Dream now, travel later! Ideas for the time after Corona.
Arizona with a Navajo. Join us on a tour from Phoenix via Flagstaff, Grand Canyon and Horseshoe Bend to Monument Valley. A journey through XXL landscapes and through the history of the First Nations. Back to the roots!
I look around in vain to find resigned: No, there are actually no coffee cups here. “Sorry, sir!” Says the very friendly service lady and points to a stack of plastic cups. I’m not in a cheap takeout or a gas station.
I’m in the executive lounge of a five-star hotel in Phoenix, the capital of the US state of Arizona. But the cups for the breakfast coffee are made of plastic. In terms of wasted resources, the region is a nightmare anyway: high temperatures in summer and freezing temperatures in winter ensure that air conditioning systems run around the clock and average power consumption is twice as high as in the rest of the USA. That’s the page.
The other: spectacular landscapes, many national parks, species-rich flora and fauna, a dry, almost always sunny climate. The southwest of the USA with the states Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado is four times the size of Germany and an almost perfect travel destination for nature lovers.
Arizona: Long Road for the Native Americans
There is also a special story: First the high cultures of the Anasazi and Hohokam Indians established themselves here, then those of the Pueblo on the Rio Grande and the Hopi in Arizona. Traces of old Indian settlements can still be found, for example in the White House Ruins in Arizona’s Chimney Valley, which are said to be around 1,000 years old.
It took a long time for the traditions and language of the “Native Americans” to be recognized. The settlement areas of the Native Americans are now largely administered autonomously, many of them run their own tourism projects, especially hotels or agencies. Like Donovan Hanley, tour guide and managing director of Detours American West.
On the Apache Trail through Arizona
Donovan picks us up at the hotel in Mesa. It starts with the Apache Trail, an old stagecoach route through the Apache region. The trail runs through the Superstition Mountains, a mountain range northeast of Phoenix. After a short drive we reach the Superstition Mountain Museum. There Jeff Danfort leads us through the exhibition, which deals with the eventful history of the Apache Trail.
Jeff points to the photos of the Buffalo Soldiers, the African American soldiers who fought for freedom from slavery on the Northern side during the American Civil War. The Indians called the soldiers that because the soldiers’ often curly hair reminded them of the mane of buffalo.
Other pictures show Geronimo, the famous Apache chief who, for 20 years, used guerrilla tactics to wage a hopeless but all the more bitter struggle against the settlers and the US cavalry. In 1886 he surrendered and died in a reservation in 1909. Jeff emphasizes the intention of the exhibition: “We want to keep everyone’s historical legacy in mind, that is, from Indians, cowboys and gold prospectors.”
Highnoon in Goldfield Ghost Town
Just a good mile away is Goldfield Ghost Town, the largest settlement in Arizona with around 1,200 inhabitants in 1893 and an important outpost during the heyday of gold mining. Visitors can sniff a bit of the flair of gold prospecting along the main street, let themselves be guided through the (replicated) gold mine and then stop off at the “Mammoth Saloon”, where hearty cuisine is served, of course, and where posters by John Wayne adorn the walls. The place is a very tourist homage to the Wild West. Oatman and the decaying Ruby are more authentic.
Navajos, the largest “nation” in Arizona
Donovan belongs to the Navajo people. With more than 320,000 members, they are one of the largest tribes of the Native Americans. Donovan speaks of “nation” when he means tribe.
The word reservation, as the regions in which the different tribes live, is not popular, Donovan continues. It still sounds like what it was once intended for: exclusion. Better be nation country. Navajo also call themselves Diné, translated: the people. Many of them still live in their traditional houses, the hogans, mostly hexagonal buildings made of wood, clay and stone.
“Americans are great at looking down on other countries and cultures and telling them what they’re doing wrong. And they believe that they are doing everything right themselves, ”says Donovan. “That’s why they never really admitted to themselves what they did wrong with treating Native Americans.” Much has changed in recent years, the culture of Native Americans is being cultivated, promoted – and, above all, respected.
In the saddle to the saguaro cacti
The “Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch”, our accommodation for the next few nights, is not far from Saguaro Lake, directly on the Salt River. Built in 1928, there are 24 small bungalows, widely distributed over the site, spartanly furnished, without TV, without WiFi. One should concentrate on nature.
Our early morning ride gives us that cowboy feeling, even if we as riders shouldn’t look as elegant as John Wayne. And here they are everywhere, in the hundreds, thousands: the cacti, the symbol of the Wild West. There are around 300 species, the name Saguaro – which is roughly pronounced: Sawaroh – comes from the language of the Native Americans, it is the largest cactus species in the USA.
They can be up to 200 years old, weigh up to ten tons and 15 meters high. The typical arms only grow after around 80 years. Thunderstorms in summer and a lot of rain in winter provide the large cactus forests with sufficient moisture.
Arizona icons: Route 66 and Grand Canyon
Winslow is on Route 66. Since the Eagles in their song “Take it easy” the place with “Well, I’m a standin ‘on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. Such a fine sight to see. It’s a girl, my lord, in a flat-bed Ford. Slowin ‘down to take a look at me… “Every tourist wants to be photographed on this corner to set a monument. The residents of Winslow market their homeland with humor: “Winslow: 30 miles from water, 2 feet from hell” reads in brochures.