Archive for August, 2007


To Chaco Canyon; centre of the ancient Puebloan culture.

August 27, 2007

With a week’s talking and teaching at the Navajo technical College in Crown Point behind us (and a rousing chorus of ‘happy birthday from the students for Pete) ,


we set out on Sunday morning to visit Chaco Canyon, just 40 miles away. We had been told that it was something special, but assumed that it was being given the buildup by the locals at Crown Point just because it was in the neighbourhood. How wrong we were! At the end of a 20 mile rough, rocky road which shook Dodgy’s remaining intact panels loose, we arrived at Chaco Canyon and its magnificent Pueblos, the centre of a vast civilisation of Puebloan Indians which began in the 800’s (AD) and lasted for 300 years, spreading north to Mesa Verde in southern Colorado and south to the border of Mexico.



The Puebloans were the ancestors of today’s Hopi and Puebloan Indian tribes. The centre of the Puebloan world was in Chaco Canyon, at the great house Pueblo Bonito. the largest of three or four Great Houses which have been excavated. The main structure is a towering four storeys high and contained more than 600 rooms and 40 Kivas, – underground places of worship.




The scale and complexity of the Great Houses was amazing and we spent hours walking through the ruins. It was worth every jarring bump we encountered on the road into the canyon, and added a new dimension to our visit to Mesa Verde, hundreds of miles to the north.



We are back in our little apartment at the college. Jules may put in a couple more days of teaching then we’ll be off again, travelling to South Dakota, thousands of miles to the north and a whole new Native American culture, the Sioux, and the site of the Wounded Knee massacre.


It will take a few days of driving through some new and interesting country. Will keep you informed of our progress.


New Mexico stopover

August 24, 2007

hi all, we are now in Crownpoint, New Mexico, where we are helping out with the shortage of teachers! Yes I am actually working, and Pete has delivered two lectures to the vet students here, they love him and actually got him big chocolate birthday cake and sang to him yesterday. I am filling in for the nursing assistants course and the students are learning about Australia, where they like it or not!. We are glad to help and have been given a small air conditioned apartment where we have made ourselves at home – so Pete was able to have a hot bath for his special day.

Last week we were guests of Rachael and her family in Mancos, just near Durango in Colorado, we had a great time, with a small party being held in our honour and Tim (host from Tempe) taking us to Durango so we could sight see, buy a tent and eat Thai!! then we went fishing at a state park near Mancos, and just hung out with Rachael and her two sons, Vincent and Aiden, who were so hospitable and friendly.


Building a patio at Rachael’s house in Mancos Colarado and fishing at the state park nearby.

We are going up to Chaco Canyon on the weekend, then set out for Dakato next week, where we have some contacts with the Siox tribe. Its all going well, the heat is not so overbearing and we actually went for a walk last night and saw some of the settlement here. It reminds me of very much of places like inland from Port Hedland, red rock landscape with no real trees and greenery.

So far we have seen a few amazing sites such as: the Grand Canyon, then we saw the huge dam in Glen Canyon in Page, where we camped for the night, Monument Valley where all the old western movies were shot,


At Monument Valley -that’s Michelle with the shades, she’s now my Tuba City Tidda, & her neighbour Aleada, both were great hosts and tour guides.

on to Canyon De Shelley, (prouncounced shay) where the valley floor is still home to many farmers,



and camped out,sleeping in the back of Dodgy in pouring rain. That’s a sunset after the rainstorm at the park,where the mossies nearly carried us and the car away!

Back on the road again we traveled to the south west corner of Colorado and visited the Mesa Vere dwellings in the canyon walls over 5000ft above sea level. They were pretty spellbinding, The highlite of the trip so far for Pete, and pretty well near the top for me too, – if only the air had not been so thin I could have enjoyed the climb down to the pueblo’s along the canyon wall.



On Sunday we go to Chaco canyon, only 40 miles from Crown Point and then no more canyons for a while as we head north to South Dakota (!).

