The unparalleled panorama of staggeringly beautiful scenery was nearly lost in the heat haze that shimmered off the tarmac as we made our way steadily along route US163. Fortunately Lucy was driving, allowing me to soak up the views from the car window as the landscape, completely overwhelming in both its majesty and its size, swept serenely by. Lucy and I had arrived in Las Vegas five days earlier with four other friends. Principal among them was Helen, good friend to both of us and also bride to be. Tentative plans for her hen night in a pub back home had escalated beyond reason as we had goaded each other into ever bolder and grander plans to celebrate her last single night. We eventually found ourselves booking a ten day jaunt to Las Vegas. The myriad of delights on offer to tantalise both discerning and undiscerning visitors alike had proved too much of a draw for all six of us. While we’d booked into the Stratosphere Hotel for the duration of our stay, we’d sampled the delights of the Bellagio Fountains, The Fall of Atlantis at Caesars Palace and Freemont Street’s illuminated canopy. I’d had an incredible amount of fun in more hotels, casinos and attractions than I could remember, though finding a way back out of any of them was often a Herculean task. To this day I don’t think the word “exit” formed part of the language of any Las Vegas establishment. We had another four days to fill before Virgin Atlantic was scheduled to whisk us back to normality and the dreary grey skied autumnal weather of London. While Las Vegas had been amazing fun, I fancied spending time somewhere far more natural and away from general hubbub of the city and the strip. I managed to persuade Lucy to hire a car with me and run off into the wild for a few days to see some of the desert and canyons that seemed to pretty much surround the city. After a quick trip to see Hertz and a bit of credit card magic, we soon found ourselves speeding out of the city on I-15 towards Mesquite. We spent a day each at Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. They were both stunning in their own way, but as I pored over the map in the motel in Page after a day at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, I hoped the best was yet to come. I saw something on the map that took me completely by surprise. My dad had always been a massive John Wayne fan. He’d made me watch all his Westerns over and over again while I was growing up. “Get yourself to Monument Valley,” he’d said, before I left for the airport. “Take loads of photographs for me and make your dad jealous.” After he’d positively raved for half an hour about the possibility of me going there, I hadn’t really thought any more about it. I knew Monument Valley was in the western states somewhere, but that was about the limit of my knowledge. Yet there it was, staring at me from the map. I estimated it to be about another three or four hours drive eastwards from Page. We weren’t due back in Las Vegas until the following night, so that should be enough time to enable Lucy and I to get there and back within the day. We could stay overnight again in Page that evening, before making the long drive back to Las Vegas tomorrow. Providing Lucy agreed, it was a perfect plan! “We’re going to Monument Valley today Lucy,” I said somewhat matter of factly as she jumped out of the shower. “What’s that? And where is it?” she replied inquisitively, as she towelled herself off. I was so happy when, after explaining my plan and what some photos would mean to my dad, she agreed to spend the day there. So there we were, cruising along US163 at a steady fifty five miles an hour towards Monument Valley. The sun was glorious and the orange and red sandstone formations got ever grander as we neared our destination. After a long, but incredibly scenic drive, we eventually reached the entrance to the Valley. While it was the most amazingly sunny and hot day, I was stunned to see there was a sign on the road by the entrance station that said the Valley was closed due to bad weather. I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Really? Bad weather!” I thought. Lucy pulled the car kaçak iddaa up to the pay booth and wound the window down. “It’s gorgeously sunny. I can’t see a cloud in the sky,” I said to the ranger at the entrance. “Closed due to bad weather. Why’s that?” “You wouldn’t know it with the sunshine an’ all ma’am,” he replied, “But we had a nasty storm come through last night. It dumped a lot of rain on the trails through the Valley. The sand looks fine to drive on from a distance, but if we let you folks drive through, you’d be bogged down within yards. I’m sorry.” I was gutted. We’d driven all that way only to be turned down at the gate. My dad would never forgive me for not getting some good photos for him, especially since I’d texted him from the motel the night before to say I was going there. The ranger could obviously sense my disappointment. “You’re welcome to drive on through to the Visitor Centre. It’s tarmac up to there. I won’t charge you for that, but there’s no way we can let folk drive on the trails,” he said. “You’ll still get a pretty good view of the Valley from the ridge the Centre sits on,” he added. “Okay thanks. Is there no other way to see the Valley?” I asked. “Well, the car trails only go certain places anyway. You could try Abayo Horse Tours,” he suggested. “It’s a father and daughter team. They run horse trips through the park. The horses are fine