Visiting Uncle Sam – 10 – "The Canyon – Grand Canyon" – West Rim

I had already told you that Vegas was just a stopover for me to visit “The Grand Canyon”. Why ,  when or how I became fascinated by the Grand Canyon and what made me want to visit this place, I dont have any information to it. When I knew that this was near by than the Niagara falls, I decided to go. I dont know the history of this place except for reading about it somewhere sometime and it stuck with me that I should visit this place atleast once in my life time (just like I feel about Angkor Wat). So naturally I was very excited to get on to the trip. Since I was alone on this trip, I cannot risk going there alone by car because they said that the phone signals wont be available and also not to rely on GPS too much. So I didnt want to have any more adventures in my lone trip atleast and hence booked the West rim and South rim tours through Grand Canyon Tour Company. I had opted for the Helicopter+skywalk+River ride for the West rim and the bus tour for the South rim. So you would know that my excitement would be on a high when I was about to start my West rim tour on Saturday 23 Oct 2010. 

The pickup was on dot 6.20 am from my hotel and they had a few more pickups and then we reached the Planet Hollywood Miles hotel where the company operates from at around 6.50 am. They verified the tickets, gave us snacks (complimentary , just a cake and a water bottle) and assigned us to buses based on where we were headed. Mine was bus #3 which was heading to the West Rim. We started @ around 7.25 am or so. There were around 30 of us and 4 ladies (including me) had opted for the Helicopter+skywalk+River ride. There was no separate tour guide as such and the driver was the guide. Generally people would feel that this is a disadvantage, but I guess that depends on the guide. I dont remember this fellow’s name now, but he was very good. He kept us entertained with so much information and jokes :). The bus was equally comfortable with small TVs placed in regular intervals (they put informational DVDs on the way at times) and it has a wash room @ the rear end !!! And thankfully, I didnt have anyone near me so I had both the seats available for myself 🙂

On the way to the West Rim, the guide was informing us of the history of Las Vegas and its popularity as a Casino city and how its just like any other place and there are still the same kind of museums, zoos etc available there too and how they have good schools and Universities out there. When we reached Boulder city, he told us about how and why Boulder city was built (It was built for the construction workers of Hoover Dam) and how drinking and gambling is still a big no-no there etc… and then about the Grand Canyon itself.

It was almost a 2 hr drive to the West Rim and only on Tuesday or Wednesday they had opened the new bridge over Hoover Dam. Earlier the entry to the Canyon was only via the Hoover Dam and there is a security point for all vehicles there after the 9/11. So it was a huge blockade and people had to spend hours to get clearance as there were too many vehicles lined up. So they decided to build a bridge for the traffic to pass

The new Hoover Dam Bridge for traffic

and it was opened much before time it seems. I got to go in this bridge too 🙂 Then we hit the Black Canyon and the Lake Mead which is the source of water for the Vegas people. The source of water has reduced to a level of almost 150-200 feet. You can see the white patches on these small mounds in this picture The water level used to be till the white patch on the mound. See how much it has reduced ? And guess what, it seems like three states (California, Nevada and Mexico) fight for this water and they, Nevada, blame that California is taking a major share!! eppadi.. namma oorla Cauverynaa inga Colorado.. avlodhaan..And the Grand Canyon was formed due to the shifting of the earth plates and also the flow of the Colorado river in between. I guess I am getting into more history and geography here. Ok.. you can look up on the net on why Hoover Dam was built and the Sharing of water between these state etc.. Lake Mead offers you more water activities and fishing activities. We crossed it on the way and went ahead to the West Rim. On the way we have the Black Canyon (why Black, because that is the color of the mountains). If I remember correctly, the reason for it to be black is due to the excessive Magnesium in it. This gives you a real feel of driving over the arid and dry lands, in other words, Desert 🙂 Since it had rained the previous day (I prayed to all Gods on Friday that my trip shouldnt be spoilt because of rains and Gods answered my prayers) it wasnt hot , but it wasnt raining either. It was a beautiful weather that day. Then we even spotted some wildlife out there and since the hot season is over, we were lucky to not see some rattle snakes on the way.
On entering the West Rim, they stop in a pickup point where all the tour buses stop and after that the Grand Canyon National Park shuttles will take you to the view points you want to go. According to our itinerary we were scheduled to have the helicopter ride but since Mr Obama was in Las Vegas on friday and since he was flying back on Saturday they said that it might be delayed or cancelled (All the other girls , 2 from Australia and 1 from England cursed him :). I didnt curse him though I felt bad about missing the helicopter ride, if it gets cancelled. But I knew that it will work out well , after giving a beautiful day, God wont let me down due to Obama!! will He 🙂 I had faith..) They asked us to check back @ 11.30 am so we had enough time , almost an hour and half to see the 2 view points) So four of us went to Eagle point.
See the pic below. Do you see why its called so ? This is the place where we have the skywalk too.

