Another minute rolled by. The sound of excited, foreign chatter had long since died away and all that remained was a steady stream of sighs and tuts. The coach, having adopted a greenhouse-like climate, shared its passengers’ disposition, and vented its frustration by letting out the occasional cross honk.

Things were getting a little surreal. Just 48 hours before, we had been sipping flat whites in a chilly Melbourne; now, somehow, we had ended up stranded in the middle of the Nevada desert amongst a crowd of increasingly irate Asians. The tension was made worse by our guide, Rain, who had taken to pacing up and down the aisle of the bus like a Rodeo bull waiting to be unleashed from its pen.

Surprisingly, our hold-up was not because of mechanical failure, but human. Whoever had estimated thirty minutes to be an adequate amount of time to stop for lunch at a retail park had majorly underestimated quite how seriously Chinese tourists take their shopping. Forty-five minutes after our scheduled departure time and here we were, on the brink of sending out a search and rescue team in the direction of the GUESS store.

Eventually our dilly-dalliers wandered in to sight, their arms laden with designer bags. As the engine roared in to life, so too did Rain’s temper; now I’m hardly familiar with the intricacies of everyday Mandarin, but after studying the wild gesticulations with which our guide delivered his cross words, I think it’s fair to assume that hell hath no fury like an Asian man scorned.  Still, with engine power comes air conditioning, and it’s amazing what air conditioning in a desert can do to sooth one’s soul – which was reassuring, as I had a feeling Stuart would need an awful lot of ‘soothing’ before I would be forgiven for this particular booking debacle.

Despite lunch-gate, the drive in to Las Vegas was really quite spectacular.  Having become so acclimatized to Australian scenery and the urban sprawls that come with cities like Los Angeles, driving through hundreds of kilometres of desert felt incredibly surreal. We may as well have landed in Mars, it was so foreign. Poor Stuart resorted to listening to his iPod, after insisting he would rather walk the rest of the journey than listen to me point out one more ‘actual, real-life cactus’.


 This particular beauty was about twice the height of me.

Arriving in to the city was equally bizarre. Like a mirage, tall buildings and bright neon lights began to emerge in to sight, and as our coach worked its way through the city, we began to question if maybe, in fact, we were hallucinating.

Vegas is astoundingly weird. This became increasingly evident when we finally got the chance to explore later that evening, having broken free from the group – a decision which was seriously weighed up with the knowledge that we might too fall victim to one of Rain’s bollockings.

As we wandered through the various casinos, made so familiar now by film and television, we found ourselves bewildered by this artificial wonderland. From dancing fountains to giant man-made volcanoes, from Venice to Paris; you name it, Vegas will have it. Here’s a selection of photos, in case you need further proof;

1511361_10152097485816919_1135960835_n 1653944_10152097485811919_1564414527_n 1896855_10152097485671919_288326494_n crazy france roof vega venice

Confused and enchanted in equal measure, our exploration of the Sin City would have to wait; the following morning we had to be up at 5am to catch the bus to the Grand Canyon, though with our senses in overdrive, and our room above one of the biggest casinos in town, quite how we were going to sleep was anybody’s guess…

The following morning, having miraculously managed not to sleep through our alarm, we made our way to the foyer to meet up with our group only to find ourselves faced with a scene of complete and utter chaos. It turns out that ours was not the only tour group to be leaving the hotel at that exact time; the company, it seems, churns out excursions like Coca Cola produces bottles. Faced with a sea of Asians, finding our group was going to be a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. Definitely not what one needs at the Crack of Sparrows.

Eventually, we were accosted by a guide and herded upon a bus which seemed to be going in the right direction. “You are English, yes? You come with me.”   He had said, without waiting for an answer. I felt like poking him in the eye and pointing out that I was Scottish, but decided that making it to the Grand Canyon was more important than national pride -a decision I’m very, very glad to have made.

It’s notoriously hard to describe the Grand Canyon and just how beautiful it is, but I’ve always remembered this passage from Bill Bryson’s Last Continent;

“Nothing prepares you for the Grand Canyon. No matter how many times you read about it or see it pictured, it still takes your breath away. Your mind, unable to deal with anything on this scale, just shuts down and for many long moments you are a human vacuum, without speech or breath, but just a deep, inexpressible awe that anything on this earth could be so vast, so beautiful, so silent…The thing that gets you – that gets everyone – is the silence. The Grand Canyon just swallows sound. The sense of space and emptiness is overwhelming.”

Seeing as I couldn’t put it better myself, here’s a few snaps we took;

1557444_10152097490306919_95045602_n canyon CANYON1 canyon2 CANYON3 hut

It was truly incredible, and if I had one regret, it was that we didn’t have enough time or money to venture down in to the valley; hiking the Colorado river is yet another thing that will just have to go in to the ‘One Day…’ box.  This is such a beautiful part of the world, and somewhere I desperately need to return to.

Spending the day somewhere so naturally impressive made Vegas seem all the more alien by the time we returned that evening.  Still, we were determined to make the most of our time there, and with only one night to kill there was nothing for it but to hit the town.  Unfortunately for us, a serious lack of funds meant that our night was less Bellagio/Cirque du Soleil and more budget cocktails/backstreet illusionist.

About The Author

A twenty-something-year-old with a penchant for travel and a never-ending supply of terrible puns.

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