We finally arrived in Phoenix just before midnight last night and headed off optimistically to the rental car base. Geoff had rung the company yesterday to arrange a size upgrade to get us through the last leg of our trip from Phoenix to LA. They had told him the upgrade would be no problem and we should just organise it at the depot in Phoenix. No such luck. They had very few cars in the lot at all and nothing in the 'van' range that we were looking for. Eventually they found us a mid size SUV and a new charge for more than DOUBLE our original quote. Given that we'd already pre paid for our original car and it was midnight and we had no other option, we forked over the extra $850 , jammed our bags (which are looking a little worse for wear after yet another TSA check!) into the boot and checked in to the nearest La Quinta. It was a very expensive day!
A few hours sleep and our favourite 'brightside' breakfast helped us to be more philosophical about the financial frustrations of the previous day. The weather in Phoenix was a glorious. The sky is the same clear blue of the Waikato in NZ and today it was cloudless and windless. I think I expected to see desert in Phoenix but I'm not sure I understood that the whole city is desert and that desert is actually very beautiful. Taine has been hanging out to see a giant cactus and he wasn't disappointed. They are, literally, everywhere. As are the big red rocks that rise out of the desert plain like painted concrete sculptures. The colour palette is brown on brown and there is a noticeable lack of water sources. There are really no gardens to speak of except for succulents and the occasional splash of red bougainvillea. It is a unique environment and one that I have never seen the like of before.
We drove to the South Mountain park and were treated to spectacular views over the city. I was disappointed with my photos because they don't show the different depths and levels of colour and so the landscape looks bland. I wish I had a 3D camera! The drive up and down the mountain was straight out of Radiator Springs and 'Cars'.
Then we went to Papago Park and climbed the Hole in the Rock. This is one of the red sandstone rock formations that dot the city. An open cavern at the front of the rock is connected to the back via a large hole and so you can climb up the back and through the hole to sit in the cave chamber and look out over the city. Apparently the Hohokam who were early inhabitants of the area, used the sunlight patterns through the hole to judge time and seasons. Pretty cool. We stayed up there and watched the sun set over the city.