A helicopter
Soaring over Canyon grand
Aussies looking out

Our helicopter.

In a broad sense that haiku was the boys schoolwork for today. But in another sense… we went on a helicopter to the Grand Canyon and it was, to quote Callum, “AWESOME with lots of capitals..”

So the day started with a 5 am pick-up at a nearby major hotel, which meant a 4:30am wake-up for us. We turned up at the New Orleans hotel expecting to be picked up by a mini-bus and were a bit surprised to find a stretch limo waiting for us. So we sped through the early-morning dark in a haze of fibre-optic lights with our driver sitting a good two metres in front of us.

Our destination was the Boulder City airport where we met Susan, a tall Swedish woman who was our pilot and guide for the day (could this day possibly get better? I hear some of you asking). We were soon whizzing through the air to the sounds of the Ride of the Valkyries as the Sun rose in front of us. There’s something quite magical about helicopter flights; it’s like they don’t quite make sense and so are something wonderful. One minute you’re on the ground, the next you’re straight up above it in a bubble that provides an extraordinary view.

Nevada from above in the morning.

We flew over the Hoover Dam and up Lake Mead to the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. We landed at the base of the Canyon where we joined a boat and sped up-river for a while. Then we stopped and drifted back down-river, watching the Sun turn the tops of the Canyon walls a rich red-gold colour. Thanks to poor snowfalls and over use of the river, water-levels are very low and river-banks are high walls of dramatically eroded dirt. It was the strength of the Colorado River and its propensity to flood that led to the building of the Hoover Dam. The River has now been tamed, but there’s no mistaking that its strength is still there in the deep, fast-moving waters.

We arrived back at our helicopter and set off again, this time up the walls of the Canyon to the Colorado plateau on top. There we landed in the Hualapai Indian lands and went on the Skywalk. The Skywalk is a glass pathway looping out over the empty space of the Canyon. You’re literally standing on a thin glass sheet 2,000 feet above the floor of the Canyon. Strangely there was little sense of vertigo, partly because it is nigh-on impossible to get your head around the scale involved. (And yes Mum you would have detested it.)

Then back to our helicopter again and flying over the desert back to Boulder City. Flying this way the erosion patterns are quite clear. You can see how this is a dry, damaged land which in many ways a city has no place being plonked in the middle of. There are mesas where WW2 navy pilots practiced their aircraft carrier landings. There are strangely isolated towns where the Government sold off the land after the navy moved out; to people sucked in by the name Lake View not realising there was no view, no water and no electricity. There are tracks left by antelope and wolves. It’s all quite a sight.

It was, without doubt, an AWESOME experience.