ReWind – A Grand Canyon Faux Hike

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012 | Posted under Arizona, ReWind

Another installment of ReWind and the second half of my running around the Grand Canyon.
Faux hiking? Oh yeah! I’m not really into outdoorsy stuff. Perhaps you’ve noticed that. I mean I guess I’m not really destined for it. Having grown up in a Black working class neighborhood in New York City in the 80’s and 90’s, sleeping in a tent in the cold with no bathroom wasn’t exactly what many considered a vacation. Just sayin’. Even Oprah noticed the lack o’ folks o’ color during her recent trip to Yosemite. (By the way, I love the name of that blog link, Outdoor Afro.) While Husband J grew up doing more outdoor related things than me, even he likes the comfort of a warm bed (hence, our stay at the El Tovar).
One of the most popular and challenging ways to see the Grand Canyon is to hike to the bottom of the canyon itself. It’s recommend that you do a two day hike with an overnight camp. If you do try to hike to the bottom in one day, make sure to carry more than enough food, water and plan accordingly for the day’s weather conditions. The temperature at the canyon bottom can easily reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
During our full day in the Grand Canyon, we decided to see the western portion of the South Rim and make an attempt at a faux hike. Husband J and I walked to one of the bus shuttle stations for access to the western portion of the South Rim. You can’t drive to this area of the park. Only shuttle buses, walking and bikes are allowed. The bus shuttle stops off at scenic points along a prescribed route going west towards Hermit’s Rest, a rest area.
I say that this was a faux hike because we really didn’t go to far off the beaten path. Even though we were on a walking trail, it was right next to the main road. You could always see the buses passing by through the trees. It’s not like we went off somewhere by ourselves. ๐Ÿ™‚


Even if it wasn’t that far into the wilderness, there was a portion of the walking trail that did get a little rough and required some work.
There were several crazy steps along this portion of the walk. It kinda got a little hairy.

Here are some of the beautiful vistas that we saw along the way:

I actually got Husband J to take a picture of me. How about that?


Can you see the Colorado River?


After quite a bit of walking (and another hop onto the shuttle bus), we finally made it to Hermit’s Rest!

It’s really just a cute little rustic souvenir shop but still worth the effort. It was designed by Grand Canyon architect diva, Mary Colter.

By the way, you don’t have to do our faux hike. You can take the shuttle bus the entire way to Hermit’s Rest.
If you have a chance while you’re in the South Rim, take a trip to its western edge. It’s totally worth it!

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ReWind – A Grand Canyon Walk, Pt. 1

Monday, April 9th, 2012 | Posted under Arizona, ReWind

Another ReWind post for those of you who missed it the first time! Here’s Part 1 of our trip to the Grand Canyon.
Husband J and I decided to enjoy the Grand Canyon like most people do, by walking its rim. Now I should let you know that we spent time in the South Rim, which is the most popular area of the park to visit. The North Rim area is also available to visitors, but has a little less going on and is closed during the winter months beginning in November.

When we first got to our hotel, it was pouring down hurricane rain, so I couldn’t see the canyon at all. At first I refused to look until we got right up to the canyon’s edge. I even closed my eyes when we left our hotel so that I could have my own special “first look”. Pictures just don’t give you the impact of what the Grand Canyon is really like in person. I joked with Husband J that all that we were seeing just couldn’t be real. It couldn’t be. It’s that spectacular.

We set out from our hotel, the El Tovar, and literally walk less than 50 feet to the rim. I’ll talk more about the El Tovar and the great advantages to staying there in another post. Since we weren’t ready for a far-flung walk that day, we stayed pretty close to the hotel. I will say that the National Park Service has made walking the Grand Canyon Rim pretty easy for almost any visitor. There is a main paved walkway that provides great views, and you can take it almost the length of the South Rim.

For the adventurer, you can move off of the main walkway for an even closer look at edge.

That’s about as close to the edge as I was going to go!

The Trail of Time is also a part of the main walkway in this part of the park. Ever so often there were rock markers with their scientific names and geological ages. Science buffs take note!


I was still in my initial awe of the canyon and busy taking waaay too many pictures like this.


This portion of the South Rim happened to have a few shops that are their own historic structures. Verkamp’s Visitor Center has been around since the early 20th century (1905 to be exact) and is one of the oldest buildings surrounding the canyon. It started out as a curio (craft) shop and has become an integral part of the South Rim experience.

Verkamp’s floor actually has a nice time line showing major points in the history and development of the canyon as a park and tourist site. I learned quite a bit myself including the fact that our hotel was over a 100 years old.

