7 – Grand Canyon

Today’s my birthday! Happy Birthday to me! I get the chance to go to The Grand Canyon, arguably the most impressive natural wonder site in the world. Once again, thanks to Sue for this amazing present! It really doesn’t feel like my birthday at all because I’m out here. It’s strange that I received birthday messages the night before because the UK is seven hours ahead. Still, I have a whopping three cards to open when I wake up; from Sue, my parents, and Sue’s mum. I set them up on the table in our room. Sadly, there’s no cake!

It’s going to be a long day, but well worth it. The tour that we booked doesn’t just go to Grand Canyon, we build up to that. Firstly, we are to visit some lava fields from a volcanic eruption at Sunset Crater. Then we are going to visit the Wupatki Indian Reservation before making our way to a Navajo site to have lunch there. After that we are due at The Grand Canyon, so we have an action packed day.

Our driver and tour guide is a guy called JR, a man who clearly knows his history on all the subject matters we’d be seeing today. He made the tour more interesting as we were driving as he constantly educated us about various points of interest on our travels, including the history and reasons for the current geological formations on the nearby mountain ranges, such as The San Francisco Peaks. He has a story to tell about everything and it makes the journey far more compelling.

He tells us he likes to take the back road to Grand Canyon. This area is actually a National Monument, and is again filled with the most stunning views consisting of steep rocky mountains with trees sprouting up on the slopes of the golden ground.

We stop at the lava field and are free to roam through the pathways but are warned not to fall because it will hurt, and you will bleed. Touching some of the rocks as I walk, I could see why. The black razor sharp rock that has been present for hundreds of years is a Health & Safety Officer’s wet dream!

We then continued the picturesque journey on the open road, and we seem to be the only vehicle travelling. JR says because this area is so close to The Grand Canyon, it gets left out from a sight-seeing point of view. People drive directly to Grand Canyon via the interstate and don’t take the time to take the slightly longer route we are. Their loss! This is stunning!

JR continues his stories and reveals that he used to work on films as a location scout. One big named star and films he’s worked on is Mel Gibson in ‘Maverick’ and ‘Braveheart’. He also tells us that the route we are taking was used for many of the scenes in ‘Easy Rider’ as well as several Westerns. When you see with your own eyes, you can see why this landscape is used to capture a films essence.

We arrive at The Wupatki Indian Reservation and thrust into a sea of orange on a dry terrain. Old ruins are present here, and it reminds me of The Forums in Rome. The circular arenas are still left intact and it’s amazing to see such historical heritage. We walk through, taking it all in. It’s just so peaceful and emotional! We find our way to the ‘kachina’ at the bottom of the site. The Indians believed that a spirit lived below ground and called him ‘kachina’ and he could tell what the weather was going to be like in the coming days. The ‘kachina’ is a blowhole in the ground that runs for miles upon miles through a network of underground caves. If you put a scarf over the hole and it gets sucked in then it means the pressure is high so the weather is going to be good. If the scarf blows out then the pressure is low meaning the weather will be bad. The blowhole is still very much active today and when Sue put her scarf over the top, it was being sucked in, hence, good weather! Obviously we have science to tell us why this is today, but hundreds of years ago, the Indians believed this to be the work of a spirit and his mood which affected the weather. I liken Sue to a ‘kachina’. I tell her that! She hits me! It hurts!

Next stop was The Cameron Trading Post for lunch, which is on a Navajo Ranch. We ordered traditional Navajo Indian meals (Sue and I both had Navajo Stew) and they were stunning and filling. The portion sizes were huge, made all the larger by the piece of bread we each received on the side. But not just any bread, this was the biggest slab of traditional Indian fry bread you’ve ever seen. Probably the size of a Frisbee. It was greasy as hell, delicious, and very filling. Needless to say, none of our party could finish it!

The Cameron Trading Post also had a huge shop on location, filled to the brim with authentic Indian crafts. It was a little mind blowing and I wish we could’ve stayed a bit longer to fully appreciate what was on offer, but we were slightly behind schedule so had to make our trip up to The Grand Canyon.