with the wet sand.” “Umm, okay,” I said after a moment pause for thought. “Where can I find them?” “If you go about two miles further down US163, you’ll see a sign for them pointing off to the right. It’s quite a small track, but it’s paved, so you’ll be fine with the car. They’re about another mile or so up there. They normally leave early morning though, so I expect you’ll have missed them by now.” Lucy had this you are so not going to get me on a horse look on her face as the ranger gave the directions. Truth be told, I’d never been on a horse in my life. The nearest I’d ever got was having a My Little Pony when I was about four or five. I don’t remember liking anything equine then, let alone now! Still, I really wanted to get some snaps for my dad. “Come on Lucy. We’ve come all this way. Can’t we at least check it out?” I said, with the most pathetically big eyed pleading face I could muster. “Pleeease.” “Sure,” she said. “But there is no way in this world you’re getting me on horse.” We thanked the ranger at the gate and drove further on down the road until we saw the Abayo Horse Tours sign. Lucy flipped on the indicator before making a tight right hand turn onto a narrow track, barely wide enough for the car. It ran almost perpendicular to the road, before looping off in the distance behind a large sandstone outcrop. I had no idea what to expect from Abayo Horse Tours, but as we rounded the outcrop and their business came into view, I was stunned by just how rustic but endearing it looked. There were three large and permanent looking wigwams flanked by a large corral. The wigwams were covered in gorgeous and very bright designs that reflected the best of the surrounding scenery of the Valley. In the corral were three horses happily munching on some hay. Littered all round the site was a seemingly random jumble of horse tack, including saddles, stirrups, bridles, reins and bits. The sound of our car’s tyres moving from the paved track to the gravel floor in front of the wigwams brought forward a girl from the far left hand one of the three. Even from a distance she looked gorgeous. She had long, straight and very dark hair that was tied back in a pony tail with some feathers slipped through the knot. While she wore jeans and trainers, the shawl she wore over her upper body was quite obviously traditional Navajo wear, with a vivid pattern of bright reds and blacks. The shawl was neatly tied with a sash round the waist, with the material falling just below the knee. As she approached the car, I could see she was at least of partial Navajo descent, with bright emerald green eyes and full lips. She was very slim, but even with the baggy shawl I could tell that despite kaçak bahis her slim figure, she still had very full but pert breasts. The combination of western and traditional clothing was very alluring, perhaps more so as I also thought this girl was stunning. “Yah’eh-teh,” she said to Lucy and I as we climbed out of the car. “Excuse me?” I replied. I think Lucy and I were both lost for words as neither of us had a clue what the girl had just said. “It means hello,” she replied, smiling at both of us. “Yah’eh-teh is the Navajo word for hello. I love saying it. It’s so much more fun that just hello. Anyway, can I help you guys?” “We wanted to see the Valley,” I said. “We were turned away at the main entrance because of rain last night and the ranger suggested you might be able to help us. Can you?” “Our trips usually leave in the morning. My dad runs those. He left at nine with a group of about eight. They spend the day in the Valley, camp out overnight and get back here about the same time tomorrow morning. I usually stay back and look after the business here. It’s pretty slow at the minute, so I’d be happy to take you two out on my own and catch them up. I know their route and can shortcut to it. How does that sound?” I looked at Lucy. She had that I’m not going on a horse look on her face again. This time the look was more pronounced as camping out had been thrown into the list of possibilities too. “I want to do it,” I said to Lucy. “It sounds fun and a bit of an adventure. The girls in Vegas wouldn’t believe we’d done it. Are you in?” Lucy pondered for a moment but then gave the answer that I was expecting. “It’s really not my thing, but I don’t want you to miss out. We passed some motels a few miles back. I think one or two had pools. I’ll go back there and have a relax for the afternoon in the pool, get some take away and have a comfy bed. I don’t mind picking you up tomorrow morning,” she said. “You can do the drive back to Vegas though,” she added. “That’s the price.” “Deal,” I replied. The whole thing seemed crazy. Horse rides and camping out, and all with my own amazingly stunning and very personal guide. “I’m coming,” I said to the girl. “But my friend isn’t. Is the trip still good for just one?” She smiled and said, “Sure. I’ll ready a couple of horses if you want to get some stuff together. By the way, my name’s Ajei. What’s yours? “I’m Katie,” I replied. “Ajei, is that a Navajo name?” “Well, nice to meet you Katie, and yep,” she said. “It’s Navajo for ‘my heart’. I kinda like it.” “It’s beautiful. This is going to be so much fun!” I giggled to Ajei. “You’re lovely too!” I was so excited I couldn’t help just blurting those last three words out. I realised immediately that I’d been totally unable to stop myself giving her a very flirty compliment. I held my breath and looked somewhat sheepishly