John Ford shot a lot of movies in Monument Valley (10 in all!), many with John Wayne. Stagecoach, The Searchers, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, My Darling Clementine, etc. Ford's films are so associated with this area, that the locals even named a spot after him (see pic above).
Of course, Ford isn't the only filmmaker to use Monument Valley as a backdrop in his films. Other films to feature scenes shot on location there include: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Once Upon a Time in the West, Forrest Gump, Back to the Future III, Thelma & Louise, National Lampoon's Vacation and The Eiger Sanction, plus many more.
Of course, as great as this place looks on film, it's 10 times more impressive when you're actually there.
The following is an archive trip report from a now-defunct blog.
Flew into Manila on the afternoon of February 1st, leaving cold, winter-grey Osaka for sunnier climes. Bought a domestic ticket pretty much immediately after landing and flew down to Leyte in the Visayas, to visit my good friend Tim Willis.
Tim, a native of Colorado, works at the same Japanese university I do (and in point of fact, is the person who helped get me a job there...Thanks again, Tim!)
Tim is an avid scuba diver and instructor (and a heckuva cool guy), and his lovely girlfriend Desiree happens to be a dive master as well (not that she had much choice, with Tim as a boyfriend!)
Tim and Dess were doing a "working holiday" at Peter's Dive Resort in sleepy little Padres Burgos, in the southeastern island of Leyte, so I decided to visit them there.
Padres Burgos is at the southernmost tip of Leyte (right near that little tear-drop island):
WWII history buffs will likely recognize the name of the island, as a huge, dramatic and decisive naval battle took place near there in late October, 1944.
It doesn't look far judging from the map, but take my word for it, it takes a LONG time to get from the main city, Tacloban, in the north, down to Maasin and nearby Padres Burgos.
That pretty much describes travel of any sort in the Philippines...it takes a loooooong time. But it's worth it when you finally get to your destination...
I stayed in a budget room on the 2nd floor (right below where that little peaked A-shaped attic is), next door to Tim and Dess. A nice, clean, simple room, with a patio overlooking the beach.
Tim and I would sit on the rough-hewn wooden chairs on our respective patios at night, boring Dess to death yakking about work and watching the stars. All for $12 a night (for me, that is. Tim and Dess got their room and board for free, as well as some cash for every dive they led. He's a sneaky one, that Tim...)
Not bad at all.
Speaking of Dess, here she is (as it turned out, I never got a chance to dive with Tim. But luckily Dess was on my boat for every dive.)
Another reason I had come to Leyte was all the talk of whale sharks frequenting the vicinity (Tim and Dess saw them many times in the same area last year -- including one just a few meters offshore from the resort!)
In case anyone is unaware, this is what they look like:
Unfortunately, the whale sharks apparently heard I was coming (my reputation preceding me), and made themselves scarce.
I still managed to get some good dives in, at least. Here's several shots of me and some other guests and crew on the (rather ironically named) resort dive boat, Whale Shark 2.
These were taken at the most famous dive site in the area, called Napantao. Very pristine coral here, gorgeously colorful, lots of small fish, good visability, warm water, nice company...just no whale sharks!
As you can see, it was a beautiful spot and a beautiful day.
This nice weather virtually disappeared after I left Leyte, however. Pretty much the rest of my 3 weeks in the Philippines was a rainy mess (thanks to a freak pressure system hanging over the entire country, right in the midst of the dry season).
But while I was in Leyte, the weather, and everything else (save for the MIA whale sharks) was fine.
The only email access (at least that was working) was in the town of Maasin, about 24 km to the north. Peter and some of his staff would go here every day, to buy food and supplies for the resort at the markets.
Walking around the countryside and in the small villages surrounding Peter's Resort and Padres Burgos made a nice alternative to diving.
I liked how the locals cut little footholds in the coconut trees, making a sort of living ladder to go up and collect the fruit.
Filipinos are also rather fond of their cattle, called carabao.
And here's Peter, the very nice Aussie bloke who owns the resort and discovered a lot of the local dive sites:
On my last night in Leyte, Tim, Dess and I had a farewell dinner:
A Chinese group at the table next to us were celebrating their last night as well, with a nice, slow-roasted Kahlua pig. The chef had run out of apples, so he put a mango in the porker's mouth instead. (That'll do, pig.)
Hassan, chop! The chef in action.
The staff at Peter's were great, from the dive and boat crews, to the restaurant staff and the cute waitresses.
All too soon, it was time to leave Tim, Dess and the lovely, mellow, friendly people of Leyte behind (would have stayed longer, but the resort is popular, and every room was booked for the next 6 weeks!)
So it was time for another cramped minivan ride back up to the main city, Tacloban, and a (equally cramped, but cheap) Cebu Pacific flight to Manila.
That's it for now...till next time!