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Tuesday 27 Apr 2004
Las Vegas, USA

Grand-est Canyon (PART DEUX!)

Right, I slept 12 hours last night so Im mightily fresh and ready to leave Las Vegas (cue "Leaving Las Vegas" song by Cheryl Crowe). Ive also just stuffed myself silly at the buffet in the Sahara casino.. going through 8 plates (!) piled with everything good from roast beef through to salmon and pizza. I didnt even leave any room for desert since I almost threw up trying to stand up to leave the restaurant ... gotta get my moneys worth. Interesting fact: Flamingo, one of the large casinos on The Strip was one of the first casinos and was built by none other than "Bugsy" Siegal - the notorious mafia gangster. Im kinda annoyed since I always assumed it was the Sahara... hence why I went there so much. Doh!

Ive already gone through about 400 dollars in one week in the States and Ive only made it to Las Vegas, so theres no way Ill be able to afford to get to NY via bus in terms of time AND expense! Hence, Ive decided to miss out on "Nyawlens" (New Orleans) and FLY straight to Chicago, then I might try to get up to Toronto in Canada before coming back down to NYC via Rochester (to meet up with my pal Adeel). I fly to Chicago on the red-eye tonight at 12.45 am and arrive there at 6am.

Right so, yesterday I went to the Grand Canyon!!! I had taken a tour there from my hostel, Sin City Hostel, which cost 109 dollars. A tad expensive but it proved to be the best option since the other tours only go to the canyon for about 1 hour (we had 2 and half, plus saw other stops along the way) plus this tour specialises in "educating" its customers about everything from the best buffets in Las Vegas to the history of the Hoover Dam. I didnt realise, though, just how far the Grand Canyon was and I learned a few things from the trip as the group of 20 sat on the super-comfortable air-conditioned bus.... For one, its actually in Arizona, not Nevada. Secondly it takes about 7 hours to get there!!!

Along the way we stopped at various historic sights like Route 66 (the famous first higway in the US linking east with west... it starts at Venice Beach and ends in Chicago... so in a way Im following the route!) and the Hoover Dam. Plus we passed briedly through an Indian reserve but were not allowed to stop... not really a problem since it was nothing special, just American-Indian people living in dusty houses. The bus stopped frequently at souvenir shops but the souvenirs were either too big (ox-heads) or too tacky for me to buy, so I stuck to using my camera.

Finally we came to the Grand Canyon National Park. We were given 2 and half hours to walk 3 miles over a paved trail running alongside the rim of the canyon toward "The Village".

I think I had always imagined that the Grand Canyon was just going to be like the ones in Australia, only going on much further, but when I reached the edge of the rim for the first time my heart jumped!

The sight before me was amazing. It had a beauty that cannot be described in words, or visualised in photos, but Ill try my best.... The first thing that strikes you is: "JESUS THIS IS BIG!!". I can understand why so many people claim to have divine inspiration when they arrive. Standing on the edge of the rim, the canyon dropped down 7000 ft below me and about 10 km wide!! Below me eagles soared through the silent windless air (that was another peculiar thing about the place.. the silence except for the nattering of a Japanes tourist); hundreds of small mountains and valleys criss-crossed each other coloured from purple-red to sandy-brown with a smattering of green from small forests, like someone had slammed a gigantic multi-coloured pen into the earth and dragged it along. Yet this was only ONE section, beyond the other side of the canyon you could see that similar canyons stretched on endlessly. It must be amazing from the air.

Above it, the sky was blue. You almost felt like you wanted to jump off to get a better view (Id imagine base-jumping is quite a popular pursuit here) and even other people were saying "It looks like a painting", which it did. It was quite unreal.

Then out of nowhere a squirel runs over my foot, pauses for a second to look up, then skirts off.

I was the last person to board the bus - understandably since I had spent all my time trying to take the best shots!!

The fact that I hadnt slept for 36 hours hadnt surpressed my determination to get the most of this amazing vista!..

The journey back was another 5 hours.. but we watched 2 films on the in-bus tv. What an exhausting day!!!

The hostel Ive been staying in, Sin City Hostel, has been great. Cool people run the place and a lot of them come out with us to party on the Strip. Its also got a great location on a quiet part of the Strip between Fremont St and the main Strip so you can relax here when you want to get away from the glitz and glamour. Highly recommended.

To sum up Vegas, it was a bit daunting at first... but you gradually figure out how to take it in small amounts to really enjoy it. I quite liked it here, without having spent too much money.. there is so much to do apart from gambling.. though hearing other peoples stories is quite funny (Id heard that a guy lost 80,000 dollars in 10 minutes!).

Disneyland for Adults!

ooh by the way, I won 2.50 while I was here after betting only 25 cents!! Wahay!!!

On to Chicago tonight!

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