Jun
29
2007

Hoover Dam & The Grand Canyon

I got my wake-up call at 5:15am, something that was initiated by the tour company, not me. The sun was already out and I got down to the tour bus lobby area of the hotel by about 5:45. The bus was meant to come at 6, but ended up being about 15 minutes late. Once I board we had to pick up more people from other hotels, then it was off to the tour company’s headquarters.

The line for processing took a while and we were divided into our relative tour groups. Initial I had booked a ‘freedom’ package, but after hearing their spiel I decided to upgrade so I could go to Eagle Point and walk on the brad new Skywalk. I have a feeling it was a big con and I could have gone on the old packaged. They also told us that there would be a two hour line to walk and that we could skip that line by buying a wristband through them, something else that turned out to be completely false when we got there.

In their brochure they listed a continental breakfast and buffet lunch as part of the package. Though by definition a continental breakfast is light, a miniature Danish and small juice box really didn’t suffice. Getting up so early, stuck on a bus for a four hour trip, being in the middle of the desert and not getting to lunch until after midday I was nearly passed out by the time I got to lunch.

After “breakfast” we were loaded onto new buses in accordance with our destination and tour package. The bus driver was great, very informative as we traveled around and seemed to love what he was doing. It took about an hour to get to Hoover Dam, a minor stop on the way to the Grand Canyon. They are constructing a new highway that will bypass the Dam wall, but for now you have to drive across the Dam. With terrorism a concern, before we did that our bus was boarded by armed guards and all overhead lockers, luggage compartments beneath the bus and the restrooms were inspected. On one side of the Dam is Nevada and the other is Arizona. At this time of year the time zone is the same, but when the summer ends Nevada sets their clocks back and Arizona doesn’t, that explains the clock picture. While the Dam is in between Nevada and Arizona, the electricity in generates is predominantly used by California. This area has been in drought for the last seven years and you can see ho much the water level has dropped from the pictures. During WWII the Dam was protected by a number of pillboxes, a few of which still exist.

Once in Arizona we had to drive 14 miles along a dirt road, apparently it is going to be paved soon, but it was a bumpy ride in a motor coach. Our destination was the West Rim of the Grand Canyon, which is actually located on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. Indian Reservations aren’t subject to United States law and we were told of a few ground rules before we got off the bus, most notable being no smoking at all. We were also warned to watch out for Rattlesnakes and Scorpions as we walked around.

Upon arrival at the West Rim I took some photos, they don’t really do it justice to how deep it is. There is no hand rails or anything, there is nothing between you and falling to your death so I didn’t want to get too close to the edge. You can see a photo of the Skywalk overhanging the Canyon. The Skywalk has a glass floor; you aren’t allowed to take cameras on so I had to lock up all my stuff in a locker. Before you are allowed to walk on the glass you have to put booties over your shoes. Once on the Skywalk down the middle is clear glass, while on either side there is a railing and some thicker glass with the support beams underneath that feels a lot safer. It took time to work up courage to step out onto the clear glass section, but it was a pretty amazing feeling. The Skywalk was definitely the highlight of the trip and I was very glad I did it. I just wish I had photos of what it looked like to look down at your feet and see your shadow on the ground a km below. The scariest thing is when someone else stands on the same pane of glass you are on and you feel it move. After the Skywalk there were a few Native America housing structures to look at and read about, plenty of photos of them. This was all located at Eagle point, so named because there is a rock formation that looks like an eagle.

From there they had a shuttle bus to the other lookout location, Guano Point. Guana Point was the location for lunch, a “Native American BBQ Buffet”. As I mentioned earlier I was nearing the point of passing out by this point so I ate straight away. While I was happy to eat anything at all, the lunch failed to deliver on what it promised. It turned out to be a bunch of greasy unenthused guys scooping out lunch in a take away container for everyone. The cuisine was not Native American at all, nor was it a buffet, but whatever. It was a great location to eat though; surrounded by Canyon on both sides it offered spectacular views.

There is of course no plumbing in this area so the toilets are all portable ones. Portable toilets are pretty unbearable at the best of times, but I can hardly imagine a more unbearable situation than when they have been baking into desert sun. Guana Point offered a fair bit of room to walk around and take a lot of photos. The mining apparatus you see in the photos is an abandoned swing that was used to lower miners down and mine bat faeces from the bat caves below. Bat faeces is used in mascara and lipstick as well as fertilizer, but it didn’t make enough money so the mine was shut down. As I was taking photos, helicopters were actually flying below where I was, which is quite a weird thing to see. There were a few people in the tour group that actually did the Helicopter ride, the canyon is super wide so it’s not as dangerous as it sounds.

The final stop on the tour was the Hualapai Cowboy Ranch. It was a small Old West township setup where they had a few people role playing and having fake gun fights in the streets. I went on a horse drawn buggy, which was slow and dusty, but the driver was informative. After that we had to get back to the airport and back on the bus, not before I got my free certificate for visiting the Indian reservation though.

Overall, the bus drivers and tour guides were very good, but the tour was very poorly co-ordinated and advertised, which took away from the magic of what should have been a perfect day. Both the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon were pretty amazing, and their majesty along was enough to make my day. It isn’t everyday that you get to say you visited one of the seven NATURAL wonders of the world. The West Rim of the Canyon wasn’t that tourist friendly, as it is on the Indian Reservation. The South Rim is apparently where the tourists and crowds are at, but that is another three hours away. The West Rim is set to become more popular though with the construction of the Skywalk, expansion of the airport and the building of a hotel. The Skywalk was amazing, I’m sure on their web site you can see a photo of what the view below looks like. It was a long day, but I am very glad I did it and it was a good chance to reflect and escape the craziness of Las Vegas. Sorry about the length and the mistakes, I’m sure there are many given how long I’ve been awake. Don’t know what tomorrow will hold, but it will surely start with a sleep in.

About the Author: Andrew Ferguson

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