Vegas. Wow. After flying over desert across the country from New York, it didn’t seem like we would reach a city for ages. But amongst the red ground and bare mountains a huge city appeared. When we got off the plane in Vegas we were dazzled by poker machines, neon lights and strippers on billboards – and this was in the airport! We got our bags, hailed a taxi and watched the sun set over the jagged red mountains. The taxi metre ticked over (much more quickly than we would have liked) and the expense grew, a theme that would be consistent in Vegas. We pulled up to our hotel, the Bellagio no less, and the spectacular fountain show was in full swing.
We hauled our many bags into the fabulous Bellagio lobby and looked up. Hundreds of coloured glass umbrella-like objects adorned the ceiling over a sparkling silver and gold horse. This was a flash hotel. We walked through the huge casino to our room, which had drapes that were operated by a switch.
After sussing out the room, the three of us headed down the strip. Las Vegas Boulevard is something else. Neon lights advertising shows and hotels flash in every direction you look. As you walk down the street, short men in hoodies flick cards in your face advertising prostitutes and women in ridiculously little clothing for the weather stumble around in high heels.
We went to the Hard Rock café for dinner and spent lots of money after being convinced to buy cocktails in souvenir glasses. The memorabilia in the café was great. There were two of Elvis’s suits and letters from The Beatles to name a few things. There were also photos, scanned letters and drawings floating around on interactive projections. Technologically savvy rock memorabilia is pretty cool!
Once back at the hotel Mum and I left David in the room and tried our luck at blackjack. It did not go that well. We knew the basic rules, but not the tricky stuff like splitting and doubling. Finding a $10 table at the Bellagio is no easy feat. We saw a man playing craps (a game I’m not sure I will ever figure out) with a stack of $100 000 chips. He was still there the next morning at 7am, but the stack had shrunk. Another man went to that table with torn jeans, a diamond covered watch and more money than I had ever seen, this did not, however, make the $10 blackjack any less nerve-wracking.
We woke early the next morning for what would turn out to be one of the best things I have ever done. We got picked up by a limo (a real black, long one with a lounge inside) and were taken to an airport for a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon. We rode with two New Zealander-come-Sydneyers and our pilot named Fred. In the helicopter we rose of the city of Las Vegas and hovered toward the mountains. The terrain beneath us looked like a cartoon desert with barren ground and sparse cacti. The mountains rose and fell and we ended up over Lake Mead, the largest man-made lake in the northern hemisphere. It was very blue and looked inviting for a swim. We saw the Hoover Dam, which was pretty cool but not nearly as impressive as the Grand Canyon would be.
We approached the canyon from the west side over a huge ridge. When I looked at the deep walls of the canyon I kept thinking about a line from the Flintstones where they see the tiny little stream trickling through the desert and call it the Grand Canyon.
We had 30 minutes on the ground: 10 to explore and 20 for lunch. The landscape looked like a scene from the Roadrunner, with cacti, orange rocks and even tumble weed. I love that there were no fences, we were free to just explore this amazing landform.
We enjoyed a picnic with real champagne in the Grand Canyon. I keep repeating “Grand Canyon” because I just can’t believe I was there. It was such a great experience.