The Green Tortoise Adventure: From San Francisco to Exciting Places

One day my friend Rosie Ashamalla recommended me to seriously ponder about an organization, called “Green Tortoise”, which is well-known for its amazing trips to outstanding places in the Midwest. I was nicely persuaded by this idea and decided upon taking the journey to the Grand Canyon, which ought to be the primary goal of this unforgettable trip.

After the mandatory administrative “bureaucrazy” had been successfully mastered, we were ready to go. Being a fairly international group, we were squeezed together in a somehow convertible bus that was equipped with a portable kitchen which could be easily applied to different outdoor situations.

The interior of this bus turned out to be eye-opening, since there weren’t any regular seats but the passengers had to lie on the ground with mattresses whilst facing each other. Some people even dared to choose a tiny place right beneath the roof. The bags and other luggage were safely stored upon the bus. During the often long-lasting driving, water was available in coolers and food was bought due to the necessity of a break.

The first night we slept on the bus, while Wade, an open-minded American fellow got us to a spot in the desert of Utah, where we for the first time – practiced the philosophy of outdoor cooking in midst a tidbit of shade donated by our vehicle. There, we prepared blueberry pancake, delicious fruits, coffee, and tea to mention only few attractive comestibles.

The basic principle was to assist in the cooking procedure as well as to clean up afterwards. This way of traveling was completely new to me; it didn’t ring a bell having ever experienced such a journey, emphasizing the feeling of community so strongly.

Then we continued to Needles, where we enjoyed a quick dip in the exceptionally blue Colorado River. It was superb to get a free watery refreshment strengthening our muscles for the upcoming activities. At this occasion I could already conclude, that nudity would from now on naturally belong to the daily program of such stopovers. Our nightspot was to be found near the Colorado River, where we had been surrounded by mountains and a clean sandy beach. I definitely loved these precious hours by gazing at the fancy blinking stars, seemingly detecting far away galaxies and pondering about the miracles of astrology.

Eventually, we approached the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (elevation: 7,000 ft.) where we hit the hay on a legal campground facing another great event which was on its way shortly: descending the rim down to the very bottom of the marvelous Canyon – still an imagination that was too thrilling than being reality soon. Before we got our bearings together for hiking some essential aspects had to be clarified: first of all our group consisting of about 20 people was to be split into 3 teams with each of them choosing a different tour. Wade, our driver, suggested to participate in a lottery, which primarily registered me for the Bright Angel trail.

However, I did not accept that choice and volunteered for the more off-beaten pathway, called Hermit’s Rest. So I ended up belonging to the “Smiley Faces” with Nicoletta (Italian), Philip (French), Heinz (German), and the Japanese guy. A third group had been formed to walk on the Indian Garden trail. Anyway, I was extremely glad having selected Hermit’s Rest, because this trail was described as traditional, rough, and far away from tourists. Besides, enjoying the natural quietness and the extended wildlife scenery as well as countless spots for contemplation beat everything.

The most exciting thing was the historical date of realizing this unique adventure: 8/8/88 – another event of the century. Fulfilling the obligation to be equipped with sufficient water jugs when climbing down the rim was the last but vital prerequisite which we had to comply with. It took us approximately seven hours of endless happiness to get down to heaven, i.e. the Colorado River with its torrential floods. Having made it so far, we satisfactorily sat down on almost untouched nature and absorbed this incredible feeling of beauty. Though our bones ached a lot, we didn’t want to spoil the moment and allowed ourselves a bath in a nearby water spot, ready for rejuvenation. Of course, we would know for sure, that we had to get back to the top of the rim but we were not fully aware of the efforts to come; nevertheless we felt being on cloud nine and were highly motivated to even master this task.

We were happily welcomed at our bus and headed on to Desert View, where we stopped for dinner and a gorgeous sight across to the valley of the Gods and the Painted Desert.

Our next stop on the agenda was a holy and sacred place, called Canyon de Shelley, the remains of an ancient civilization. Here we trailed down to the architecturally beautiful and nicely detailed homes of former Indian tribes. Our nightspot ought to be an uncommon place this time: since it rained cats and dogs we necessarily stayed in a shed, relishing Taco salad and Tostadas. We got the chance to chat with the local Indians, who seemed to be used having a harsh life, smoking marihuana once in a while and raising their kids in their own strict way.

One highlight still to come was obviously the Monument Valley, which I mostly recalled from famous Western movies starring John Wayne. Unfortunately, this day the whole scenery was temporarily packed with herds of tourists. Thus, I was not able to enjoy the landscape to its full extent.

Zion National park was next on our list of distinctive sites, where we almost managed to go on a horseback riding, but curiously missed it by a few minutes. The unstoppable prediction of the end of our journey caused a melancholic feeling, but was soon distracted by Wade’s idea of tossing up the entire bus, in order to have everything sorted out properly.

Next morning our final destination was Las Vegas, where we briefly dived into the neon madness, attending several gambling halls, losing/winning a few bucks, and trying to classify this last stay with our perceptions so far.

When the time had finally come to say goodbye once we reached the Natoma area again, I definitely realized that I’d been part of another overwhelming trip, which may be characterized as follows: “Variety is the spice of life”.