at Ajei to see what sort of response she’d give. She blushed bright red and then, after what seemed like an eternity, replied, “I’ll make sure you have a great adventure, Katie. We’ll definitely have fun!” Ajei winked playfully at me. I wasn’t sure what the wink meant, but she didn’t seem at all worried about the flirt and had even returned one of her own. We agreed a price for the trip and while I got together a few bits and pieces of overnight stuff from my suitcase in the boot of the car, Ajei saddled two horses ready for us. “See you tomorrow morning then. Have a fun adventure,” said Lucy with a playful grin on her face before she drove off to find a motel. I suspect she already knew I fancied Ajei. She probably also thought I now had an ulterior motive for the trip besides taking photos. “Do you need help getting on the horse?” Ajei asked. “I have no idea how to,” I replied. “Why don’t you show me and I’ll see if I can do it.” “Okay, watch me then,” Ajei said. She took the reins in her the left hand and then held the pommel of the saddle. She placed her left foot in the stirrup and then reached her right hand over to the back of the saddle. One small spring from her right foot followed by a deft swing of her leg illegal bahis over the back of the horse and Ajei slid perfectly into the saddle. It all looked so easy! Ajei looked at me and smiled. “Think you can do that?” she asked. “I watched you very very closely,” I said, nodding my head and winking at her again. “I’ll give it a go.” I tried to copy Ajei’s movements but failed miserably in my first three attempts to mount the horse. “Here, I’ll help. Do you mind if I hold you while you get on?” Ajei asked. “Be my guest. I think I need all the help I can get. And please, hold me all you like,” I replied, giving Ajei another subtle smile. Ajei put her hands on my hips. Even the merest touch of her hands on my body brought goose bumps to my arms. She smiled back at me as she saw the involuntary reaction I’d given to her touch. “We’ll go on three,” she said. “One…two…three.” On three, I pushed myself up and pulled at the saddle as hard as I could. I could feel Ajei’s hands slide over my hips, briefly cup the cheeks of my bum, before sliding down my thighs as she gave me the extra shove I needed to finally clamber over the horse and steady myself in the saddle. “Phew. Thanks,” I said. “Believe me, the pleasure was all mine,” Ajei replied, winking again at me. As we moved off down the track into the Valley I couldn’t help but gaze at Ajei. The sway of her breasts beneath her shawl and the bounce of her firm but shapely thighs as her body moved in perfect rhythm to the gentle trots of the horse was utterly mesmerising. I’m sure my own body wasn’t quite as graceful, but I was flattered to see Ajei’s gaze often drawn to me as my horse trotted along beside hers. I’d only known her an hour or so, yet in that short time we’d shared some very innocent but perhaps meaningful flirts. We’d also smiled and winked at each other several times. Was this building to something far more special than winks and flirts? I certainly hoped so. Ajei and I spent a lazy afternoon riding round the Valley. The scenery was truly magnificent. Everywhere I looked, miles and miles of orange and red hued sandstone masterpieces towered into the sky. Dotted amongst them, fragile pinnacles of rock seemed to defy gravity as they also clawed their way upwards. The mesmerising autumnal colours of the Valley were broken up by a plethora of trees and shrubs, comprising every shade of green I had ever seen. Windblown sand covered all the trails, forming pretty patterned mini dunes wherever the accumulations were deep enough. The entire Valley was framed by scenic clouds that had bubbled up during the day as the previous night’s rain had eventually evaporated away and the clouds cast beautiful shadows that graciously roamed across the desert floor. As the afternoon wore on and dusk approached, the angle of the setting sun increasingly accentuated these graceful formations. All day I had been completely spellbound by the Valley and had taken hundreds of pictures for my dad. I’d also been spellbound by Ajei’s company. She was not only gorgeous but incredibly easy to talk to, and I’d enjoyed chatting pretty much constantly with her throughout the afternoon. We’d laughed, joked and told stories about our completely different lives in America and England. All day I’d been expecting us to catch up with her dad and the larger tour group. Secretly I hoped we never did. I selfishly didn’t want to share Ajei with anyone else that night. Even if nothing happened between us, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect end to the day than to share a campfire with Ajei while we talked and giggled together late into the night. As the sun finally kissed the horizon and darkness started to fall my wish came true. “We’ll stop and camp here tonight if that’s okay,” Ajei said. “What about your dad and the rest of the tour group?” I asked. “Um, I have a confession to make,” Ajei said, looking somewhat embarrassed but also a little mischievous too. “We won’t be meeting up with them. This afternoon’s been so much fun. I think you’ve felt that too. When I first saw you, you said I was lovely. The feeling’s mutual, Katie. You’re simply stunning and I’ve just had the best afternoon. I didn’t want to spoil any of that. I hope you don’t mind?” “Don’t mind?” I replied, blushing what was probably a very deep red.