Don’t go off-roading in a Prius, Navajo impressions of tourists and other lessons from Monument Valley

OK, so this post is more of a side note. The most useful information you will find here is the advice not to go off-roading in a Prius around Monument Valley. Sounds pretty obvious, huh? Well, to us it wasn’t…

With an eight-hour drive from Canyonlands to Havasu Falls ahead, we thought a stop by Monument Valley would be nice to, well, check out the monuments. Being the cheapskates that we are, we felt very strongly against paying the $20 entrance fee to the park. Instead, we were content with admiring it from afar.

On the way out of this area, with no internet signal we poured all our geographical confidence in maps.me. As it turns out, this app does not identify unpaved roads and after driving on Navajo Country Road for a while we were urged to take an even smaller less used meandering trail. Cringing while dodging holes and bushes I push our Prius forward. After a while.. believe it or not… we get stuck. It takes us maybe ten minutes or so to get the car off the road and ask ourselves “do we keep going?“. I look at the map and see we’re less than two miles from the highway. Going back, we’re maybe three or four miles away. “Let’s keep going” I say, already doubting the decision.

It wasn’t.

It took us maybe 10 more minutes until we’re stuck again. This time the tires are deeply buried in the mud to the point where they’re not even spinning. We muster up all our strength and try to push the vehicle off the road. Nothing. As we look around, there is not a single house out there. Again, we try to push it. Even more nothing. Luckily, one of our phones has signal and we’re able to call AAA who indicate that they’d be coming within two hours. The problem was, that we had no idea how to describe our exact location which meant that we’d have to walk out to meet them on the highway. Slightly bothered and ashamed, we throw on our packs in preparation for the worst: camping alongside the highway. It starts to get dark, which of course means that walking will take that much longer.

After a while we spot a light. When we get to it we see it’s a house and the people living there were kind enough to help us pull out the car with their truck.

“You wouldn’t believe how often this happens to tourists. A few times every month we end up having to pull people out of the mud.” 

Funny. Because there were no warning signs to be seen…

We thank the people and suggest that maybe, just maybe it would be a good idea to put up some warning signs where the road starts to get iffy.

Thrilled that we were rescued so soon, we wanted to sprinkle around some good karma so we pick up a hitchhiker on our way to Kayenta. He’s a 20-something year-old boy on his way home from a family gathering. He tells us a bit about his upbringing, how he now works as a tour guide in Monument Valley but also sells contraband (alcohol among other pieces of merchandise…) in the dry county where he lives. Apparently there is a strong stigma toward Caucasians among the Navajo community. There is not much open-mindedness and willingness “to mix”, he says.

It’s both fascinating and frightening to see the lasting impact colonialism working under the names of “exploration” and “discovery” has had on the world’s different regions. Very often, we forget that the U.S. was subjected to this wave.

“Cool story, bro. But how much did it cost?”

For a total breakdown of the costs for this trip, see this post.

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