We are both well, & taking our time we thought that Durango, would be a good place for me to see my first snow and to build a snow man – but this evening we met a new staff member at the college who told us about Ski Apache (owned by the Apache) at ‘The Inn of the Mountain Gods’ in New Mexico where we can enjoy beautiful scenery and snow at 9000 ft above the desert (check it out, = Google it)….We’ll have to wait and see what the country side through Colorado is like in the next few weeks but Ski Apache looks pretty good to us.

Take care – keep in touch, J&P


A few of my favourite things…that I miss

August 24, 2007

I’d like to just comment on a few things that we have in Oz, that I can’t get here: Yes I do have a jar of vegimite, so that’s not on the list BUT these are:

1) pump spray deodorant, they only have icky roll on or pressure can, NOT HAPPY as they confiscated my new bottle of pump spray in Perth- it was too big to pass through custons.

2) bread that is not sweet, everything here is sweet, (high rate of diabetes is no surprise!) no savoury, so Pete’s happy.

3) yellow label strong tea bags PLEASE!!! they have iced tea (sweetened of course) and don’t drink it hot or strong.

4) some other foods beside, mexican and Denny’s…which is the up market side of the cheap eatery houses – some one did warm us about the lack of variety.

5) a feed of fresh ocean snapper- oh just the thought of it -makes me realise how lucky I am to live near the ocean.

6) family and friends who speak like us!!

A comment on how we eat, apparently we are quite a spectikl, as we chop and hack with knife and fork -here, they cut up the food and just use a fork… thank goodness the food here is so forkable!!

love Pete & Julie


To Navajo Mountain for the ‘Naatsis’aan Eehaniih’ Celebrations.

August 16, 2007

Julie & I were privileged to be invited to the 42nd annual Naatsis’aan Eehaniih (‘remember the past’) celebrations held by the Navajo people in the shadow of their sacred mountain, on the border of Utah and Arizona. The celebrations include horse races, footraces, competitions for the children and a food and craft fair. Many of the Navajo arrived on horse-back after riding for four days from points all over the Navajo Nation. (The Navajo Nation is a self governing Navajo Reserve the size of Tasmania bridging the borders of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico). Thousands more arrived by vehicle along a tortuous road which petered out into a rough red dirt track, muddied by heavy overnight rains. We slithered our way into the celebration grounds just as the converging horsemen (and women) arrived, quite an impressive site. Family groups set up camp around the submerged strip of dirt that was to be the race track and the evening soon took on a surreal atmosphere with the scattered camp fires and Indian drumming and chanting. We set up camp with Tim’s (our Navajo landlord from Phoenix) family and shared a traditional meal of lamb and potatoes.


We climbed into our bed in the back of Dodgy at around midnight and woke several times during the night to the sound of heavy rain pounding on the roof. I resigned myself to a week bogged in the red mud and waited for daybreak.img_7195.jpgimg_7211.jpg

horse-parade.jpgDawn did indeed present a soggy scene, with water pooled all around us and a red river flowing down the racetrack. But the festive atmosphere could not be submerged . Eighty two years old medicine man Buck Navajo chanted an ancient Blessing Way prayer (‘Hozhoojf’) and soon hundreds of men, women and children were running, walking, wrestling, throwing basketballs and heaving on the tug-o-war rope in spirited celebration. A huge grader ran relentlesly up and down the race track between events, digging channels to drain the water


By 10.30am the grading and the fierce Arizona sun had the track ready for the horse races. Horses of all breeds and sizes assembled at the far end of the track raced the 700 mtrs in groups of 5 or 6 at breakneck speed, many slewing and skidding in the soft mud at the end of the track. The races continued at 10 minute intervals, to huge applause and cheering. Each winner was lauded over the blaring loud speaker, then forgotten as the next group thundered down the track. The horse racing gave way to competitive carnival games for the children and consuming vast quantities of Navajo fry bread and cola.

