Trip Start Jun 24, 2012
Trip End Sep 21, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Monday, August 20, 2012

We were up and ready for our helicopter ride at 8.30am today, and Graeme drove us to the airport down the road for our 9am flight. I was excited but also really nervous, and so when we were told that two of the 9 of us wouldn't fit on the helicopter and would have to go separately in another, I panicked and shouted I wanted to be with Laura, which inadvertently meant that I'd volunteered the two of us to ride with five strangers. Laura was not best pleased. Whoops.

Still, the two of us were sat together, and as we found out when we got put on our helicopter, with the noise and the headphones we couldn't really talk to anyone, so it didn't make that much difference that we weren't with the others. Our pilot was called Matt, and he was lovely (he also had the exact same glasses as me, which made me feel super cool!). I was sat behind him next to the window, and filmed our journey on my phone as we set off.

Being in a helicopter is the weirdest feeling. You're literally floating around and bouncing all over, and it feels like at any minute you're just going to drop, but you don't....strange. Eventually I got a bit used to it (Laura's been in one before), and instead of clinging to the side- though honestly if it's gonna fall, that's going to do nothing to help- I could relax and enjoy the flight. We flew for ten minutes or so over the forest before the ground fell away and suddenly we were over the canyon. At the exact moment we found our selves going over the edge, 'free falling' by Tom Petty had just hit the chorus, it was brilliant.

The oddest thing is that you know you're going really fast, but as soon as you're over the canyon, you don't feel like you're moving at all; a trick of the mind caused by the huge perspective of the whole thing. We spent 45 minutes swooping down and around the canyon, whilst Matt pointed out interesting sights and explained some of the geology of the area that had caused the landscape to form in such a magnificent way. We were both blown away by the helicopter ride, and think it definitely is the best way to see the Grand Canyon; it's just so massive that seeing it from the air gives you a chance to appreciate it fully. Plus it's nice and easy to sit there and not have to walk in the baking heat haha.

All too soon we were back on the land again, and running back to camp to pack up our bags for our day in the park. Graeme dropped us off at the visitor centre where Laura and I promptly lost the rest of the group, as we headed into a bookstore to pick up some postcards and stickers. I spent a frustrating 5 minutes trying to ask a cashier where I could find a water point - she didn't understand me saying water, though I tried every way I could think of to pronounce it differently (not that easy) and resorted to miming, before Laura stepped in to help...the lady understood her first time. Go figure - and then we caught the shuttle to the South Kaibob trail to start our walk.

It took us 30 minutes to get down to ooh aah point, and the going was tough. It was mad hot, and steep and slippery, and Laura was not at all happy with me for making us go (apparently she only agreed to keep me happy haha). We were passed by a group of people riding mules up to the top on our way down, which looked like fun. Unfortunately, if you want to book a mule ride you have to do it 13 months in advance of when you're going to go...madness! We passed Rose, Faye, Bryan and Abi coming back up when we were almost to the viewpoint, and they didn't fill us with confidence about the walk back up, but we crackede on ahead anyway.

When we reached ooh ahh point, we bumped into Nanette, Julia and Christina who had stayed for a while to eat some lunch and take loads of photos, and who told us that Claire and Viv had decided to forge on ahead to a viewpoint further down. Really did not fancy that at all! After catching our breath for a bit, we decided to head back up. It had taken 30 minutes for us to get down, and so we were not looking forward to going back up. The hike messes with your head, as normally you climb up first and get to recover by going down, but the second half of a Grand Canyon hike is the real slog. Laura was in a horrendous mood on the way back up, alternatively ignoring me and cursing me. We had a few stops to get a drink, and once to have a cereal bar and I'm not going to lie, it was a nightmare! However, when we made it to the top, we realised that it had only taken 40 minutes, and not the 60 we were anticipating, so we're pleased with ourselves and also thought that we'd probably pushed too hard and that's why it had been too difficult!

After such a struggle (and in the strongest heat of the day) we decided to take it easy. We caught the bus to the geology museum, on the way bumping into Rose, Faye and Bryan again, and stopped there to enjoy a ranger talk about the creation of the Grand Canyon. Ranger Erin explained it by using the word DUDE; deposition, uplift, down cutting and erosion. Her talk was good, and even held the attention of those who weren't as into geology as I am, apart from when she was interrupted by a twisty old granny shouting at some Korean woman for talking!

After enjoying this, Laura, Rose and I decided to get the bus to the main village area of the National Park to attempt to find a restaurant that Graeme had raved about. Faye and Bryan decided they would like to do a rim walk, but would meet us there. We had a nightmare of a time trying to find this restaurant, which he had told us was called El Tovar, which was in fact a hotel, so we settled for a restaurant called the Arizona Room instead, where we met up with the others. Laura and I split a ranch chicken basket and also a beef stew in a bread bowl, which was the most amazing thing ever. It had vegetables in it! You have no idea how much of a novelty this is until you've tried eating out in America and Canada for two and a bit months. We also each had a cheeky desert, and all five of us left with full bellies and clean plates...we were very happy!

The others decided to stay in the Grand Canyon a bit longer, but Laura and I headed back to camp as I'd managed to get m&ms melted onto my white waterproof (clever!) and I needed to wash it. On the shuttle back to Tusayan, we passed a number of elk by the side of the road, one of which was a buck sharpening his antlers on a tree..pretty special! The bus driver kindly slowed right down so we could all get photos, and we were really chuffed. I quite like elk...we've seen that many of them that I've developed a bit of a fondness for them.

Back at camp we had much needed showers and did our laundry, then ate dinner with the group and FaceTimed Gemma and Shellie (with a guest appearance by Graeme haha). All was going beautifully until I was attacked by a mutant moth which was bigger than my face...not happy!

We sorted out our bags to leave For Zion the next morning, and popped our weary selves into bed. Lovely!

Deej x
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