We said our goodbyes to Vegas, and headed towards Arizona. It was a nice drive, with plains on both sides, mountains at a distance, and one could see miles ahead on a bright day. On the previous evening, we inquired about tours operating at the Grand Canyon, and met a cordial Trinidadian who was selling day trips to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. We asked his opinion on what we should do since we were driving ourselves, and he quite surprisingly told us that we must definitely see the South Rim. The reason being that it was the most popular spot, and though the West Rim has the world famous Sky Walk (which has great statistics, like it is made out of 4 inches thick glass and can hold 17 fully loaded 737s!), the views are nowhere as great as at the South Rim. He patiently explained to us how to get there, and also told us about helicopter tours in the Canyon. So, we decided to take his advice and call up the helicopter service in the morning.
We called Papillon, which seemed to be the only helicopter tour service in the area, and they had a 25-30 minute tour at 4 pm which was ideal for us. We reached Tusayan, which is a town just outside the canyon, had a quick lunch and went to a National Geographic tourist information center. The lady there gave us maps of the area, and explained to us how to make the most of our limited time, as the sun would set soon after our helicopter tour. We headed out into the Grand Canyon National Park, and went to Yaki Point. This was our first view of the canyon, and it was breath taking. We were amazed at the shape and formations of the rocks, and the gigantic expanse they covered. At one point many many years ago, the canyon was under water, and pushed up by tectonic activity under the Colorado river, it went on to become 18 miles from the north to south rim, and 1 mile deep inside the water. The river looks quite insignificant now in comparison. There was a nice cloud cover, and a reasonable amount of sun light, so we got some decent pictures. We did not spend too much time, and headed towards the Grand Canyon Airport, where we were supposed to check in with Papillon. They checked our weight, and gave us cards with our seat numbers, after working out the seating arrangement to distribute weight evenly on the copter.
In a separate room, we were asked to watch a mandatory safety video. We yawned our way through it, and then were given life jackets to attach to our waists. Next, it was time to enter the helicopter The pilot mentioned that it was very windy, but we should be able to get in and out without trouble. None of us had flown in an helicopter before, so it was very exciting. As we moved up, we saw sparse forests, with some snow fall, and soon reached the canyon. The huge expanse of rock is quite exhilarating to watch, and we tried to just soak in everything. It was pretty windy, and the ride was bumpy at times, but well worth it for what we got in return. The pilot guided us into the Dragon Corridor, which is the longest and widest part of the canyon. The canyon has varying textures at different points, some with snow, and some very dry, and different colors give it an amazing hue in the sunlight. He played Chariots of Fire as were flying over the canyon, and it was quite apt to match the serene atmosphere outside. Everything seemed to slow down, though we were moving at a few hundred miles an hour. Then, we flew along the Colorado river for sometime, while we clicked pictures and took videos. I was trying to understand the different readings on the control panel, but decided not to worry about it. As we flew, the sun began to set slowly, and that created some amazing views. Towards the end of the ride we went over a water treatment plant, which was supposed to be the most photographed plant on earth! It supplies water to the canyon and surrounding areas. We landed safely and didn’t have too much time to talk about the ride, as we rushed into the car, to head back into the park. This time we went to Yavapai point, which had many vista points to click pictures from. It is difficult to explain in words, the beauty of the setting sun at the canyon. Hopefully, our amateurish pictures will be able to capture some of it.