It was summer in the Northern Hemisphere and I was pregnant.
We had been invited to attend a wedding in Wales in early July so, with a nearly 2 year old and another baby on the way, we thought what a great opportunity it would be to do an around the world trip! Australia is a long way from anywhere and we have always believed in making it worth our while once we leave our home country so we booked our tickets to London via the United States of America.
The States was somewhere that we had always been a little curious about. Pre-kids our travel was pretty adventurous, we tried to go to far flung and exotic locations such as Morocco and Sri Lanka. Things had definitely changed after having our first baby and our destination list adjusted accordingly, so USA suddenly hit the top of the list!
In Australia we are bombarded with so much American culture on TV, in music, so that landing in LA was not too much of a culture shock at all. We had already been exposed to the wide palm lined boulevards and the muscle zone at Venice Beach, the Taco Bells and greenbacks, so that we kind of felt like we were at home.
We rented a car and cruised up the coast to gorgeous and atmospheric San Fransisco, and the have-to-be-seen-at-least-once-in-your-life-Las Vegas, and then headed out west toward the big ticket attraction that is the Grand Canyon.
Now we didn’t know much about the Grand Canyon, apart from seeing plenty of photos of it. I remembered a grainy photo of my Nanna standing on it’s edge from the 1970s, but with everything else that this around the world trip was taking in, the particular attraction was just another one to tick off the bucket list. I was expecting a bit of a canyon with a heap of tourists, and helicopters buzzing around. I thought we would drive up to the top, pay too much, peer in, take a couple of happy snaps and then leave. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I think part of the thing that blew me away, the reason that I was unprepared for so much grandeur was due to the fact that we drove right along to it, there was no uphill approach. The land was flat, the scenery unremarkable. There was nothing to excite us on our approach at all! Our baby was getting antsy, he was ready for a break. As we parked our rental car in the car park there was 20 or more Lamborghinis parked there as well! The Lamborghini owners club had picked that day to take in the sights too! Our little boy was a big fan of any car and he knew a super car when he saw one too! So it took us a little longer than we expected to weave our way through the flash cars towards the first lookout.
I will never as long as I live forget that initial rush and that incredible feeling that washed over me as we came upon the most spectacular view I had ever been privy too. The land simply dropped away! And for as far as your eye could see, the landscape was a myriad rainbow of earth on so many levels from where we stood, all the way to the ground far below. Down there you could see the Colorado River glistening as it snaked its way through the gorge. My eyes welled up, I literally gasped and just about dropped the baby in shock! My mouth hung open and tears rolled down my cheeks. I laughed and sobbed at the same time. I grabbed onto my husband and my little boy tightly and felt the most amazing rush of joy and gratitude for that moment. We stood together and tried to take it all in, and we were in absolute awe, even our little boy knew this was something extraordinary and he was quiet and still (for once). How amazing is Mother Nature and how lucky are we to get to see this spectacle!? We spent the rest of the day meandering around to the various view points, watching the colours ebb and flow as the sun moved across the sky. The sheer size and magnificence of the Grand Canyon forever makes me catch my breath whenever I remember it.
This is why we travel, moments like these. Ticking those big ticket and much photographed items off your bucket lists is always exciting, and often our expectations are matched by the reality. Sometimes though, they are exceeded. I have seen the Taj Mahal at sunrise, hiked for days to get to Machu Picchu, stood at the bottom of Iguazu Falls, and clambered over The Great Wall of China, but the unexpected majesty of the Grand Canyon makes it one of my favourite travel moments ever.
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