We were a little bit grumpy with Las Vegas after flying in the night before.
We landed at 11 oâ€™clock, but after an hour wait for the shuttle bus to come and
an hour wait in line at the Imperial Palace just to pick up our room key and
find out our trip to Zion National Park had been cancelled, we finally trudged
through the banks of blank faces inhabiting the casino floor at 3am for a quick
nap before our 5am wake-up for the Grand Canyon tour.
We perked up on the road, as we drove from Las
Vegas, over the Hoover Dam and into Arizona. The Hoover Dam is meant to be one
of the 100 Great Wonders of the World (according to the book by that name that
has usually come up trumps) and Iâ€™m sure it was really difficult to build, but
it wasnâ€™t really that amazing to see.
The desert here is the Mojave desert,
which is the desert region of southern Nevada
and western Arizona
between 3000 and
6000 feet. The reason why this elevation is called the Mojave desert (as
opposed to the Great Basin
at lower elevations
and the Colorado Plateau at higher elevations) is the presence of the Joshua
tree, which is restricted to 3000-6000 feet. The Joshua tree was certainly the
most distinctive feature of the desert, a member of the Lily family that can
grow up to 40 feet tall and live for a thousand years, with peculiar arms that
spread out. Then we drove across Arizona
(stopping at a few weird truck stops/gift shops) up to the Colorado Plateau and
to the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon definitely
deserves its position in the top 100. The canyon is 446km long, 6.4-29km wide
and 1.6km deep. Until research released yesterday came out it was thought that
it formed by the Colorado River gradually
cutting out the river gorge over 6 million years as the Colorado Plateau was
uplifted. The Science paper released yesterday, however, proposes that the
canyon has actually been forming for 17 million years, but for the first 11
million years it was a series of caverns linking up an underground river until
finally the river undermined the structure enough that the roof caved in,
forming the canyon.
We saw the West Rim of the Grand Canyon,
starting at Eagleâ€™s Point. The Hualapai Tribe own this region and have a
Skywalk set up.
This is a horseshoe-shaped loop made of glass, so you can walk
out and look down 1.2km to the canyon floor below. Some of the people on the
loop were absolutely petrified to be walking on glass that high up, and clung
with terror to the railing, refusing to look down. The Hualapai also had a
dance demonstrating which was really interesting, especially the hoop dance and
the fancy dance. After Eagleâ€™s Point we caught a bus further down the West Rim
were we had lunch and walked around the edge of the Canyon. We watched prairie
dogs keep lookout for danger in the rocks and ravens glide out over the canyon.
There was some old mining equipment still in place and the canyon itself was
just glorious, a staggering cut through the earth with a slow muddy river
inching its way along far down below.
On our drive back to Las Vegas
they played Pirates of the Caribbean on the
We had a busy night planned, so once back in the Imperial
we caught the monorail to Mandalay Bay
(the hotelâ€™s theme is aquariums). We
had dinner at a burger place there recommended by Lonely Planet. It was easily
the best burger I have had since leaving Australia
, with fried egg,
pineapple and beetroot, served with a really refreshing Belgian apple ale.
After dinner we went across the sky-bridge to the Luxor
hotel (confusingly built like the pyramids of Giza
rather than the temples of Luxor
with black glass coating the pyramid and a beam of light projected from the
zenith into the sky).
Lydia had a chat with a few bored girls selling glass
pyramids etched with your photo, they were excited to hear that she was
Australian because they thought very highly of â€śThunder from Downunderâ€ť the
male strip show showing nightly across the road at Excalibur (they approvingly
noted that if one Australian was ill they would cancel the show rather than let
a non-Australian go up). They said that being under-21 Vegas was extremely
boring, since there was almost nothing there they could do without drinking or
gambling. At Luxor
we saw a showgirls show called â€śFantasyâ€ť which was quite well done except for
the painful comedy interludes, especially the horrific comedian who struggled
to make the show dirty and puerile rather than artistic and elegant. It is an
unfortunate aspect of popular American culture that is puritanical and prudish,
giving any appreciation for sexuality an adolescent dirtiness.
Overall an excellent day, but an exhausting one, finally
getting into bed at 2am.