I’ll let the pictures tell the story. race-1.jpgrace-2.jpg

By late afternoon everyone was exzhausted and, along with around 1000 other cars, we eased Dodgie through the red mud and corrugations, towards the paved highway which led back to Tuba city around 200 miles to the south.


Tuba City

August 14, 2007

I’ll just write a little, as Pete is going to post photos today, Tuba City, was a little like Tenant Creek, and Derby, nothing to write home about, BUT, the people make it! The hospital staff were 90% Indian, the trip to Hopi was spellbinding, the reception from doctors, nurses, and staff at their CME (lunch time educational sessions) with interesting questions about oz, was all fantastic. The initial shock after green Flagstaff, made me want to keep heading north, but after several days with some many great people, I found myself enjoying it all. Our host Michelle was the reason, she was energetic, motivated and positive that everyone wanted to meet us!. She organised Pete to show environmental and dog slides, which added to our attraction. The Community Health Reps are the same as our Aboriginal Health Workers, so I was able to connect and show case AHW/ and Aboriginal health. They keep asking me what kangaroo tastes like! We’ve settled on deer, rather than chicken.

Better, go, have a meeting here at Window Rock, but stay tuned for pictures of the amazing Canyon De Shelly. Julie


Escape from Phoenix, – North to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon!

August 8, 2007

Another week in scorching Phoenix, planning, e-mailing and for Julie, a visit to a community action group on the Indian reserve at Gila River, just to the south. Julie made contact with several health services and communities in the Canyon regions of North Arizona and Tim, our Navajo landlord, invited us to join his family at an annual festival and horseracing Pioneer Day Carnival held by the Navajo at the base of their sacred mountain on the Arizona/Utah border.

By Tuesday evening plans had been laid and we loaded up Dodgy, our newly acquired 1993 Dodge Caravan, and edged out into the peak hour freeway traffic to escape the heat and chaos of Phoenix. Well, that was our intention! Dodgy had a tendency to wander to the left (we later discovered the tyres were awfully flat) and Pete was driving on the wrong side of the road for the first time in a long while. Throw in the unfamiliar freeway system at peak hour and a few detours due to roadworks and you will appreciate that the tension in the car was increasing. Jules was frantically unravelling maps and trying to read road signs, Dodgy was veering out of his lane and Pete was adding a parkinsonian rhythm to the drive. Needless to say exit 208 slipped by on our right while Dodgy was in the left lane and we were in unknown territory.

An hour later, after several chaotic circuits of downtown Phoenix, many heated exchanges between the driver and navigator and several near misses we finally rejoined the highway north to Flagstaff.


Flagstaff, what a joy to the eyes and our heat stressed bodies. Phoenix had hovered around 110F (43C) for most of the time we had been there. Flagstaff was green and set amongst trees and the temperature was around 22° when we arrived in the evening. It is a beautiful little city, set amongst green hills and with historic downtown area oozing charm.


We ate a fine mix of Mexican and southern cuisine and cruised highway 66 looking for a motel. We settled for Motel Americana, seduced by its glitzy sign, only to find the rooms rather less attractive. We unpacked are essentials from dodgy and settled in a good night’s sleep.

What we didn’t realise was that route 66 followed the railway line out of town and the cheaper motels, including Motel Americana were all set back from the road against the railway line. Flagstaff is known as a railway junction town, a junction for the many railways crisscrossing America and a train goes through town on average every 20 minutes. Flagstaff also has railway crossings every two blocks and every train blows its whistle at every railroad crossing in the town, some times sustaining the blast right to the town. By 3.30am the charm of Flagstaff had faded.

The Grand Canyon

Next day we headed to the Grand Canyon. There is little I can say about the Grand Canyon that has not been said already. It is spectacular and awe-inspiring, and photos cannot do it justice. I have included some despite limitations.


We spent the night camped in Dodgy in a shaded campsite not far from the rim. Next morning we walked along a room and bused to some of the more scenic spots. A great time.