Las Vegas – The Grand Canyon

It’s taken some time to commit my thoughts to WordPress on this particular day. I’ve read other blogs on the Canyon which give useful advice and many stunning pictures, But the great challenge of any Grand Canyon adventure is probably shared, it’s one of those experiences which is perhaps best unaccompanied by a camera or thought.

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Keeping it practical I can tell you a little about the various options. The SkyWalk, as it was explained to me is a lot of money for not very much, however it is a once in a lifetime experience… of this I would advise only the die-hard returners. Unlike the pamphlet pictures the arc doesn’t exactly overhang the dizzy heights of the Canyon’s depths, rather the beginnings of the slippery slope down. From what I understand it does overlook the part of the Canyon that Evil Kenevil used in a dare-devil stunt, but with the lack of bikage I could just be relaying the words of a gullable tourist 🙂

Many people choose to drive down by bike or more substantial vehicle, I imagine the huge expanse of open road is utterly exhilarating for bikers. For drivers of all types there is plenty of on-line guidance, even a browse through writers I follow should provide some inspiration. I’d recommend a blog I follow (not that I bike) – http://bikermonkeyblog.com/ for more information/tips.

Alternatively is the helicopter ride, a particularly easy and formidable method of being transported to and over the worldly wonder. I’d never have been forgiven for not arranging this particular trip, however with three to pay for I had to plan with some care. It is possible to book these trips online, although for those well organised  day trippers who like to have everything booked well in advance make sure it is exactly that as some sites take time to acknowledge booking. I had been recommended a firm called Maverick, however having had many conversations with different traders it transpires that there are the ‘Original’ Maverick and a – well, maverick Maverick. These are the ones who do cheap deals, minus the good reputation. Other intricacies in booking include negotiating a landing, if you want time inside the Canyon ensure your trip explicitly includes this as many stop only on the south rim. The south rim landing isn’t technically called a landing and is arranged as part of an agreement with the American Indians. Don’t get too excited by that, they are modern American Indians with a big shop and no views across the Canyon…

So negatives and obstacles aside I will tell you about the company we used. Having only been set up for a week we were able to get a reasonable deal with 5 Star Helicopter Trips and were assured (after some negotiating over weight) that these were some of the nicest helicopters in the air. This is no fabrication, the interiors of these airborne explorers comprise lovingly hand-sanded woodwork, laminate flooring and Kangaroo coverings on the seats. From the moment we were picked up with a warm welcome, donuts and water we were engaged in lively conversation and given the option of a tour-guide journey or one of silence. The memo that all laughs should be hearty hadn’t quite reached us as we excused our polite giggles with Englishness, however upon arrival at the heliport the hospitable beers facilitated our more amenable nature.  Awaiting our copter we had the comfort of leather seats and chill-out music… the later is not usually a preference of mine however the selection was somewhat mind-changing as I discovered ‘Icarus’ by Mythos. Wow. I love that tune, since this trip it has become my first thought when I wake up and eases me into the harsh reality of London life each morning.

Reverting to the point of the expedition we were shown a safety video and then met by our uber-American pilot, a sharp contrast from our Mancunian host and owner of the company! True to the word of the sales person, the helicopters were gorgeous and comfy. Passengers are arranged according to weight and hooked up to headphones and speakers where we were fed information about the sprawling landscape and the Hooverdam as we snaked overhead. The stories came in thick and fast as did the explanation of pilot training and ad-hoc snippets of local history. I say ‘ad-hoc’, in reality everything was meticulously choreographed to the sound-track as we swooped and hovered. As ever I made the mistake of trying to capture the detail on camera, the results are great however there really is no comparison to the actual experience.

Surprisingly, the trip was smooth to the point that I took off my ear protectors to land just so as I could get the experience of the thundering clatter of the propeller.We glided low through the Canyon before our stop at the native American landing point for a (very) quick spin around the shop where we were faced with the choice of a toilet break or to pick up souvenirs. Not quite the cafe stop that we had been advised, however between the Joshua Trees, Dream Catcher and chocolate goodies I was able to source I felt fairly satisfied at the short sharp stop. This may have been aided by the fact I am a thoroughly seasoned shopper 😐

Suspecting the return journey would be a sharp return to the heliport I was pleasantly surprised that there were plenty more stories awaiting, including the man who bough a serious amount of land to build a town and ran out of money. The evidence remains in the marked out plots of land still bursting with promise for no reward. Landing at the heliport held equal delight as it is home to a number of rather old, attractive small planes. These I am no expert in, I just find them shamelessly aesthetically pleasing.

On reflection, it seems that whilst we all traveled happily and in comfort, the extra two people that the copter could have held would have made for a very tight and cosey trip with questionable viewing ability for those in the rear middle seats. That said, this is probably a risk regardless of which company you choose to go with and if nothing else can be said, this firm work hard to accommodate their guests.

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