On the left of the this picture above is the sky walk. Why is it called a Sky walk, because it extends from the end of the mountain and lets you see the deep gorge or ravine, whatever you call it (as its made of glass floors) and gives you the impression that you are walking on the sky. The Hualapai (Wall-a-pai) tribe here believe that the eagle symbol is very sacred. I just saw a few tribal people there. They are supposed to be tall like pine trees. But people I saw were shorter :). Out of the four one girl dropped out from walking the sky walk, because she didnt want to risk it. The other three (adhula naanum dhaan) were dead scared but since we had the tickets we decided to go ahead. They give you a tag (just like the ones in Tirupathi) and then ask you to place all of your belonging in a locker (which has a key to it and you can lock it and take the key with you, nothing is allowed there except you, they have their own photographers there – business tactics and a photo is 30$s) and you have to cover your shoes/slippers with a cover they give you and then you can go ahead on the sky walk. Till the time I was brave.. I was comforting the other girl. But as soon as we entered, I panicked.
If you have acrophobia, you are dead there..My heart beat started increasing a lot and the other girl from Australia, she went ahead holding the railing slowly and half way …she was scared that she will puke.. I was going very slowly, trying to take in everything, the deep ravine below, the beautiful mountains standing equal to you, it was a beautiful view, as long as you are not scared.. I couldnt enjoy it well because my legs were shaking all the time. idhula one fellow was running on it. He was a photographer, I got so tensed, that I asked him to slow down and not run. There was a big roar of laughter.. but did I care? I value my life more than their laughter.. siripavargal sirikattum adhu aanava siripu.. then the photographers came around. One girl asked me if I wanted a photo..I thought, since I have come this far, let me get a photo. I said yes and she wanted me to sit on the glass floor .. Boy, was I scared.. You should see the photo. I didnt even give her a good shot.. I was like “ok girl, just take it.. lets get it over with fast!!!” There was an Indian couple there who were giving all kinds of poses.. as if falling off the cliff, lying down on the glass floor…. hmmm.. rombha thevaiyaa idhellam.. I was glad to take one picture and slowly catching hold of the rail literally did adi pradakshinam there till I came to the other end. And then I was again very very brave (enna prayojanam!!)

Once we were done, we got our complimentary meal and had it too and the since it was 10.50 or so decided to go back to check on the helicopter ride. When we asked for the shuttle they said yes yes and they went the other way round to Guano point. This is again a very very beautiful view point where you can see the River winding through the canyon. Since we had enough time back, we spent around 10mins there
and then headed back to the starting point.

When we reached there, they said that we have to wait for another 15 mins or so coz the Sundance Helicopter staff hasnt arrived yet and that we can have the rides as Obama had left. (Thanks Obama & Thank you God.. you never let me down !) There were three-four companies operating the helicopter from there. Papillion, Sundance and two more ( I didnt register their names) There were almost 14 people from different tour companies for Sundance Helicopter ride.Finally they arrived. There will be 4-5 people per helicopter and since we were already 4 of us, we were together in the drive. Before issuing the tickets, they take your weight to see where you will be seated (front row or the back one). One of the Australian girl who was of the least weight was assigned the front seat (she was tagged with red ink in the palm 🙂 ) We were all excited about the helicopter ride 🙂 and ours was the third group. What they do is , they pick u up , drop you in their own assigned place for the colorado river ride and then come back for more people and once you are done on their way back, pick u up again. So we had to wait again for a few more mins and then our turn came through. Watching helicopter is one thing, being near to it is another 🙂 its not like the planes. Its small and the noise of the blades rotating actually deafens your ear and the wind it generates literally lifts you off.We three of us seated in the back seat and fastened our seat belts and once the girl was seated in the front row, the copter took off.. This is much much scarier than the sky walk.. It flew directly into the ravine and the Canyon, even though it was scarier, it makes you wonder the natural beauty with AWE.

