Oh my god, it's 6am and I am up getting dressed for the grand tour of the Grand Canyon. I only arrived yesterday didn't I?
I am hoping upon hoping that Betty's Diner is open as I can't go far without food. Yay it's open! Juice, tea, fruit and a croissant for old time's sake! I have checked where the tour bus will pick me up but I am not feeling confident with what I have been told. I go up the escalator to go down on a different one but end up in a different place. The automatic doors don't open so I push and pull and nothing happens. Uh oh! I make my way back through the only way I know for sure and go around the building. I check AGAIN with the valet where I should be and he points and says "see those orange poles?" "the yellow ones?" I say. He says "yes". I don't quite believe him as I am waiting and begin to get (more) nervous. My mind comes up with all the scenarios of what is going to happen if I don't get picked up and as I am beside myself with anxiety a bus pulls up and Sean jumps out and says "you must be Tracey, I was waiting for you down there". "Oh yes I am and I am so happy to see you. I knew I was in the wrong place." etc etc! I didn't go on about it and bother him as there was no point, he was here now and I am on my way to the Grand Canyon. So relieved.
We picked up a Venezualan couple and then a Quebecoisian? couple so with just 5 of us it was like a private tour, so good! We stopped off at the Vegas sign for a photo and then started on our journey. Off we go to the Mojave Desert! We drive through the Black Canyon past Lake Mead and Sean points out the water line on the cliff face. It doesn't really rain in Nevada so the water is evaporating very very quickly. You can see from my photos how much in the last few years alone how much the level has gone down. On to Boulder City where we make a pit stop to pick up snacks and Sean gets some bottled water for us all. I had to buy a pen as mine stopped working in the car and I needed to take notes for my journal. On the road again I was the only one asking questions and talking (what a surprise!) and I thought, oh dear, it might be a long day.
Our first official stop is Hoover Dam and as we get off the bus I spy a real live desert cactus. As we are walking up to the new bypass to get a view of the dam I see lots of mini rock pyramids that are clearly man made. I ask Sean what it is all about and he says tourists started doing that but he doesn't quite know why. I make my contribution and continue on my way. We only have a very short amount of time for photos so I walk quickly and go way past the point where I should have but I'm okay with that as I know I will catch up when it's time to return. The dam is staggering to see and once again you can see the water line on the rocks. I get my photos and run back to my group.
As we leave the dam in Nevada we drive into Arizona and past the volcano with no name. Sean doesn't know the answer so I call it Sean's Volcano. He likes that. As we pass through the Serabat Mountains some road workers are spraying the rocks in the middle of the road green. It looks very strange out here in the desert and I wonder what the purpose of it is. We turn off the highway and head into Dolan Springs, gateway to the West Rim. (I made that up but it's true geographically) Ah, trailer park life in the desert. Unfortunately these people are very poor so their choices for everything are limited. I see the ultimate trailer park porch complete with deck chairs, umbrella and various paraphenalia and take a mental note to get a photo on the way back. (I didn't spot it on the way back, damn, it would have been the perfect photo)
Sean tells us to keep an eye out for native animals and soon enough we see something ahead but they are just cows. We pass more and more cows and then Sean spies some wild horses so takes a sharp turn to get a closer look. As if the horses were actors, right on cue one of them mounts another and gives us a show. I clicked my camera just as it happened. Quite funny it was! We drive through the Joshua Tree forest which goes for miles and miles. We enter the Hualapai Tribal area as we get closer to the canyon. These are the native Indians who own the land. Sean puts the radio on and I am blasted with AC/DC, my most hated band, and then Barnsey comes on. I am in hell! All I need now is Nickelback and I will be on fire in hell.
Finally we arrive at the first meeting point and I am packed off to my helicopter ride. The others are not joining me so they go to Eagle Point and I will meet them later. This makes me nervous as I don't want to be left behind or miss them but of course it's okay.
I am excited as I make my way over to join the group for the helicopter. It's a group of 5 Japanese who don't speak English. Oh what fun this will be.....I get placed in the front seat, oh yeah, oh yeah!!!! I have been in helicopters before so that isn't the thrill, the location is. We take off and over we go down the canyon. It is breathtaking, as you would expect, and I have a grin from ear to ear. We are only flying down to the riverside but I don't care, it is wonderful. Soon we make our way down to the pontoon where our boat collects us. One of the Japanese keeps pushing his camera to me getting me to take his photo. Of course I never take the picture he wants and he gets me to take it again and again. This happens throughout the trip and I want to shove the camera back in his face and tell him to ask his friends who can under-fucking-stand him!!!! He is like some sort of official as he stands with his hands clasped in front of him or straightening his tie. And he wants me in the photo! Do you mind? Anyway, we have a short ride down the Colorado River and it is just beautiful and so peaceful. The driver tries to get everyone to be quiet so he can give us some information but I am the only one listening so I tell him it's all for me! Then he offers to take our photos which is great but of course it is for tips.
Back onto land and whilst we are waiting for our helicopter I spy some chipmunks so I get some photos. They are so cute and very cheeky. Back in the hot seat we take a different route back to the meeting point. The Japanese group hold us up just as they have the whole time by dawdling and the guides are annoyed just like me. Now I have to take the shuttle bus to Guano Point and meet up with my group......which I do. I have a wander around and get some more photos. We have a hot lunch made by the locals. It is chicken and beef, I think, with corn, potato and beans and then a brownie for dessert. It's time to head off and we make our way back through Dolan Springs. We make a short stop at the chocolate factory which is also home to the "world's best honey". Just repeating what their sign said!!!! You can see from my photos that this quote may be a stretch of the imagination.
On the way home I just had to lay down and take a nap. We arrived back at the Strip around 4pm so I had plenty of time to do something else. I am looking forward to a hot shower and am crossing fingers that mine is fixed. It isn't. I get organised to go out exploring and then go down to reception to complain again. This time I accept another room and am told it will be ready for me in the morning. I promised my Mum I would send a text to let her know I arrived and was okay but my phone isn't working so I get on the internet. It costs 35 cents per minute with a $5 minimum. I don't get much done.
I go wandering again and visit The Venetian where the ceiling is painted as the sky so it looks like you are outside in the day time. There is a river running through the shops complete with gondolas for those wanting to take a ride. The Mirage volcano is in mid show and I get one photo. Big deal! I head over to the Fashion Mall but it is closing so I go to the food court and get something to eat and jump on the internet. It costs 25 cents per minute with a $1 minimum so I send my sister a message to pass on to Mum etc. I then email Vodafone to sort out my phone problem but my request does not send properly and I get nothing done. It's 9pm and I head back to the hotel, back through the smoky casino, up to my room and into my giant bed. I am grumpy.