Ye Olde Grand Canyon

Trip Start Mar 11, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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What I did
Smooth Water Rafting

Flag of United States  , Arizona
Sunday, August 7, 2011

About 2 billion years old in parts and one of the few natural wonders visible from outer space.

Grand Canyon was, well... grand! Huge, awesome, and very hot. We explored parts of the South Rim along with the other hundreds of tourists (the joys of peak season!), waiting in line to get that perfect shot (or decide to just crop them out of the pic). The North Rim only gets about 10% of tourists so we were keen to get away from the crowds. But first, we wanted to get down, get down!
Down onto the Colorado river that runs through the Canyons. Us adrenaline-deficient folks opted for smooth water rafting through the Glen Canyon to the edge of the Grand Canyon. That's where the water turns white and nasty. To get there we boarded a touristy bus in Williams and had to be searched before boarding, kinda like going through an airport. No guns, knives, etc. That's because we were going into the Navajo reservation. 
Aside: Apparently the Navajo reservation is the largest Native American reservation with about 280k people who mostly seem to be living in delapidated or makeshift houses on very large grounds in the desert. We were told that they don't teach their kids English at the schools. They need to go to the towns for that, the nearest one being more than 100km away at Flagstaff.
Anyway, we were purposeful stragglers when instructed to board the bus. We're not fans of queuing (despite being British ;) especially when there's no real benefit to derive. We'll all get there at the same time, right? Besides we're not that fussed if we don't get to sit next to each other. It was only a short ride anyway. 

But as serendipity would have it, we were directed to the little overflow van instead - us, the elderly, and the wheel-chair bound. This meant we got to the raft-boarding spot first and we were the very first to board the boat. What about the elderly and wheel-chair bound, I hear you ask? Well, in this "litigious society" we didn't dare help carry the wheelchair or help anyone onto the boat. That was Martin's job, our bonafide (and Health & Smafety trained) Native American guide. 

For the rest of the trip we enjoyed uninterrupted views and unobstructed photo opportunities, with all the other boats playing catch-up in our wake. It was a 20-man raft and we opted for the seats up front on the pontoons. It was about 35 degrees that day, but the water remained at 9 degrees! We weren't that hot... yet! We finally jumped in as a means of survival. It was exhilirating! As we drifted down the Colorado, the cliffs got higher and the canyon got deeper. Martin pointed out all sorts of rock shapes like wolf heads, and taught us the difference between Kaibab and Navajo sandstone. He showed us centuries old rock drawings We hadn't realised that one side of the river was the Indian reservation and the other is National park. 

When we got to Horseshoe bend Dee spotted a huge bird circling the cliffs. Martin grabbed his binoculars and confirmed that it was a numbered condor, a protected species. Apparently they were "endangered", with only a couple of dozen just a few years ago. Now thanks to conservation efforts they're increasing in numbers so we were lucky to see one. 

On the way back we slept most of the way, interrupted once for a stop in Cameron. It's a tourist trap disguised as a "trading post" where each tourist is handed a coupon as they disembark the bus: 5% off purchase under $100, 10% off if more. Whooop-dee-freakin-doooo!
I love being a traveller but hate being a tourist. Sometimes it has to be done.
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