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So, as we saw in previous comic, we invited Andrew along to the Ceremonial parade. We spent some more time with him trekking through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest before he had to go back home. He then invited us to come over next weekend and do things in his hometown, Prescott.

Now, the thing is, Andrew is of Australian origin. As we all know, Australians are extremely tough because everything in Australia exists for the sole purpose of killing you. That's why we had Steve Irwin! So, is it any wonder that an Australian would settle in a place that is deadly enough for him to feel at home? I thought not!

Prescott is a place with some history. Once upon a time - twice, in fact, it was the capital of the Arizona territory. It houses nearly 40,000 inhabbitants, at least some of whom live on a mountainside. I learned this last part because this is where Andrew and his parents live. For a Dutchman this made the house quite peculiar: it had a front door on each level! The 'proper' front door was up a few steps; Andrew's bedroom, where we slept, was down a spiral staircase and down there was another front door:

Crazy mountain people. Anyway, Andrew showed us his little garden where he was growing edibles such as beans, pumpkins and cacti. Apparently it is fiendishly difficult to grow anything in Prescott. We had arrived during the 'rain season', meaning that there had actually been a few showers of rain. The local flora had sensibly responded to this by exploding into life, but normally the area was a lot more... Well, dead, I suppose. Andrew was therefore quite proud at the state of his garden: alive!

Afterwards we played some badbadminton - I casually note that I defeated the Beedoo!-Andrew ticket with ease - and then made our way over to the city proper, where they had a music festival going on. More of interest to me was the city itself, though:

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A point of note is the burnt down building. That building, it was explained to me, was the Bird Cage Saloon, an iconic building in Prescott. I am told that Doc Holliday used to drink there, and that it's a painful loss for the city.

After visiting the music festival Beedoo! and Andrew took me to go see the petroglyphs. I'm not sure what they are; some kind of cave drawings, presumably. Andrew drove us out to an open place where we would find them after a short hike. Upon entering the terrain he warned me: if you hear a sound like tsss! tsss!, hold very still, then step away very slowly from the poisonous rattlesnake. This warning came after his own tale of running into one during a shoveling job and the fifteen minute effort to back away up a hill of material intent on making him fall right on top of the animal. I asked for directions on what to do when bitten, but I did not get a lot more than instructions that I summarized thusly: 'die'.

The rain had turned the landscape from a desolate place into a field of green with tall grass, so I was not exactly sure how to spot any rattlesnakes, but that was okay, because Andrew was no longer sure how to spot the right trail to follow. So, we wandered into what seemed to be the right direction, but wasn't, as Andrew explained to us how the edibility/deadliness of various plants, and how entertainingly similar they sometimes look.

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Eventually an approaching thunderstorm came to kill us out in the open field so we headed back. On the way back Andrew recognised the trail we should have taken instead, and I nearly stepped on a tarantula:

Click the images for larger versions (IF YOU DARE!)

We stayed the night in Andrew's bedroom (he slept elsewhere for our sake). There I learned how incredibly hardy the local fauna is. Did you ever step barefoot on a bug only for it to scurry off unharmed? I did. It's a freaky sensation.

The next day he took us to one of the local lakes for kayaking. He had two inflatable kayaks for Beedoo! and I to use, and for himself a more traditional inflatable boat. It took some effort to get it all inflated in the hot, merciless Prescott sun, but once we were out on the water things were a lot more pleasant, and the view was lovely. For Beedoo! and I, that is. It turned out that kayaking paddles just don't work very well when not used in kayaks. So, we moved slowly accross the lake, waiting from time to time for Andrew struggling to catch up using various increasingly succesful means of propulsion.

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Eventually, just as we were getting to the beautiful part, distant thunder headed for us for another attempt at killing us. Being on open water during a thunder storm is a big no-no, so, like most people, we rushed to get off the lake. Well, most us us did. Andrew did not so much rush as struggle and splash. Eventually I went back to go and fetch him, see if I could attach him to my kayak and drag him away. A man named John from California with a real kayak and an ability to control it witnessed my efforts and kindly took over this task from me, dragging Andrew back to shore. I wish I had pictures of it (or even the man), but it seemed both rude and unwise, considering how long it would take me to get out my camera, and I couldn't take pictures and flee at the same time. We shook his hand, thought.

And after that, it was time to go. We said our goodbyes to Andrew and fled for the safety of Northern Arizona. The weather tried to follow us, but we managed to outrun it eventually:

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Whether Prescott survived, I don't know. Andrew did, but that's not saying much. He's Australian, after all.

This dragon is studying for her upcoming exam (RIGHT?) Well, my exam is over, so I guess I can make a post now. With that out of hte way, you should see me churning out more posts... as long as Arno gets around to doing his part for them. ;)

We happened to be visiting Arizona and New Mexico in the heart of monsoon season. The days begin sunny, with dark clouds gathering, it rains somewhere between noon and midafternoon, and then the clouds clear off by nightfall. For the desert states, this is when we get a majority of our precipitation... the other bit comes in varying amounts of snowfall during the winter. This is, then, the time of summer when everything grows as fast as it can, to reproduce before everything dries up again. I was as surprised as Andy was at how lush the trails were... the one we were supposed to have taken was almost completely hidden! Unfortunately, this not only meant we were getting ourself kind of lost, but the monsoon moved in over us and it started raining. I love the rain (most of us in the desert celebrate it!), but I don't love being IN the rain. It sucks trying to see through rain-spattered glasses.

Also during the wet season, the bugs come out en masse. That, and Andy has set up his own water collection system (a handy thing for the desert, especially when one is trying to garden there) and he had thus several barrels of water... The combination of the two, of course, means mosquitos. I don't know what it is about this year, but I have never had so many bug bites since I was 12 (when, incidentally, my family went to El Morro). I just got eaten to pieces this year... I think I had 14 bites at once.

I've been kayaking with Andy on Watson Lake before... it's a beautiful place with wonderful surrounding rock formations. I'm sad that Arno didn't get to paddle around more than we did, but we couldn't leave Andy behind, flailing around with his half-inflated raft. There was that, and he also only had one short paddle, due to some parts going missing on him. I'm kind of impressed he got out as far as he did... but having someone tow him back was probably for the best. It's not like the storm was right on top of us, but when you hear thunder, you don't stick around until it IS on top of you. So with these two incidents, we had three failed (but still fun) excursions. After dragging the boats out of the water, we headed to another lake, Willow Lake, for a picnic and a short hike around. So we had a good time down there. It's nice to have a friend to visit relatively close when I'm back home. ;)

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