Friday 6th November. We arrive at Gouldings, our overnight accommodation, late in the afternoon. Once again, it is fantastic. Gouldings is an authentic and intrinsic part of the history and future of this area, employing a large number of the Navajo nation living on the reservation today. It consists of a number of buildings, apart from the lodge itself, including a museum, small movie theatre, restaurant, general store and petrol station. That is pretty much it for the immediate area other than a hotel/restaurant in process of being completed and visitor centre, both on the reservation itself.
The museum is the original Trading Post built by Harry and Mike Goulding when they decided to set up home in the valley amongst the Navajo shortly after their marriage in the 1920's. The ground floor of the 2 story building is set out as it would have been all those many years ago. The former store rooms at the back houses the collection of movie memorabilia, the Gouldings being credited with bringing Hollywood to Monument Valley. Many famous films have been made here and over the years film director John Ford became firm friends with the Gouldings and the local Navajo people. Indeed, one particular view point on the mesa, is named John Ford Point.
There is even a small cabin built for the film "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" and used by John Wayne's character, preserved as an exhibit today.
The small movie theatre shows a John Wayne film every night free of charge to guests of the lodge (as you can imagine hundreds of westerns have been filmed here and the "Duke" was a regular to the area). The Searchers was showing the night of our stay but Tony refuses to watch any film shot before 1985!
Instead we wandered over to the restaurant where Tony comes over all cowboy and orders the pork and green jalapeno chilli stew with Navajo fry bread. I felt brave just ordering the pasta, this being the only option on the menu which didn't seem to include hot peppers in some form. I had a great view of the sun setting over the valley. Upon mentioning it to Tony, I was immediately abandoned whilst he shucked his cowboy persona in favour of a David Bailey moment. Personally, I think he was struggling to cope with the stew and saw it as his chance to secretly down a pint of cold water.
Anyway yet another early night is in order as we have booked ourselves on another early morning tour. So after Tony is kicked off the internet by a particularly aggressive octogenarian with a striking blue rinse, we retire for the night.
The next morning, the tour was taken by a Navajo guide who grew up on the reservation, Preston - not a traditional Navajo name I'm thinking! The road is little more than a dirt track and, as Preston drove at break neck speed (20 mph), plumes of red dust was kicked up (the vast majority landing directly on my hair as it returned to earth). Obviously, the tour was amazing as we took in sites that were very familiar to us; to me from the old westerns and to Tony from "Forest Gump" which he'd fortuitously watched for the first time a week earlier. We made a number of stops at particular sites of interest, some of which had trestles set up from which the locals were selling their hand made jewellery and baskets. At one such trading post, one enterprising Navajo was offering the opportunity to pose for a photo on his old nag for $2.00. Tony, never shy of being photographed looking a complete moron, couldn't be talked out of this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Because we were on the Gouldings tour, we were permitted access to some private areas of the reservation. During the tour, Preston reminisced about growing up on the reservation and sang a couple of Navajo songs before delivering us safely back to the Lodge.
On our way out of the valley, we occupied ourselves trying to figure out on which road Tom Hanks, in the guise of Forest Gump, runs down in the movie of the same name. I happen to look out of the rear view window (something I've gotten out of the habit of doing because it's very rare that there actually is a car behind you) and excitedly shout to Tony, in true panto style, "it's behind you". Big mistake because Tony then made me pull over (there is nowhere to pull over other than on the brush at the side of the road) and take his picture running along the road a la Forest. He made me take four pictures before he was satisfied with my efforts - the boy is a total drama queen!
Next it's the Grand Canyon!
PS. Forgot to mention that on the drive to Monument Valley we saw our first ever Coyote. Unfortunately, it was a dead coyote, it had gone to sing with the choir invisible, it had shuffled off it's mortal coil or rather an automobile had assisted in shuffling off it's mortal coil! Weirdly, we were still excited about seeing one despite the unfortunate circumstances.