Given that I am going to show you some great photographs, what was wrong with my Grand Canyon trip? I am cheap, thrifty and love a bargain. Therein lies the problem; busy flight to Vegas paid for by Teddy’s miles. I considered a helicopter ride to the canyon but decided to use my ancient British Airways miles for a prepaid tour bus to the western rim of the Grand Canyon. It sounded so marvelous: comfortable tour bus; wonderful guide; lunch on the Tribal Land of the Hualapai viewing the Skywalk. Blah, blah, blah – all I saw was that it was free. I blame my upbringing in Scotland. Even better, they picked us up at our hotel. They omitted to mention some critical facts.
- We left at 5am
- Then we went to a detention camp staging area
- We queued endlessly for another ticket
- Finally we went out to the cattle trucks luxury Greyliner double-decker buses
There were quite a few singles among the groups of tourists. Another, very sensible, lady and I were last to get on my bus but there was only one seat left. She decided to get the next bus; impatient Kerry got on the bus…from…hell. My seat was in the middle of 5 seats in the very back row upstairs. Somehow in all of this excitement I forgot that I have a congenital spinal problem and take medication for that. In the row was a Spanish speaking family, obviously tourists, who looked unhappy that I was going to take up their extra space. I was equally unhappy.
After we got underway with a very jolly guide, I attempted to converse briefly with my fellow guests. I discovered they were from Costa Rica and then nothing. That made me curious because almost all the Latin American guests that I meet at the airport are friendly and very polite. I was certain they were not originally from Costa Rica. They looked nouveau riche, not uncommon in our part of the world. Before we even reached the Hoover Dam, the senora next to me was snoring on my shoulder. Sigh.
Without revealing everything about the trip, I was relieved they did not know I could understand Spanish and by the time we returned to Vegas, my mind was whirling with nefarious plans for their demise. I jest of course… but do I? My conclusion about mi amigos was that they were Cartel. Their bags and clothes were ludicrously expensive and didn’t seem to match their coarse language peppered with Puta and Pendejo. I would guess that they originated in Mexico by their accent and looks. They endlessly encroached on my limited space with no apology. The final insult was passing candies across me to each other, without offering me one or a ‘disculpe’.
They were only part of the problem, however, and I was still relatively excited by the time we crossed into the Tribal lands, spotted Joshua trees and then finally glimpsed the canyon. I don’t know if any of you have taken this particular route to the canyon but the Hualapai Nation have really gone to great lengths to satisfy the endless thirst of tourists. There is the infamous Skywalk – you pay even more money to walk on it and then you cannot take any photographs. You could have lunch at various places and shuttle buses regularly rotated between the Skywalk, the Wild West Show and the plain old canyon.
Marriage to Teddy, who taught geological field-trips in Utah and Colorado, has given me the opportunity to see amazing natural wonders without so many tourists. Although the Grand Canyon is the largest, it wasn’t the prettiest or most photogenic. At the main viewing site, I felt constrained by having too many people around me, all trying to take dangerous selfies. Without thinking about the consequences, I walked off into the road so that I could be alone. Almost immediately I was corralled by a tribal guide who told me to stay within the invisible tourist perimeter. There were very sensible health and safety reasons for that – the shuttles drove fast and I could have easily got lost or fallen off the edge.
Lunch was not particularly appetizing but it did make me think about how difficult life would be on most tribal nations. The bathrooms were clean but had a sign asking us to conserve water. I wondered how often they had to drill new wells or was the water shipped in? Even though I had another hour or so, I decided to head towards the shuttle back to base. Alongside was a tent with tribal members selling hand-made trinkets.
One young man was just the image of my father. Although our native DNA is from North West Mexico, it is pretty close to South West USA. There were no borders before the Europeans arrived. We started chatting and he told me that when the Hualapai Nation were given this land it was mostly useless. As pretty as it is, there is no value in land that you can’t use. It isn’t really suitable for crops or grazing. Back in the day no one realized how valuable this type of tourism could be. His sister Pearl had made the earrings I admired from Hematite, a healing stone in their culture. I bought them for a friend who has cancer. This was my favorite part of the trip, truly connecting with a real person from the canyon.
More to come soon…