We started off early the next morning after quick coffee and bite from our hotel in Page, AZ to keep our appointment of guided tour of lower antelope canyon via Adventures antelope canyon. It was fifth day of our sojourn with nature in the name of grand canyon and lake mead, but we were not prepared for what was to come on that particular day. As if mother nature had decided to show off her various moods, it was started off real gentle and loving while careening towards absolute ferocious by the time we went for Horse shoe band.
Traveling mind says: Plan well ahead and book time slots for Upper and lower antelope canyon guide tours. Slots fill fast, especially the ones in late morning or noon. Both upper and lower Antelope canyon along with other guided tours are only possible via local Indian guides. And they are best options to do so. Clear blue sky with sunlight is what you should target for and that's the reason noon slots are always in demand.
Our cheerful guide drove us to lower Antelope canyon in ramshackle but sturdy kind of old station wagon along with similar other vehicles carrying other visitors. It took around 30 minutes to reach lower Antelope canyon from the Adventures antelope canyon reporting location amidst dry and arid wasteland. All you can see outside musty car windows was stretches of rusted dust covered plains and occasional hills of solid rock. Already charted tracks of previous vehicles were only signs of human activity. Torrents of dust spewed out of preceding vehicles was in no mood to settle down fast, brewing the torrential dusty scene out of Mad Max movies. When we got off at the mouth of lower Antelope canyon and prepared to enter its gaping but narrow blackness, we realized what we were treated with. Rock was smooth to touch, and colder. Nature had put up some abstract art created with muddy browns and “sandpaper” over millennia. We would have keep penetrating the canyon while our guide drew our attention and asked us to observer the entrance from within. Careful viewing angle, good measured distance and placement that he was well versed with over many such tours, had revealed stark silhouette of “Lady in the white dress” in its gigantic beauty as shown below.
There will be couple of occasions in this travelog series where I might hold back to post many photos I took. Lower antelope canyon is the first of the two. Antelope canyons are dark and needs very careful camera settings (on your cell, DSLR not allowed) and experienced eye to capture play of dark and light in its stark beauty. One of the job duties of accompanying guide is to guide you for all such photographic spots and how to capture them. He might do the task himself. And results were spectacular. Shafts of light beams churned through uneven but smooth geometry of colored rocks in combination with blue sky creates imaginative composition. “Lady in the dress” is one such example. Another composition is called “Eye of the Dragon” where blue sky peeking through circles of smooth carved rocks resembled to giant blue eye complete with irises. At one such location, guide will create the water fall of sand. Another such imagination shows you horrific face of mummy. As these are very specific captured moments and one had to experience antelope canyon first-hand, I’ll refrain from posting more pictures.
It took almost 45 minutes to 1 hour to complete the tour. Once we were back to parking lot, cold had advanced to biting stage and grey clouds were threatening to spoil the future tours. We were lucky to finish the lower antelope in its clear blue sky glory. But we were not so much lucky by the time we reached to one of the most photographed visiting spot: Horse shoe band.
Picture speaks the thousand words. I did not want to waste any more words then necessary to explain what Horse shoe band looks like. As if solid rock was nature’s gigantic play-doh, horse shoe band was sight to behold. There’s mile long walk to reach the viewing platform that was teeming with many visitors when we reached there. Few brave souls were playing with their lives by inching towards cliff areas without any fences and farther away then designated area to get “best” (or last!!) profile photo. Rain had already splattering our faces when we realized its much more then that. It was sand. High wind had arrived. And how. Already wind was high enough to topple people who were not careful and firm, in addition to that, wind was getting its velocity multiplied by colliding with sheer cliff and rising upwards. Canyon of the horse shoe band was vomiting out everything from its bowels with sheer force so high that even brave selfie lover who might have toppled over, would still fly and thrown outside on the ridgeline like stale food. It was even getting difficult to stand on flat ground after awhile. Sand was stinging to exposed skin as if someone had offended the bee-hive. Rain, high wind, grey clouds and cold had dampened the spirit to stay longer. Also we had to reach Vegas by evening to enjoy Christmas eve.
Approximately 5 hours later, we were checking in to Excalibur with throngs of other people in Las Vegas. Vegas was alive like anything (what COVID ??!!). We quickly settled in, refreshed and hit the strip for night that was brightened by forever illuminated lights and action and food and drink.
Genuinely helpful mind teaches: If you are staying at any MGM affiliated hotels (and I'm sure that should be the case with other well-known hotels on the strip as well) such as MGM grand, Excalibur or Luxor, do get their app downloaded to your phone. You can quickly check-in digitally with your booking and also get your digital room-key. Or you can print your key with accessible machines at hotel reception deck. At the time of Christmas eve, it had easily saved us 2 hour wait time.
Each year, hotels on Vegas strip adorned decorations to some specific theme. To roam through these decorations had its own charm even if you are not “investing” in casino floors. We were trying to get our way around amidst plethora of other visitors when we realized the sweet confectionary art installed in Bellagio foyer was entirely made of sugar and chocolate. This got our sweet tooth guiding towards Bellagio patisserie where we has large macaroon sandwich. All shades of colorful flower decorations, lighting, elite shops enticing you for window shopping, Christmas-themed music, fountain, colorful drinks, food, “Vegas attired” people, live shows and last but not the least “chinks” of the casinos; all add up to Vegas that can make you feel alive.
And when the night passed on with such merry, next morning we decided to get the touch of “Death” itself in the name of Death valley.
Date of Visit: 24-Dec-2021
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