Day 1 in Vegas on the “Naughty Forty Magical Mystery Fun Tour” started with a trip to tick something off the bucket list for both Ange and I – a visit to the Grand Canyon.
Ange had asked if we could go see the Grand Canyon while in Vegas and I had jokingly suggested a helicopter flight over it while we were in the planning stages of our trip. Surprisingly she came back to me with a “Sure!”
We shopped around and found a helicopter tour than not only took us over the Grand Canyon but actually LANDED in the canyon and allowed us to drink champagne for 30 minutes before flying back to civilization. Too good to be true? The original price was around US$469 per person; we found a deal for US$269 per person and couldn’t pass up the opportunity. There was an additional charge of around US$50 for some kind of airport tax, but even with that we couldn’t fault the price. If you want to go on one of these tours, definitely shop around as we did and you might find a great deal too!
A black limo slid into our hotel lobby to pick us up that morning along with another couple and off we headed to the airport. Processed and ready to rock and roll we had to watch a brief safety video before we met our pilot – Fred.
Flying over the US dessert was so much fun. As I have mentioned before, I really don’t understand why more Americans don’t get out and see how beautiful the natural wonders of their country are. We hadn’t even got to the Grand Canyon yet and I was in awe.
We buzzed over the Hoover Dam which was impressive from the air despite not being the largest or tallest dam in the USA. To me it will always be the dam Superman had to deal with in the Christopher Reeve movie, so seeing the real thing was kind of cool. Having said that – why IS the Hoover Dam more famous than any other in the US? Can I name you the largest dam in the US? – No idea where it is! And yet … as a non-American I immediately know what and where the Hoover Dam is…
The white sediment line you see on the river behind the dam is the change in water level over the last few years.
We had an interesting talk with our pilot about this as he said Mead Lake – the reservoir of water behind the Hoover Dam (and largest reservoir in the USA) has been steadily declining in water level over the last few years at a rate faster than the consumption of water by people in the region it services. He didn’t believe evaporation was the cause of the decline, but apparently rumours suggest there may be a sink hole somewhere in the lake that is draining the water off. Either way, if the decline continues, water is going to become even scarcer than it already is in the Vegas area.
This picture shows the original site where the dam was supposed to be built – Boulder Canyon. According to the pilot the area was found unsuitable because of fault lines and thus the current location of Hoover Dam came to be. Again, you can see the drop in water level … quite a significant decrease indeed.
As the Grand Canyon drew closer we saw a spectacular plateau. Once I saw this I knew the actual canyon wasn’t far off, and sure enough over the rise at the end of this plateau we were suddenly immersed by the majesty of possibly one of the most amazing sedimentary geological features on planet Earth.
The Grand Canyon deserves its name. Everyone in the helicopter was in sheer awe of walls that slowly surrounded us in their array or orange and tan sedimentary layers and structures. We slowly descended deeper and deeper into the mouth of the canyon following the Colorado River far below us. Other helicopters in the area looked like ants against the colossal walls encasing us. Eventually we descended further into the canyon and landed on a large flat ledge setup for the helicopter tours.
Here’s our ride. Yep – gunna get Titus to buy me one of these babies to flit around Hong Kong in… I WISH!!! Certainly makes a great spot to stop for a photo when you’re INSIDE the Grand Canyon.
We got to stretch our legs and take in the majesty of it all. Surrounded on all sides by immense ancient landforms … ok – so I’m a geographer with a partial geology major and this kind of thing really excites me … sorry. It was simply AWESOME!
This cactus has the BEST view doesn’t it? Ange and I squee’d as we got to see real cacti in their native environment. No rattlesnakes unfortunately but we can’t have EVERYTHING now can we?
Speaking of cacti, I was amazed by the colour and variety of cacti that surrounded us. This pink cactus was breathtaking. I couldn’t stop taking photos of it. A burst of colour in an orange land…
After a brief wander and some exploring we sat down and enjoyed a glass of champagne and a picnic basket. Unfortunately … I suspect we were too interested in the champagne as we didn’t end up taking any photos at that point. It was lovely to sit under a little pergola and soak in the environment around us. All too quickly the moment was over and we headed back to the chopper.
Up, up and away we were once again flying through amazing landscapes as we headed back across the dessert to Vegas. We flew over Joshua trees searching the ground in futile for the elusive and rare buffalo that roam the land around the canyon. We passed ancient volcanic cones, the sediment eroded to leave just the lava “plugs” protruding.
All too abruptly the dessert stopped, giving way to the urban sprawl of Las Vegas. I don’t think I have ever seen such a well defined boundary between city and nature before.
The Las Vegas strip came into sight allowing us to see the sprawling casinos all the way from the Stratosphere down to New York, New York and beyond.
As we flew over Treasure Island we could even see the dolphins frolicking in their pools below us.
Once we reached the New York New York the helicopter turned for the airport and we descended for a final time back to where we had started. Sitting in the limo riding back to the hotel we were left with a pleasant glow of excitement and accomplishment. We were so glad we had taken the opportunity to see the Grand Canyon in style. For me, it was an amazing experience shared with one of my nearest and dearest friends in a landmark year for us both. It is certainly something I don’t think either of us will ever forget … at least until one of us gets Dementia or Alzheimer’s. 😉
I’m sorry Sydney … I’ve always found the Blue Mountains in the Sydney hinterland disappointing. They are neither mountains, nor are the gorges anything spectacular in my opinion. Now, after having had the chance to visit the king of geological awesomeness himself – the Grand Canyon – the Blue Mountains seem even more … pathetic.