Las Vegas, Grand Canyon

Stopped briefly for a Route 66 photo opportunity before crossing the Nevada border. First stop was Primm, just across the border for our first taste of a casino. Went on the Desperado rollercoaster, that looked very tame from the bottom but was actually quite good. Then we carried on to Las Vegas. Our tour leader had promised us a ‘surprise’ and the first part was an ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffet in The Luxor casino. Most people went back at least four times to sample everything from breakfast, main courses and puddings. Feeling very stuffed, we then headed to the pool at the Luxor and spent the afternoon sunbathing and having a well deserved rest.

That evening was the second part of our surprise – a Hummerzine. Very, very cool. Plus our leader had bought 8 bottles of champagne and 42 cans of beer for the 13 of us to drink. We drove along the strip, with the music at full blast, all the way to Old Vegas – downtown. Here we watched a light show onto have lunch a ceiling, then it was back in the Hummer to the Bellagio. Here we watched the Light and Water display – think the fountain scene near the end of Oceans 11. Walked down to New York, New York to go to a bar there and were given lots of prostitute cards on the way – the only state where its legal! Finished the night in an Irish Bar inside the casino.

The next morning, we headed back for the strip. Saw the lion enclosure inside the MGM Grand, then went on the rollercoaster at New York, New York. Went to M&M world – 4 floors dedicated to M&M’s. 4! After the second we couldnt handle anymore! After Everything Coca-Cola (completely dedicated to Coke), we took a cab down to the Stratosphere. From the viewpoint at the top you can see right out over the strip, downtown and the desert. Decided against the rides on the top of it. Due to high winds, most of the evening shows were cancelled, so we were unable to watch a volcano erupt or a pirate show so instead we went into the casino of Treasure Island for an evening on the 5c/10c slot machines (all we could afford). Most of us came away with a profit, even if it was only a few bucks.

Next day took us to the Grand Canyon. Went to a viewpoint to see it, but due to winds our planned helicopter rides over it could not happen. Becasue the temperature was predicted to be in the minuses, even before wind chill, we booked into a hotel instead. Went back to the campsite to cook, and as it was my groups turn, we ended up cooking for 13 in a mini blizzard. It was actually quite fun.

Next morning, the weather had improved dramatically. We left the hotel at 5.30 to get in sunrise from Treks very unique ‘off the beaten track’ spot. Basically, it meant clambering over rocks rather than standing with the crowds at the viewpoint. Then at 6.30 9 of us set out on Bright Angel Trail down into the Canyon. Recommended time was 8-12 hours taking 4-5 hours to get down. Plateau Point, our destination, was 12.7 miles away, 4500ft down, but still 1500ft above the Colorado River. We had reached it by 8.30. Saw 2 Californian Condors whilst down there – birds that were near extinction a few years back. We had an hour long lunch break before the arduous task of getting back up. Leaving so early had meant that the track was near deserted – not so on the way up, we passed many people though few were attempting the full trail like we did. Also, passed those taking the mule ride down and up. After an hour and 15 mins, we got half way back up, and absloutely shattered we stopped for another half hour food break. By the time we’d reached the top, the last half mile being the real killer, it was12.45 – not only well inside the full trip quota but also the down part only prediction.

When our leader picked us up at 2.30, we had managed to not look quite so dead! We went back to the helicopters and got our half hour flight over the canyon. That evening, after another well deserved pizza dinner, we all relaxed at the bowling alley below the hotel, followed by pool, though we had to teach the American leader the English rules because most of the American ones were absolutely ridiculous.

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