Tuesday, June 24, 2008

3 Week Tour of the West: Grand Canyon

Well, it was an extremely early rise to a VERY cold morning. We were all up and having breakfast by 4.30. The reason we were up so early was that we wanted to see the sunrise. A taxi van picked us up at 5.30 and dropped Tina, Juliane, Neil and John off first. They were going on the walk all the way down to the Colorado river. The rest of us tried to gee the taxi driver up, as he seemed to be taking forever to get us to the start of our trail. We got there just in time to catch the tail end of the sunrise, which wasn't actually as spectacular as it could have been. But the Grand Canyon was!

Grand Canyon

It was breathtaking. It seems so huge that you just can't grasp it. Even thinking back now it seemed unreal. Looking into the distance, was like seeing the back drop on a bad cowboy film. Like a painting. Nicole and I had 2 herbal tablets to conquer the fear of walking near the edge of what seemed like a pretty sheer drop to us. Once the tablets had started working though, we had no problems we just took our time, which is why the others reached the Plateau Point way before us.

Colorado River from Plateau PointOn the way down, there were actually two sets of toilets, which I found very surprising, and of course I had to test both! When we arrived at Plateau Point at 9.30 (after 3 hrs) the others were surprised to see us, they thought we'd have turned back! We stopped for some pictures at Plateau Point and a bite to eat. And I wrote Mum & Dad's postcard, something I'd planned on doing for a while. I would have written all my postcards there and my diary, but we knew that however long it takes to get down, it can take double that to get back up, so we didn't want to rest too long, especially as I didn't want to miss the helicopter ride. That was scheduled for 5 pm.

As easy as the way down was, the way up was murderous. The flat bit from the Point to the Indian Gardens was alright. But from there on up it was a nightmare! I thought I was quite fit, but even after a very short distance I was breathless and gasping for air. I did actually consider panicking about getting back up, but that would have made things worse. So I tried to set a decent pace for Nicki and I, e.g. 1/2 hour walking and 5 mins rest. We soon abandoned that and went for 10 mins walk and 2 mins rest. But soon after that it was more a case of 2 mins walk and 10 mins rest! Even the donkeys were giving us an excuse for a break.

We finally made it!One certainly meets some people on the way up, I think they all feel sorry for you and stop for a chat, another excuse for a stop! All the way up we kept meeting and chatting to a lady with a stick. That made the walk a little easier. The most frustrating thing on the walk, was when Tina who had been all the way to the bottom, came power-walking up the hill, with a smile on her face and overtook us. Unbelievable! Eventually Juliane overtook us and Neil and John caught up with us, and forced us on up the last 2.5 miles! At the 3 mile hut I had an orange, which seemed to give me a new lease on life. And speeded me up a little bit. Well we finally made it to the top by about 16.00, half dead, but feeling good about ourselves, that we had made it. Even if it did take 9 hours!

We then wanted to catch the shuttlebus back to the campground, but that doesn't run out of season! So we then ordered a taxi, which still hadn't turned up at 16.50. There goes the helicopter ride! " Schei├če "! Eventually a taxibus pulled up and we went back in that.

Dragging ourselves from the bus back to the camp site, we actually caught the van just leaving for the helicopter ride, so instead of being able to rest my weary muscles and bones it was on for that, with Neil and the others.

Breathtaking isn't it!I got to sit in the front of the helicopter, with glass from your feet to the ceiling. I loved it, it was a thousand times better than in a Cessna. And of course the view of the Canyon was just incredible. After we got back from that there was just enough time for me to have a shower, in fact when I came out of the showers, everyone was already in the van waiting for me. So still no rest for me, although the shower helped a little. For dinner we went to a pizza place, where I had Lasagne, " Knobibrot " (garlic bread) and salad. Delicious. Then it was back from there for a good nights sleep. The next morning we got up to ice on the tents.

Oops, I forgot to mention that the whole hike was completed with muscle ache and bruises which we acquired from horse-riding at Slim & Coaty's!

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