ROUND THE WORLD WALKABOUT
Part 6. Zion
9th September, 2001
It was a longish drive out of Vegas, crossing into Utah where we put our watches back an hour. Utah is Mormon territory, where they still practice polygamy to the consternation of the rest of the US. We snack-lunched in a well-planned, sedate town. The streets were empty, probably because of the intense heat.
That evening we camped outside the gates of Zion National Park, another amazing oasis. We walked the Watchman trail and overlooked the park entrance, examining extraordinarily shaped mountains like the West Temple and the Towers of the Virgin. Just before dark, two golden eagles soared against the rocks towering over our camp.
We took the park shuttle bus to the Lodge. The US discourages private cars in their parks, and most places have efficient free shuttles, which more than compensate for the inconvenience. We walked for two hours along a lovely gentle trail through green pinyon trees and bush to the Emerald pools, high up beneath the weeping rocks. I spent our lunch break away from it all on a log beside a trickling river, hearing but only glimpsing a large kingfisher which flashed past me.
That afternoon we had a walk with a difference, wading in our boots up the Virgin River at the Zion Canyon Narrows. I was prevailed upon to buy a Zion stick at the Lodge for the purpose, which I must confess, came in useful; and eighteen year-old Daniel especially had a high old time fooling around in the water. We scrabbled upstream for an hour over large pebbles and rocks in the slow-flowing water, overshadowed by the towering canyon sides, then back again. Feet cold and wet. I spotted my second humming bird, and we had a pleasant Mexican meal at a nearby dive where I found a computer and e-mailed my family. Thank goodness – in the light of future events – I was able to do that.
We drove out of Zion through two tunnels in the rock, and immediately the land changed to green rolling pastures, fields and farms. What a vast, varied place is America. Some of it reminds me so much of Africa, but on a much grander scale. So enormous it can scarce be grasped. One wonders why they’re so keen to explore Africa when they have this wealth on their own doorstep. I suppose it must be all to do with the animals. Such friendly people too. Waiters cheerful and happy, shop assistants full of pleasantries; obliging, ordinary people – unlike the rather loud-voiced tourists and spoilt brats we sometimes came across in Kenya.
But you have to learn to add 30% onto every priced meal (for taxes, and tips up to 18%) which makes it so expensive. In shops, tips are dropped into a tray near the cash register, and people expect it for the slightest favour.
The world was about to change…