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Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Big Crack

Poor Dan.

During the earlier stages of trip-planning, we had envisioned a week-long birthday celebration for him spent lounging on a Mexican beach at Club Med Cancun, surrounded by sexy bikini-clad women and sand between his... toes.

In the end, we had to give the sunny Yucatan a miss. Damn those budget constraints.

Look what the poor guy ended up with as a sorry replacement:

Fields of snow

Once again, poor Dan *cue sympathetic "awwww" from reader* (yes, that means you. Do it. Please?)

This is a guy who doesn't sleep with the air-conditioning on back home (and by default, cured me of my nightly air-con habit), hates the cold, doesn't own any decent winter clothing, and has a like-hate ('love' is too strong a word) relationship with snow.

Fresh from South America, the cold treatment we received in Ushuaia was not yet a distant-enough memory for us to welcome snowy days again with new eyes. It didn't help that Guatemala was uncharacteristically (or in the words of our hosts "crazily") cold when we were there.

We thought we had planned an unflappable Great Winter Escape by heading to Arizona in December, and that the great red deserts of Southwest USA would kindly offer us some respite from the wintry white blanket falling over most of North America. Plus, since the price of some Mexican sunshine wasn't within reach, why not treat Dan to a visit to a World Heritage Site instead? Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon would make a memorable birthday experience indeed.

Well, we learnt the hard way that:

(1) The reference to the south in "southwest" isn't exactly a heavyweight when the region located in North America.

(2) The Grand Canyon is located at an elevation of 2,134m above sea level - high enough to catch more than a few snowflakes during winter.

On the bright side, it would definitely be easier to find some sweet birthday treats in Arizona than it was hunting down a slice of cake for my birthday in the Atacama.

I was well prepared to see a smattering of snow at the top levels of the Grand Canyon and maybe in Flagstaff, the gateway to the national park. I only realised that we may have gotten more than what we bargained for when my friend Dawn mentioned on my Facebook page that it was the perfect time to go skiing in Flagstaff....

I certainly wasn't expecting this much snow:


Nevertheless, we took advantage of the blue skies that day to visit the Grand Canyon - affectionately termed "The Big Crack" by Dan. He enthusiastically demonstrated the use of the term, "On my birthday, my wife is going to show me a Big Crack." Ha.ha.ha. What.Ever. Luckily for him, birthday boys get to enjoy special privileges, which include immunity against getting pulverized by the wife for making lewd jokes at her expense.

Gazing over The Big Crack

At 26km-wide at the maximum, the Grand Canyon isn't the widest in the world. I had always thought that it was the deepest, with walls stretching 1.83km into the bowels of the earth, but it isn't. That title goes to a gorge in Nepal.

Nevertheless, the Grand Canyon is undeniably wide and very deep. Stretching hundreds of kilometers into the horizon, it's sheer size is visually overwhelming. Gazing over the South Rim and literally seeing no end in sight, I found it hard to wrap my brain around how massive this single canyon really is. It's like looking out into the ocean but instead of water, you see rock. It was so unreal, it literally looked fake, like a painted backdrop in a photo studio.

People looking so very tiny in comparison with the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon was formed millions of years ago by the simultaneous uplift action of the Colorado Plateau and the downward carving forces of the mighty Colorado River. From where we were, the powerful river was a mere blue-green squiggly line and the roads leading to the bottom of the canyon looked like limp spaghetti.

Obviously, if you go over the edge, you have a really long way to fall before you literally hit rock bottom after about 1.4km. If you want more time in the air, jump from the North Rim - it's higher.

No, seriously, please don't. The very first drop from either rim WILL kill you. Bouncing down the canyon wall till you reach the base is only an added thrill.

Some 600 people have died in the Grand Canyon since the 1870s. 53 fatalities were due to accidental falls. 48 deaths by suicide. 23 as a result of homicide (!!!!!!!) The rest through plane and helicopter crashes, flash floods, dehydration, drownings and other factors.

I decided to take the advice of a wise little elementary school student whose haiku graced the exhibit at the park visitor centre:

The Canyon is deep
I stay away from the edge
I obey the rule

Oi! You! Obey the rule!!!!

Amazingly, we had picked the best weather to make our visit. The minimum temperature that day was a whopping 3 degrees Celcius, falling to minus 7 at night.

The day before, it was minus 3 at the max, and minus 9 at night.

Prediction for the following day was 1 degree max and minus 8 at the minimum.

We made a good call on the weather, huh? Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

I've said it twice and I'll say it again: Brrrrrrrrrr!!!!

While we were bitterly, bitterly cold that day, the freezing temperatures didn't stop us from enjoying the spectacular views (before they were totally blocked by a thick curtain of falling snow.) The cold only drove us into each other's arms more tightly! Awwwwww.....

Celebrating our birthdays with each other in a year of adventures!

So yeah, even though he was freezing most of the time, this lucky fella received many a cuddle on his birthday and is thus not that poor a thing.

But thanks for the sympathy anyway. (You can stop feeling sorry for him now.)


Tracy Su said...

Happy Birthday Dan! Hope you enjoyed your big crack, the thrill of the chill won't last long, but don't worry, you can have another crack at the big time if you guys ever go to Nepal!

Hur hur hur. I'm in a funny mood. Think I got up too early...

Tina said...

Happy Birthday Dannie!! Hope that was your most unforgettable birthday so far... *good luck to Yilin to top that in the years to come ;p*

Yi Lin said...

Trace: You funny girl! I read out yr comment to Dan w/o saying who left it. And he said "must be Tracy"...

Tina: Haha, yes, he was unforgettably cold. Easy to top - just bring him to some warm sunny beach with sexy women!

Tracy Su said...

I've been well-trained by the bboy company I keep, and their lameass jokes, so I thought I'd pay a small tribute to your dude on his birthday! harharhar...

Isn't it weird how he can spot me from miles away and I haven't even met the guy yet.

Lint said...

HAHA the homicide thing was suprt funny...

... and in the last pic your eyes seriously look BIG. and F.R.O.Z.E.N.

Yi Lin said...

Yeah, my eyes look really huge compared to Dan's huh?

Re homicide: can't quite imagine murderers luring their victims with a "come, let's go visit the grand canyon together, hee hee" then pushing them over the edge. Or do they just kidnap a person, drive to the canyon and throw them over the edge? Bizarre!

Trace: this Christmas, if you're coming back - we'll meet!

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