Road Trip to the Grand Canyon (Part 3)

So there we were; four women driving through the Arizona desert in a beautiful car, with no Satellite Navigational System, no internet access on our phones, simply relying on my excellent map reading skills to get us to the Grand Canyon, when we drove past a billboard telling us to turn left at the next junction for the Grand Canyon.  Well of course, we missed the turning! After figuring this out (which took another few miles) and finding a break in the road to turn so that we were facing the right direction to get back to the junction, we’d managed to get onto a main road through a little town.  Every few miles alongside the road there were several faded, rickety post boxes lined alongside each other, bent at weathered angles, indicating that people actually lived in this crazy place!  We passed a school, several abandoned buildings, burnt out Chevy’s, and even a functioning bar, before we hit the deserted wilderness again.  After that little town, some buildings could be indentified in the distance across the landscape.  They were so sporadic in their placement that it looked more like litter that had been strewn from the heavens, and had embedded itself into the earth where it had landed.

We reached another billboard with an arrow pointing us towards the Grand Canyon, so once again we obligingly followed the directions; by this point driving through the back and beyond of Arizona, my paper map with only the main roads printed, had become redundant!  Cruising through the country we were confronted with a “Rough Road” sign.  Not really thinking that much about it we continued the journey pleasantly.  Then we came to the 14 mile stretch of rough road…

I think I can safely say that a sign warning of “NO ROAD” would have been more appropriate than just describing the path as “Rough”, as it was not a road that any person from civilisation would understand as being a road.  It was a sand track up the mountain, besieged with rocks of all shapes and sizes, and bordered on either side by cacti and wild cows.  We would later learn that this road was the only one up to the Grand Canyon, and the surrounding villages!  British drivers don’t really have to deal with this type of terrain, so it was quite the surprise.  The drive up to the Grand Canyon wasn’t too bad.  We were overtaken by larger vehicles more suited to driving in that type of environment with four wheel drive. The worst part of the drive up was that the two of us in the back were desperate to go to the toilet after having consumed litres of water on the journey, and this road seemed to be infinite!  When would it end!?  It was the most agonizing journey of my life, but the journey back down would be even more eventful!  More on that later though…

Eventually, my friend who was in the driving seat, had miraculously manoeuvred the Mustang the whole length of the dirt track, and we had made it up to a road that was thankfully made of tarmac, and not natural rubble.  From there the journey to the Grand Canyon West base on the mountain was smooth, and within minutes we had made it!

Tickets for the Skywalk bought, we were waiting for the bus to take us there!  The four of us clambered onto the Air Conditioned vehicle, and took our seats at the front.  I took it upon myself to enquire as to how long the bus would take.  Unfortunately I hadn’t phrased my question too clearly, and after asking the driver “How long is the bus?” he responded by saying “55 feet.”  Needless to say this was confusing to me as I had meant the length of the journey.  Rather than be rude and disrespectful to said bus driver (he was an elderly gentleman) I simply replied, “Oh Thanks.”  He then got off the vehicle, walked the length of the bus, and returned with a correction, it was actually 54 feet.  Well, as my friends were all loosing themselves to fits of laughter, I kept my composure and once again thanked the gentleman.  I must learn to speak more clearly.

After an awkward bus journey of not more than a few minutes, we were dropped off at the Skywalk.  As soon as we walked to the edge of the cliff, we were all absolutely astonished by the sheer scale of the Grand Canyon.  It was insane! Only when a toy like helicopter in the distance flew past, did we realise just how immensely huge the Canyon is! It was simply awe inspiring, and definitely nature’s finest work.  We were privileged to be in the right area of the Canyon to see the rock formation that made Eagle Point; the detailed shape of the rock was just amazing.  It really looked like an Eagle gliding effortlessly with its wings outstretched.  It was simply incredible to think that this amazing place was the result of millions and millions of years of nature just being nature, and I don’t think that there are words to convey just how spectacularly beautiful the views are.

Eagle Point

We made our way onto the Skywalk, and after having to stow all of our personal items in lockers (a cheeky way to make people pay for the photos taken by photographers employed by the Skywalk) and covering our shoes with horrible disposable protectors, we made it out onto the glass walkway over the Canyon.  After making it halfway around, admiring the beautiful views, I spied a crack in the glass, then in panic I looked down through the transparent floor and saw where I would fall to my imminent death if that crack spread.  Well, I really shouldn’t have looked down!  I totally freaked out and made my way to the exit rather hastily, before my jellified legs gave out on me!  My friends loved it, and once I’d regained my composure, desperately clinging onto the handrail over the steel structure, I rejoined the group and we had some beautiful photos.  Although I’m glad I did it, I would say that it isn’t really worth it.  I felt that we had better views from the edges of the Canyon, than from the Skywalk itself.

We got back on the bus, and instead of heading back to the base, we were sped along to Guano Point.  We spent a little time there, having mandatory I’m-in-the-Grand-Canyon photos (see below!) and then bought some beautiful handmade bracelets from the local people, and headed back to the base.  It was time to get back to the bright lights of the strip, before the sun deserted us, and night fell!  Driving in the desert in the day is hard enough, we weren’t keen to try it in the night!

Fed (with the delicious blueberries from Walmart) and watered, we were back in the car, and facing the dirt track again.  A Mustang really wasn’t a great choice of car for this trip!  On the way back, it was all pretty much downhill.  Rather than a slow climb up the mountain, my friend was off roading in a convertible!!!  Every time a car passed us, the visibility of the road in front was completely diminished, and we were left driving into a cloud of dust, with absolutely no clue what the hell would be around the corner.  My friend was rivalling Lewis Hamilton with the speed at which she was taking corners in the convertible – we may as well have been rally driving!  We were all creased laughing, listening to the stones scraping the underside of the car; wondering how the hell we had managed to get it so wrong, and simultaneously hoping that none of this was actually damaging the car!

We finally made it to the end of the road, and the car seemed to be in one piece!  The sense of relief was unanimous! There was just one more thing that we wanted to do that day – see a cactus up close of course!

To be cont…

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