too but ceased to move later on. The roof of the canyon was narrow, it almost gave you the feeling of standing in a cathedral or a place of worship built to resonate our prayers to the almighty.

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The undulating walls of the canyon were characteristically sedimentary rocks in which you could see the different layers of sediment bound together by forces of nature. Therefore the walls were colored in different hues of red which basically meant that there was a large iron content. The walls had a band of smooth layer and above the smooth band was a band of tiny dots as if someone had engraved those as a part of some divine architecture. The bands of lines and dots ran through the wall of the canyon like a relief sculpture. At some places the wall was concave and the edge of the concave portion continued to a convex part of the wall. It was as if a sin curve was imprinted on the wall of this natural structure. I am sure architects like Gaudi whose buildings have a feeling of muted borders and undulating walls might have been inspired by the majestic creation of nature.The combination of smooth and dotted bands along with the reflection and shadow of sunlight created such a wonderful image that it would not be wrong to describe it as nature's poetry. The dotted band was created due to calcium deposits whereas the smooth bands were created due to the flow of water. As we snaked our way through the belly of the canyon we went through narrow passages where water might have faced some difficulty to cut through the rocks. It felt as if we were in a corridor leading to a staircase that took us to another level within the canyon. Our questions did not cease to exist while we were still awestruck with the marvelous beauty of the canyon. Shariq and Sadiya clicked a handful of beautiful pictures with their Nikon camera while the rest of us made good use of our iphone s by switching on the Chrome filter. Sometimes we forgot to take a picture because we just wanted to soak in the beauty that surrounded us. You could never tire yourself while continuously gazing at the wavy and layered walls of the canyon. We did not want to waste one minute in useless banter, we imbibed as much beauty as we could.

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All the geography lessons we had as children in middle school, chemistry lessons we had in high school made sense. The words that we sometimes leaned by rote and sometimes understood without actually looking at a live example revealed itself as we walked through the canyon. Shray and I had a moment of epiphany, a Eureka!! moment, thankfully unlike Archimedes were were covered from top to bottom. We could never imagine as little children the power of nature capable of moving mountains and creating sedimentary rocks out of granules of sand. The excursion to the canyon was a glaring example of how practical knowledge can greatly simplify subjects and everything seemed self explanatory.

We asked our guide about the folklore and local beliefs associated with the canyon. He told us that they consider the canyon to be the belly of a snake. It is spiritually very harmful for him to move in and out of the canyon everyday. Therefore he does a ritual everyday in the morning to cleanse and protect him from the evil energies that might emanate from the belly of the snake. According to him when people emerge out of the crevice on the ground at the end of the canyon, it is akin to having a second birth from the belly of a snake.

I was wondering if there are petroglyphs on the walls of the canyon which has been a constant structure among the native people. There were none, probably because one could not inhabit the canyon due to flash floods that instantly fills the structure upto the brim. He also recounted a story about his grandfather who was lost in action in a war and has a permanent plaque in his memory at Page's town center.

The canyon attracts a lot of tourists from all over the world. Around 80,000 tourists visited the canyon during one season. At the hotel where we were staying I could hear banter in different languages. Among the languages I could identify were Chinese, Korean, German ,Russian and there were 6 of us who were occasionally speaking in Hindi with a smattering of English. At the tour agency site we saw people speaking in German, Russian , Chinese and Korean.

We took picture of various structures created by water in the cave that resembled things from day to day life. For instance a part of the wall when seen from some distance looked like a lady's profile with flowing hair. Another part looked like the USPS eagle, yet another looked like a dolphin and another an Indian chief. The walls rose high up above us and created light silhouettes in the sky. At a certain point in the canyon the walls were narrow and seemed to create the silhouette of a sea horse.'

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After we emerged out of the canyon fully inspired, awestruck and soaked in the beauty of nature our guide Chavez gave us a demonstration of how natural forces of wind and water created this canyon. He showed us with the sleight of his hand in a very simple and ingenious way by pouring water from a bottle and layering sand on top of the wet spot over and over again. The result was he got a lump of sand held together by the wetness of water. He then uproots the lump of sand from the ground and sets it upside down and slowly pours water on top of it to demonstrate how persevering water cut through rocks millions of years ago to create such slot canyons. It was simple but effective. I wish someone gave us such a demonstration when we read about sedimentary rocks in middle school. It is surprising to know that these are the same kind of rocks used to build the majestic Mughal monuments in New Delhi although the source of those rocks might have been somewhere within the Mughal Empire.

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It was time for us to take customary group pictures of us in leaping in the air. We took the essential couple pictures. All these pictures were taken by the deft hands of Chavez.
As we headed back to the tour agency's hut, we were greeted by a hoop dance performer who performed a dance by making intricate formations with a couple of hoops. It is not easy to be simple, it is very hard to achieve simplicity. I would echo the same thought for the dance which looked simple but required exceptional skills and practice of the dancer to execute flawless tricks of the hoops with perfection to the rhythm of the drums.

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By the end of the tour our throats were parched, we felt the importance of water that we seem to take for granted in our day to day lives. We were also famished but we had to head to the horse shoe bend which was a few miles down the road, before it got too scorching hot.

Some important details:-
1. Tours booked with Dixie Ellis tour agency.
2. Got ourselves a bag full of water bottles, fruits.
3. Good breakfast.
4. Kept ourselves hydrated throughout the trip.
5. Proper attire to shield the eyes and body from sun.
6. Generous application of sunscreen lotion on exposed areas of the body.
7. Good sunglasses.
8. Active shoes such as tennis shoes, running shoes, hiking shoes, no sandals, slippers or shoes with heels.

Comments

d Nambiar said…
What gorgeousness!
A picture from Antelope Canyon is on my screensaver and I can't wait to go see those parts for myself.

Great account and pics. I thoroughly enjoyed the post. Thank you, Jahanvi. :)
Jenevi said…
Thank you :)
Anonymous said…
So pro !
Amit Misra said…
Photos are definitely good. But I liked the description and narrative more.
Jenevi said…
Thank you