Thursday, 25 June 2009

Grand Canyon & Death Valley

Okay, just quickly before I don't have the chance to/forget:

Grand Canyon
  • Totally worth the fortune we paid for this flight/helicopter/boat/bus trip combo, my favourite part was probably being in the Cessna plane getting perfect views in all directions. James' favourite part was probably teetering on the edge of the Grand Canyon and nearly giving me a heart attack!
  • Speaking of which, I was really shocked that there are absolutely no barriers on the tourist lookout points at the canyon. Sure, it's not sensible to try and fence off the entire thing, but at Eagle Point (where the Skywalk is), there are busloads and busloads of tourists going to the edge to take photos, and the drop is about 1.2km down - one slip, and you're custard! As I said, James enjoyed going all the way to the very edge, so far as to sit with his feet over the edge, while I stayed a wimpy but safe distance away...
  • Native American people look and sound just like tanned Chinese people - seriously, we got in the boat ride where we were supposed to have a Hualapai (the local tribe) guide, but I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the guy we had and a Malaysian Chinese - I say Malaysian because he was a lot more tanned than regular Chinese people. Their accent was a wee bit different to typical Chinese English, but still... Hm.
  • Overall, totally awesome, and a bonus that this is yet another UNESCO World Heritage site! Unfortunately we couldn't find any UNESCO signs to take photos with but it still counts.

Death Valley

  • Unfortunately neither of us did much research into the drive from Vegas through Death Valley, so we probably didn't take the route which included the US's lowest point, however we still got some pretty breathtaking scenery all the way.
  • In the hottest part of the valley there was a constant dry heat which felt like being inside an oven in fan bake mode, thank goodness we had air conditioning...
  • I felt a little bit cheated that we paid the park entrance fee of US$20/vehicle which was good for 7 days, but we basically just drove through a small part of it in a couple of hours... still, we should support their national park service, and compared with what we've had to spend on other things, it was totally worthwhile.
  • During one of our photo stops we heard, then saw, what looked like an F16 doing practice runs over the area. Man, if you've never experienced a jet flyover before, you really don't know how LOUD it is! It was probably one of the highlights of today's drive actually, really cool.

Finally, arriving in Mammoth Lakes was a bit of a relief thanks to the cool mountain air and for James, being able to stop driving! I have to say he did a very admirable job for the first time handling a vehicle in the US and having to drive on the WRONG side of the road, though we're kind of used to it by now... For dinner tonight we had some awesome Mexican food, the portion sizes were insane and we even got a doggy bag for lunch tomorrow, I just hope I remember to take it out of the fridge when we check out, otherwise our next guest will get a nice surprise...

Tomorrow we'll explore the Mammoth Lakes area a bit before driving up to Lake Mono, and then through Tioga Pass into Yosemite, where we will be staying in unheated tent cabins in Curry Village that costs more than both our Washington and Vegas hotels... ah well, I'm sure that being right in the centre of the park will make it all worthwhile!

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