Flying over the Grand Canyon

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Sometimes when you see something so extroardinarily beautiful, it makes you cry. I’ll be the first one to admit that I have bawled my eyes out on several occasions and I am not ashamed of it! I will never forget the first time I saw the peaks of the Himalaya with my own eyes for example. Or the first sight on Yosemite National Park. Bring on the trembling lip and the teary eyes! It’s strange how some sights provoke such overwhelming emotions. These emotions though, they are the best memories you can make and I still can’t believe that I can add the Grand Canyon to the list of places that made me cry!

One year ago I was travelling from San Francisco to New Orleans overland. One of my stops was in Phoenix and while I was there, I absolutely HAD to see the Grand Canyon. I don’t have a drivers license so I fully depend on tours and public transport. I decided to check Viator for tours and ended up booking my day out with a company named Detours. They offered a daytrip covering Sedona, Williams and a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. Yes, it was more expensive than I’d hoped but honestly… It was a dream come true.

Before I start, I have to tell you that the photo’s are not exactly as good as I hoped they would be. I had caught a nasty fever in California and I felt terrible. It was so bad, I almost decided not to go at all. But if you have a booking to fly over the Grand Canyon… there is no way you are going to miss it. And I’m really glad I dragged myself out of bed because I would never forgive myself if I didnt! But as for the pictures… honestly, I kept forgetting to take pictures at all and when I did, they weren’t that great, so bear with me!

The red rocks of Sedona

It was an early start from the hotel in Phoenix. At about 6 am our tourguide picked me up from the hotels parking lot. From there, we had a few hours drive up to Sedona. It was a beautiful drive. The desert like surroundings of Phoenix made way for an endless forrest. The road winded upwards along the pine trees and the views were beautiful. But our first stop is what really blew my mind: The red rocks of Sedona! Now that’s a sight to wake up to…

We went to a cute little village in Spanish colonial style filled with galleries and little shops. One of my habits when it comes to souvenirs is buying jewelry. I always wear my memories from my travels! You can imagine that I jumped at the opportunity to check out a little galery that sold silver bracelets designed by Navajo artist Calvin Begay! I fell in love with this bracelet, depicting the nightsky. I got an incredible deal on it and I have been wearing it almost every day since then.

Williams

After what felt like a way too short visit to Sedona we headed to Williams, a small town at one end of the Grand Canyon Railway. The railway was finished in 1901 and it ran between Williams and the south rim of the Grand Canyon. It was easy to imagine myself in a time of settlers and cowboys, even though Williams clearly evolved from that. It was still a great look into history! Another cool thing is that Williams is on Route 66. I know it’s cheesy, but after seeing the end of the road in Santa Monica, seeing another point of the route gave me a better insight of the distance and variety of the route.

My nerves were slowly starting to take over, because I knew what the next stop would be… My long anticipated helicopter ride over the Canyon! It would be my first time at the Grand Canyon and also the first time to be in a helicopter. I was SO looking forward to it all! Seeing the Grand Canyon, actually seeing it, I could not imagine what that would be like.

Ready for take off!

When we finally arrived at the small airport at the south rim, I couldn’t wait to get in that helicopter. But first things first: Signing waivers and studying the safety protocols. We met the pilot, who was an extremely nice guy who used to be a pilot in the army. After the introduction we all followed him outside to board our helicopter. Two passengers were nervous to sit in front, so I was lucky enough to be seated next to the pilot, which granted me a fantastic view!

As we took off, star wars music sounded through the headphones. Really?? But I have to say, ascending just above the trees and flying towards the edge of the canyon, it did suit the experience, sort of. I didn’t know that the front part of the helicopter leans forward, so it ends up slightly lower than the tail. This did give me the feeling that I was in a science fiction movie, but that could be just my weird imagination. As we flew over the forest, the edge of the canyon came closer and closer until we went over…

The sight that made me cry

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can prepare you for what you are about to experience when you see the Grand Canyon for the first time. As the helicopter flew over the edge of the canyon, a landscape so beautiful, so big and so surreal opened up right in front of me. I can’t describe it but it felt like my brain could not comprehend the information that it was given by my eyes. It haywired for a minute. My mouth went dry. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t blink. My head filled up with emotions instead of information. I wanted to speak but all that came out was a short squeek. It took two full minutes before I could manage a simple “wow” and then the tears came.

Ok, it’s  not like I was crying for 50 minutes, but seriously, I got SO emotional! And I wasn’t the only one. Everyone in the helicopter was lost for words for a while.

I wish I could tell you the interesting facts that the pilot tried to share with us during the flight, but my mind just locked itself on the gorgeous views, trying to take it all in. Trying to get a sense of distance, which I totally failed to grasp. It was only after the flight that my mind touched down again.

Our guide was waiting for us, congratulating us on making it back safely. He brought us to the visitor center on the south rim where I sat for over an hour, simply gazing over that incredible landscape. It made me feel so small, so insignificant and so peaceful. It was easily one of the most incredible things I have ever had the privilege to see in my life.

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