Little did I know, but while I was out the night before exploring Las Vegas, the Helicopter Tour company that I had booked, called me three times… So when I awoke the next day at 7 to get the 8 o’clock bus – I was in for a little shock. The meeting point for the Flamingo is ‘the car park behind Bill’s Casino’ meanwhile other hotels have dedicated (and heated) tour pickup locations. This wouldn’t be so bad if you were waiting a short time, but I was unaware that my pickup time was pushed back an hour! So I arrive at the deserted parking lot 15 minutes early, not wanting to cause any inconvenience to anyone and end up waiting over an hour in the cold winds of Nevada.
The tour bus was heated but it was not enough to thaw my frozen limbs, which remained icy to the touch for several more hours. On my tour was a sweet French Canadian couple and a Singapore-Hong Kong couple based out of London. Being the ultimate 5th wheel is not a to uncommon experience for me, but everyone I spoke to on the day was shocked to hear I traveled there alone. This didn’t bother me though, I had an awesome time!
Our helicopter pilot was Captain Minisha who was a cool chick that was a lot of fun. The helicopter was a 7-seater, designed for 3 couples + a pilot. As I was flying solo (literally) that meant I never got a turn in the front, but I had a great seat on the side with 180 degree viewing. I was lucky and got to spend an extra hour at the canyon. This was because President Obama was in Vegas (gambling I presume) and they had a no-fly lockout for the city.
The helicopter flight was quite a different experience to regular flying, the fact that it can move in any direction at any time was really unsettling at first, but was quickly turned into enjoyment. I had a total of 75 minutes in the helicopter, with the Captain giving a great run down of all the sights we saw on the way. One of these was a rare wild buffalo, which she only sees one flight a year!
The grand canyon is beyond words to explain, so I am not going to try to hard. It is one of those things, like the Great Wall, that you really need to see with your own eyes to fully appreciate it’s magnitude. The best I can describe is imagine the tallest mountain range, now make the mountains so close that they are touching, then invert the whole thing into the ground. Pictures or videos can’t really show the depth and steepness of what you see, maybe 3d video could. I wish I thought of that before I went and I could have recorded some.
I went exploring along the un-touristy edge of the canyon. It was great, no barriers and over protection that we get in Australia, just you and nature. I sat for a while and just soaked in the beauty. Above are some shots I took and below is a video of the helicopter ride. Not only did I get to see the Grand Canyon in all it’s greatness, I got to see the Hualapi people that inhabit the land. One of the Native American Indians noticed I was by myself and took me around explaining the different buildings and artifacts they had and was explaining the background behind them.
Many people don’t know, but the Grand Canyon is not on United States soil but set on a reservation making it a separate nation. When the Spanish came, they were killing all the native tribes, but the Hualapi people moved down into the canyon and were safe. The Spanish couldn’t get down because the walls were to steep to descend and the walls to brittle to abseil.
After the flight back to the base, we got a beer and headed back to the Strip. I was exhausted after such an intense day, I didn’t get up to much that night. I did head over to Paris (the Eiffel Tower) and have a French pizza for dinner.