If thrill is what gets you going, try taking a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon and the mighty Colorado river.
The shiny metal bird whirring away dangerously close to the cliffs….You will love it!
Four years ago, I was on a month long vacation to USA. With a fixed budget, I wanted to tick off maximum touristy things…no slow travel or immersive local experience. No sir, that was not possible. A visit to Grand Canyon was on my to-do-list. Taking a helicopter ride was however not on our list. But we splurged a little bit… It was my first trip abroad and I did not want to regret missing out on things!
Adventure takes a different shade for each different person. For me it took the colors of sun kissed blue sky, beige and deep browns of the Grand Canyon and muddy Colorado river.
Strapped safely inside a red helicopter, I was flying over Grand Canyon and the wide Colorado River.
We booked a five day tour to Vegas and Grand Canyon from San Francisco. With a Chinese group for company we set off early one morning and traveled to Hoover Dam and Yosemite and reached Vegas. After spending three days in Vegas we headed to Grand Canyon.
The sheer expanse of the rocky cliffs was as awe inspiring as intimidating….as far as eyes could see, there was this brown formidable unforgiving stone…
The 446 kilometer long, 29 kilometer wide and about 6000 feet deep canyon has been carved by River Colorado in Arizona, USA. Part of Grand Canyon National Park the layer after layer of the exposed rocks not only tells the force of the river but also the time over which this deep gorge must have been formed.
As I stood atop a rock cliff, the river seemed like a long narrow placid strip and not the wide forceful river it was supposed to be. The canyon has steep almost vertical sides. Though I do not suffer from vertigo but peeping down was incredibly scary…little imbalance…a little loss of footing and anyone would go tumbling down an unimaginable fall. I had to literally lay down flat on the edge to peep over just to avoid any kind of life threatening accident.
Helicopter Ride over the Canyon
Awed as we were, a ride in the helicopter seemed like an adventure which we could not say no to. How else was it possible to comprehend the majestic gorge?
A long queue greeted us at the reception counter of the information center where boarding slips for Sundance Choppers was available on payment. It seemed everyone wanted a helicopter ride. Finally after about thirty minutes we were issued numbered slips. We waited another half an hour before it was our turn to board the shiny red steel bird.
I had never sat in a helicopter. Air travel aboard a commercial airbus is all together a different thing than a ride in a chopper. The fast spinning rotors of chopper were whipping up a storm. Even though the rotors were much higher but inadvertently I ducked as I moved closer to the helicopter to board. There were five of us boxed close to each other in the chopper besides the pilot. No sooner the doors to the small cabin were shut and we buckled our seat belts that the mean machine rose up with a slight lurch, a little hover and we were sky bound….no warming up run on the runway…no preamble…just up and away!
I was mighty floored by the enthusiasm, agility and physical fitness of the handsome pilot of our helicopter… a 75 year old man and an US Air Force retiree. He informed us of how he would be taking us around. I wish more 75 year old Indian grandpas were like him …full of life and less of cribbing and complaints. I desire to be old like that…
Up we soared and down we came… The pilot flew somewhere between the two sides of canyon; sometimes close to the side, sometimes closer to the river, and sometimes hovering above the canyon. The chopper dipped, keeled, lifted up and seemed idle all the while whirring rhythmically. My heartbeat seemed to resonate with every change in the sound made by the helicopter.
The Boat Ride in Colorado
Once the flying circuit was completed the helicopter landed at a small flat rock at the banks of River Colorado. It is then the entire width of the river came into view. It had looked like a muddy ribbon from high above. As we thanked and waved our pilot off, a motor powered small boat floated in.
The sun was scorching and I wrapped myself up with a stole which elicited a ‘salaam’ from the boatman. I promptly joined my palms and replied with a ‘namaste’. He was curious why I had wrapped myself up. No sooner had I settled under the shade of canopy in the boat that I uncovered my face. The boat man was all smiles and even complimented me.
Sailing gently down the mighty Colorado was another exciting trip. We sailed in center of the river. The depth was unfathomable due to the mud content. When the boat sailed closer to edges, every distinct layer of rock formation was visible in different colors. Over the years the water had left distinct marks on the rock surface. It was indeed an eye opener to see how flowing water could chip away such huge solid rocks.
By the time our forty minutes ride up and down the river ended and we returned to the foot bridge, another helicopter that had deposited a fresh batch of enthusiastic tourists for the boat ride, was waiting to drop us back near the helipad.
A Meal With Red Indians
Back at the helipad, we proceeded to have our all American meal of mashed potatoes and salads at the small shack. The shack was managed by tribes. The men sported long braided hair and clothes with red and black geometrical patterns.
It was soon time to board the bus and head back to San Francisco.
The helicopter ride over one of the largest canyons in world was indeed an experience and adventure I can never forget.
Tips and Tricks:
- Sundance Helicopter Tours has a range of packages including flying over Vegas. Four years ago our ride over the canyon cost us $600 for 3 people. You may want to pre-book the rides for better deals.
- Take enough drinking water.
- Take sun block cream if harsh sun hurts your skin.