In this picture you would see the Sky walk from the helicopter. See how small it looks.. So imagine the magnanimity of the canyon. To add more effect to the journey, the pilot dropped the copter a little low and then pulled it up.. God.. already I was having a slight headache with all the tensions , and this guy is playing his stunts..Whatever it  might be , you should look around you then and there. It was so so MIGHTY. That is the appropriate word. It looks barren but beautiful. Nature is really a very mystical thing. It keeps you amazed always as long as you keep your intrusions in control. And I guess these people know it better than any of us.

This is how the place looks where you will be landed in a few minutes. And once you land you feel the quietness in the surroundings , just like the parasailing event. Its just nature and you. All is calm and all is quiet.You, the river and the moutains.. What a wonderful combination. Trust me you have to try it once. Its just amazing. There they have a small , very small camp, just for people to come and then take the boat ride and then get back.

We have to go down the trail a little that is all. The boat had already gone for a ride so we waited for it to return. By then another group of 3 also joined us. This place was specific to this helicopter company. I guess each one has its own place near by. Then after 10 mins we started on our boat ride on the Colorado river.

This is how the river looks from the boat. You tread in that path for half an hour (almost) and then come back to the same place. In between they stop the boat and allow you to enjoy the peaceful and serene nature for a while. Its just amazing man!! Gushing water, mighty mountains, clear sky, cool and refreshing air.. what do you want!! There was a small bird that was there , I dont know from where it came, but it was there through our journey. I considered it our guardian angel, because once we were almost done with the ride, it left us and flew away. But it was there from the time we landed on that place and went back :).

And after almost after 45 mins or so, we left back in the copter to the starting point 🙂 It was almost 3 pm by that time. We were leaving the place from Hualapai reservation back to Vegas by 4 pm as per the schedule.
Once we were through with the ride, we started off to the Hualapai Camp through the shuttle and reached that place in exactly 10 mins or so. We saw the tour bus and all other having a walk around there. This place is modeled on a old cowboy town way to bring back the Wild Wild West effect 🙂

You can try to do the axe throwing and other old wild ways out here. We roamed around a little and then started back to Vegas at around 4 pm . 

On the way back the guide put on some DVDs depicting the history of Hoover Dam and then about Vegas and its Casinos. It was nice and informational. And since we had time, he made a stop over in Hoover Dam first, not exactly near to the Dam , but a little further and gave us a few minutes for our photos.

If I have to start my history on Hoover dam, its going to take time, so I am skipping that part..But just one info, when we were fighting the English, Americans were building this dam to save water from the river for Vegas, Boulder City etc. and to avoid flooding in this area whenever Colorado overflowed. And this dam stands tall even after 75 years and it was built with the highly sophisticated techniques when Computers werent known and the architecture was drawn using pen, pencil, paper and eraser and yet its one of the biggest dams. They even have spillways in case of of overflows and how to handle them. They have mechanisms to generate electricity from it too. hmm..

After this the guide took us on a route (actually buses arent allowed here it seems, it was a small road and luckily we didnt have any vehicle coming from the other end, otherwise we would have to go way back and then come again) to see the Lake Mead
The areas on the left are supposed to be full of water earlier. Now they are dry lands. Water level is receding everywhere. We spent 15 mins here and then around 5.30 or so started back to Vegas. They dropped me in my hotel exactly @ around 7.15 or so and I had energy only for calling up home and letting them know that I had a good day and drop off  to sleep so that I can wake up fresh for my South Rim tour the next day (Sunday)

After thanking God for having me see Grand Canyon (one part of it) , that too on a beautiful weather day and fulfilling one of my life wishes, I went off to early and relaxed sleep.

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