The journey to The Grand Canyon is slightly scary as we travel over bridges with huge drops beneath. We sense we are close judging from these mini canyons that look huge in the UK, but here, they are child’s play for what we about to see.

We stop off at Desert View Watchtower and JR directs us through a small wooded area off the beaten track. I cannot but help be a typical tourist and get my phone out to video the moment I see The Grand Canyon for the first time. We make our way through the shrubs and I can see it just ahead, but I can’t look at it fully till I’m through the clearing and it’s infront of me in its full glory. I keep my head down but the camera pointed ahead, and as soon as I pass the last bush, I look up……..WOW! Just WOW!!!! It doesn’t appear real! The view is so clear and I’m left breathless by it all. This has to be the most inspired view I’ve ever laid my eyes on.

I’ve described a lot of scenery on this trip that has blown my mind. Each stage seems to throw up something that betters the previous views, but this is surely the pinnacle, and there’s nothing I can really say to describe it where you can get a feel from it from these words. I’ve seen pictures and video clips of The Grand Canyon several times, but until you are stood at the edge, no one can describe it in a way for you to understand. It’s remarkable. It makes you feel so small and insignificant, and left overwhelmed by the power of nature. It’s completely mind blowing when JR tells us that the green dots in the distance that look like bushes are actually a series of tall trees. The Colorado River meanders in the distance and looks like a stream from up here, but the width is the size of a football field. How can we see so far so clearly? It can’t be real. It’s like an illusion! The colours are psychedelic too, a bit like Sedona, but this resembles some scenic painting worth millions. I’m not too familiar with art and the use of colours and illusion, but the colours on this orange and pink landscape actually appear blue, the same way artists create an illusion. This is nature’s art at work right here! It’s mesmerising! The biggest thing to really mess with my head is when JR tells us that the other side of The Canyon that we can see so clearly, and looks about ¼ mile away, is in fact 12 miles away!. How can you see something 12 miles in front of you so clearly? I’m left powerless and speechless, and it’s all too much for Sue who sheds a tear at the views she is seeing. Gargantuan! Enormous! Colossal!. Breathtaking! Powerful! None of these words even come close to describing it.

We head back on the bus and take the short ride up to Lipan Point, and this is the really cool bit. Me and Sue are at the front of the tour and JR stops near the edge and tells us to walk out onto a ridge that looks out on its own. Bollocks to that!! He says it’s ok, it appears to be slanted but is in fact flat. Me and Sue make our way over and its fine until the final few rocks we have to get too. I start to feel uneasy and dare not to look down. Sue makes the mistake of looking down and stops a couple of rock short. I keep going but become acutely aware that I’m stood on a rock with no barrier and it’s a straight 1 mile drop either side of me. Vertigo sets in! A sense of unease and dizziness overwhelms me and I can’t look down. I turn around to face the waiting tour and JR has my phone to take a picture. He asks me to lift my arms, but I struggle at first and look like I’m flapping them like a flightless bird. I still can’t look down! This feeling is like no other I’ve ever experienced. He asks me to jump up and down! Not a chance! Crazy Yank!! I then look up around me and feel like King of the World, until that realisation that there’s not a lot of safety between me and the pit of the Canyon. That makes me want to get off and I slowly and awkwardly make my way back off the rocks onto safer ground. That was a bit of a rush in all honesty despite the panic! When others from our tour attempt the same feat, they feel a similar sense of fear. Half complete the task, but the others can’t make it onto the final rock! Again, it’s one of those experiences that has to be accomplished yourself in order to truly feel the fear!

We have two more stops at Yavapai Point and Grand Canyon Village, which is where more tourists go. We all feel privileged to have experienced something a little different that not everyone gets to do. Needless to say the views from these various lookout points are breath taking, but there’s nothing more I can say on the matter! You have to experience it for yourself to truly understand! But what an awesome feeling and day! It’s just another memory to an already growing list that we’ve experienced in the past few days.

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