One of our more memorable moments in Vegas was not actually had anywhere near sin city, nor even in the gambling state of Nevada, but rather over a hundred miles east to the Grand Canyon.
In hindsight, I was just a little overenthusiastic with our booking. The day we arrived in Vegas, I booked our tour to the grand canyon for the next day.
We awoke bleary-eyed to the sound of our wake-up call and dragged ourselves through the width of the Luxor over to the furthest entrance to the Excalibur. After waiting for the last remaining passengers to hop on board, we took a quick bus ride to the location of our tour bus. Sarah and I sat at the back of the bus and got comfortable for the approximately 4 hour drive from Vegas to the canyon.
Our tour guide was a really nice guy, he was sure to let us know that tipping was customary and appretiated. In America, you tip just about anyone, including the shuttle bus drivers.
Another thing our tour guide was sure to point out was that the restroom at the back of the bus was for emergencies only. So, then, around ten minutes later one of the old guys from the front of the bus goes back and does his business. The rest of the trip was imbued with the tart, acidic scent of an inconsiderate old man’s urine.
Needless to say, the drive was a long one, and we did our best to catch up a little on our sleep. About halfway to the canyon, we were treated to another American icon: Hoover Dam.
The dam was named after Herbert Hoover, who played an important role in getting the damn built and then went on to become president. It was originally called Boulder Dam and was subsequently renamed after the then president (Hoover). When Roosevelt came to power, there was some controversy over the name, but after his death, it was renamed to “Hoover”.
The dam wall itself serves as a road. As we approached the dam, we were stopped by a portly police officer who made a great show of inspecting the bus for weapons of mass destruction. The dam is closed to certain types of traffic and I am told that in 2010 the dam is scheduled to be closed to all through traffic altogether with the completion of the Hoover Dam bypass. This is all in anticipation of a terrorist attack against this icon: one of the seven wonders of the industrial world. And wonder it is, we watched a documentary about the dam on the way and I encourage you to read about it, even today the construction of such a thing would be an incredible feat of engineering.
We stopped off at a nice little place for a buffet lunch (all included in the price of our ticket, in hindsight, it was a very affordable tour). I amused myself a great deal by playing with the snow that had recently fallen all around the area, for someone born in South Africa, playing in the snow never gets old. It’s quite strange, actually, driving through a rather arid looking area all covered in snow.
It would be quite a few more hours before we finally arrived at our destination: the Grand Canyon. What can one really say? It was an awe inspiring experience. I have to admit, that walking those final few metres to the rim of the canyon, I was a little apprehensive. You see, I have a great fear of heights. When I am at a great height, I get this sudden urge to “lift my legs” as my grandmother would say, and jump off. I kind of expected the same reaction here. That didn’t happen, it turns out that the canyon is so very vast that you can’t get vertigo, you can no more get vertigo from the canyon than you can get standing on a mountain. You spend so much time looking “out” that you can’t really focus on “down”.
It was still a treacherous place. Everywhere was covered in a layer of snow, and the barriers that protect the public from plummeting to their death did not cover every area. So, you had to watch your step. Naturally, my primary concern was taking awesome photos. What perturbed me a great deal was the fact that getting a properly exposed photo of the canyon is near-impossible.
Please take the time to enjoy some of my shots. This is a panoramic view which affords you some freedom in seeing the scene for yourself. Grab the image and drag it to the left and the right to see more. You can also press + or – to zoom in and out.
After the truly breathtaking magnificence of the canyon we had to leave pretty quickly for our long journey home. As we left we caught a glimpse of what I guess must be an Elk. I took a photo with a flash and scared it off, much to the annoyance of my fellow travellers. We were also fortunate enough to get a beautiful shot of hoover dam at night on the way back.
I will leave you with two of my favourite shots. They are composites of two images each, so you can click on them for a great deal more detail. Enjoy!Â