The flight from Philly to Vegas was uneventful. Accepting the possibility of you labeling me as a wuss, I maintain that I am a big fan of uneventful flights. V and I spent the time on the airport and on the flight solving Sudoku and for the first time in our life, crossword puzzles. About five hours later, we landed in Vegas. The view of the city from the top was pretty awesome. I thought it looked like a land ‘aglow with the light of a thousand fairies’ (I don’t remember where I have heard that phrase, it kind of just popped up in my head that time). It was around 12 AM already, and we had to make an early start the next day to drive to Grand Canyon, so we decided not to go out to the Strip that night. I had a tremendous craving for Chinese/Thai food, and we found this restaurant called Satay, a Chinese/Thai/Malaysian place. While happily slurping on Tom Yum soup, I remarked to V that I could have South Asian food for each meal, every day, for the rest of my life. Little did I know that this innocent remark would soon turn out to be almost true!
Early morning next day saw us up, ready and fed at 7.30 AM, starting our drive to the Grand Canyon. This was the first time we were seeing city in daylight, and were amazed to see the desert around. Just miles and miles of flat, rocky land, with no tree cover what-so-ever. We were surprised to see some coconut like trees in the city, but those probably were like most of the people in Vegas – outsiders. They shot up through the landscape as very ill-fitting additions to the surroundings. It looked something like a patch of Florida in the middle of a desert.
Vegas is a desert surrounded by mountains all around. Having lived on the east coast, this landscape was very new for us. The city surrounded by mountains reminded me of the quaint town of ‘Satara’ in India, which is also surrounded by mountains all over, although Satara is far from being a desert. V was driving, and I started clicking photos of everything around (Most of these pics turned out useless, since I took them on high exposure, making the entire picture white 😦 ). We stopped at a couple of scenic overlooks on the way. One overlook had a sign “No selling of any goods”, under which a couple of native Indians had promptly set up their shop for selling Indian jewellery. Some things are the same, anywhere in the world 🙂
There were ‘rock-dunes’ all along the road. According to V – ‘Looks like god made these when he was at play’.
The Grand Canyon is a rift in the Colorado plateau. The North Rim is about a 1000 ft higher than the South Rim, and is not accessible in the winter. The Colorado river snakes through the canyon, and glimpses of it can be seen from the South Rim. The size of the Canyon is overwhelming! It is 277 miles long, about 18 miles wide and 6000 ft deep!! The North Rim is said to have better views than the South Rim. There is also a glass bottom viewing deck on the west side of the canyon, which extends into the canyon at a height of about 5000 ft. Since we were going to visit only the South Rim, we marked this as a to-do for our next trip.
Standing at the rim, one cannot feel anything but humbled. One realizes their insignificance in the grand scheme of nature. The color-play along the rim and the structures created by erosion are truly magnificent. There are a number of hikes from the top of the canyon to the bottom, but they require time, and in winter, proper gear. Since we had none at hand, we had to be satisfied with just watching the canyon. There are many overlooks on the road, each providing a different view of the canyon. Free shuttle buses run along these routes, and make stops at each viewpoint. We walked along the rim for some time, and then took the shuttle to the farther points. Sunset at the South rim is best seen from the Hopi point. The setting rays cast shades of red, orange and gold throughout the valley.
Before we knew it, it was sundown, and time to leave. We were going to stay at Cameron, about an hour and half east from the canyon. Throughout this hour-and-half drive, we did not see a single car on the road. It was pitch dark, we were zipping along the lonely roads with only the canyon and the soulful voice of Kishor Kumar for company. Blessed peace!
Cameron turned out to be a settlement (I wouldn’t even call it a village), which was closed up for Christmas. Absolutely nothing was open by the time we reached our hotel. Not even a gas station food shop. Both of us were extremely tired and hungry, and the possibility of dinner started to seem bleak. We dropped our luggage at the hotel, and drove off to find food. About 25 miles away, we found another small city called Tuba City. All the restaurants here were also closed. The only place we found open was a Chinese joint 🙂 Yay! I was more than happy to have another Chinese dinner. My prophecy was coming out to be true 😀
Since the next day was Christmas day, there were strong chances that we would not find any food place open anywhere. So we armed ourselves with cereal bowls, milk, granola bars and fruits…our Christmas food…from a nearby 7-Eleven store. Back to the hotel, we were asleep in no-time, waiting to head off to the wonderful Antelope Canyons the next day!