If you come up to Las Vegas, then you must take a day out to go to Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. Most tour operators ply trips to the two destinations on two days. And I just couldn't decide which of the two I should go for, which I should forgo. While discussing the tour plans with the concierge of Caesars Palace, I chanced upon the Classic Combo package of Pink Jeep Tours, that combines both destinations in one single day. I wanted to see the famous Skywalk; and luckily this package includes the West Rim where it is built. It cost me $304. But it was totally worth it.
There were three couples along with me on the tour in the jeep. Surprisingly one of them was expatriate Indians from Kerala. They migrated to Canada in 1970 and were on a tour of Las Vegas. One couple was from Manchester, UK, and the other from the US. We had an excellent tour guide Mike, very well informed and articulate. Started from Vegas at 7 pm. Mike gave us a running commentary, enlightening us about various interesting facets of those historic places on the way, always peppering with anecdotes and humor.
|The Boulder Theater on way to The Grand Canyon|
We also got a glimpse of Lake Mead, formed by the dam. This is the largest reservoir in the US. As much as 90 percent of water in Vegas comes from this lake. All traffic to Arizona used to go over the Hoover Dam. But after 9/11, the dam was declared a sensitive location and traffic banned. A 90-mile long highway was specially constructed as a detour. On the way, we saw a number of Joshua trees, which are typical of the Mojave desert. There is a Joshua Tree National Park in southeast California.
Around 10 am we reached the border of Hualapai Nation. The people of the Hualapai or Walapai tribe, one of the 14 tribes in the region, were the original inhabitants of northwest Arizona. They live in the mountains. The entire Grand Canyon West area is owned by them. The area is virtually an autonomous region. Private vehicles are not allowed. The tribals are exempted from a number of Arizona state taxes. They have a separate constitution, administration and courts.
From the border, we boarded a bus to the Eagle Point. That's where the Skywalk is. The entire area is an amazing visual delight. The huge precipice and the deep gorges through which the Colorado river runs is as much frightening as enchanting. You need to be extremely careful, because there are no railings. No signboards warning tourists to be careful either. Being curious and going to the edge to get a beautiful photo could end in a fall to nowhere. It's very dangerous. You need to particularly cautious if you have children who tend to run around.
|The Grand Canyon|
|A look down from the Skywalk can just be mind-boggling|
|The view of Grand Canyon from Skywalk is breathtaking|
Around 1 pm we headed to the Hoover Dam, built in early 1930s. We reached there around 3 pm. Never before has such a huge concrete structure been built that too in such a remote area. A whole new city was built for the workers, who laboured 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while America reeled under severe recession. The workers had just two holidays, on Independence Day and Christmas Day. Many worked on those two days as well. The project was finished two years ahead of schedule.
|View from the Hoover Dam|
|The turbines and generators of Hoover Dam|