Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. A sentiment that has become more real to me the older I get.
“We’re here. Welcome to the Grand Canyon” It was one of our tour guides who spoke. I yawned and stretched feeling tired but relaxed from the long drive and as I struggled to find my shoes the rest of my group scrambled off the bus. It was a particularly long drive and the Grand Canyon had been highly anticipated. I stepped off the bus with baited breath expecting the inevitable awe that would surely ensue, but as I looked around expecting to see something incredible I discovered I was simply standing in a concrete parking lot. I did, however, see something pretty amazing, perhaps less ‘awe-inspiring’ and more ‘Usual Suspects’; my entire team were standing in a row with bags over their heads.
“There are two rules.” It was one of our guides who spoke as a brown paper bag was slipped over my head. “One, keep your right hand on the shoulder of the person in front of you at all times. Forget about your safety, we have that covered. We promise we will not let you walk off the edge of a cliff. Two, when we instruct you to take the bag off, you are not allowed to take pictures until we tell you”. So those were the rules. With beads of nervous sweat beginning to trickle down my forehead, I blessed myself, gave a reassuring pat to the shoulder in front of me, and began to walk.
One of the first things I noticed was the air, beneath that brown paper bag it felt different; cleaner, it was possibly the cleanest air I’d breathed in weeks. Although I had just agreed to walk blindfolded to the edge of one of the largest cliff edges in the world so perhaps it was just thinner.
As we walked, the tension began to build and everyone was excited. I had expected to be blown away by awesome views during the drive or at least as soon as we stepped off the bus but somehow the canyon had evaded us. The Grand Canyon, even to those who have never seen it, is known for its vast size and sensational views so you’d imagine it would be impossible for it to creep up on you, surely you’d see it coming for miles.
Who could have known that something so large could hide so well?
Suddenly, I found myself tripping over the person in front of me; the group had come to a sudden halt. “Ok, you’re here. Remember, no pictures until we say it’s time.” We were lined up side by side, and finally told to remove the bags from our heads.
I’m not a particularly religious person, but what I saw in front of me cannot be described as anything other than the 'hand of God'. It was simply breath-taking. We stood for several minutes gazing out at the wonder in front of us which seemed to go on forever. There’s nothing like a 6 million-year-old spectacular feat of evolution to make you feel small and insignificant, but I have to say, I’ve never felt more connected to our world than I did as I stood atop that cliff. It was the first time I truly felt part of something ‘greater than myself’. Later that night, we sat atop that cliff and ate pizza as the sun went down, it was without question the best pizza I’ve had or will ever have in my life and when the sun finally set, the two hundred or so people who had gathered stood and clapped as though it was the first sunset they had ever experienced. It was one of the most singularly spectacular moments of my life challenged only by the sunrise I would witness the following week from within Navajo Nation in Monument Valley.
Continue to The Grand Canyon Part 2: The Hike