Less than a hundred feet from our hotel is Hopi House, a wonderful example of Hopi architecture as interpreted by architect, Mary Colter. What’s most impressive about Ms. Colter is that she was one of the few female architects actively working in the West in the early 20th century. She designed six buildings within the Grand Canyon National Park. I’m going to give her a post-humous “You go, girl!” The purpose of Hopi House was to provide a place for the Hopi Tribe to sell their crafts and celebrate their culture within the park.
Hopi House

I wish I was more of a shopper and that we had more room in our apartment for these gorgeous pieces. Check the prices, though.

I will say that I am sad that we did not learn more about Native American culture on this trip. Arizona is home to over 250,000 Native Americans from 21 recognized tribes. At the same time, I’m going to cut myself some slack since this was really only a long weekend. ๐Ÿ™

I’m not done with walking the canyon yet. Stay tuned for my pseudo-hiking!

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ReWind – Balinese Temple Hopping

Monday, February 20th, 2012 | Posted under Bali, ReWind

Another oldie from our time in Bali…

We saw a whole ton of sights while in Bali. Since I wasn’t sure what Husband J’s inclinations were going to be re: sightseeing, I just figured that we would do most of it in one jam packed day. We were escorted around for the day by a great guide, Marco Dewa (or Dewa Marco, Balinese names confuse me…although Marco is definitely not a Balinese name!). We loved hanging out with him. He is very friendly, super knowledgeable, a good driver and an overall cool guy.
It was fun for us to just have someone all to ourselves for the day. For a list of great private tour guides, check out the Bali Forum on Trip Advisor. It is a treasure trove of info on traveling to Bali (especially if you’re Australian…just kidding! There are a ton of Australians on the forum as they are the largest group of travelers to Bali.).

One of our first stops was to Gunung Kawi. Before I get there I should warn you that often you’ll see us “dressed up” a bit in our pictures. Many of the sites/temples we saw are used daily by the Balinese, and we needed to adhere to temple dress meaning we needed to have our KNEES covered. For those of you who end up going to Bali, sarongs are almost always provided at many sites. People will try to sell them to you. If you’d like to buy one, by all means do so, but you’re not required to buy anything. Some sarongs we got from the temples were better than others.

I think Husband J makes a good model.
Gunung Kawi is split into two parts. It’s believed that this portion pictured below is a set of tombs made by King Anak Wungsu for his four favorite concubines. I wonder what the others got? ๐Ÿ™‚ They are stone reliefs chiseled from a rock.


The temple at Gunung Kawi


Many of the temples and sights in Bali are in the middle of some gorgeous scenery.


One of my favorite sights of the day was the Taman Gili (Island Gardens) at Semarapura (the town formerly known as Klungkung).

Bale Kambung (Floating Pavilion)



This area represents the remains of the former Semarapura palace. Bale Kambung was used primarily for important ceremonies.
Another bale next to Bale Kambung, Kerta Gosa, is believed to be an area that was used as a criminal court. On the ceiling, there are intricate drawings depicting what many think are the cruel punishments that awaited criminals way back then.


Scary

The view from Bale Kambung was picturesque in itself.
Bale Kambung’s ceiling depicts Balinese astrology.
Taman Gili also has a small but not to spectacular museum that you can walk through rather quickly. One thing the museum was helpful for was understanding the Balinese resistance to Dutch colonization. As Husband J said, between Manhattan and Bali, the Dutch had to give up some great islands.

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ReWind – Rio’s Escaderia Selaron

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012 | Posted under Brazil, ReWind

Here’s an “oldie but goodie” post from the beginnings of my blog.

I know that people around here in New York City say “Only in New York…” to something that is pretty odd or out there that only a New Yorker would not bat an eyelash, but I thought I would tell you about my experience that is psuedo-touristy but maybe an “Only in Rio…” kind of experience.
I had the wonderul opportunity of going to the Escaderia Selaron in Rio with my guide, Madson. Where and what is this? For those of you familiar with hip hop music videos, you’ve actually already seen this site in Snoop Dogg and Pharell of the Neptunes’ video for the song “Beautiful.” Don’t remember that particular MTV/BET moment in time? Click on the link for a reminder.
Here are the Escaderia Selaron in all of their glory.
The Escaderia Selaron is a work of genius or perhaps madness depending on who you ask. Located in the hot (although not always safe) nightlife district of Lapa, Jorge Selaron began to transform these stairs leading from Rua Joaquim Silva and Rua Pinto Martins in 1990. Selaron is an artist who also draws and paints, but his biggest claim to fame has been these stairs made of colorful carefully broken tiles that he continues to craft and reshape continuously. Here’s a close-up of what the tiles actually look like.

He claims that he will never stop changing the stairs until the day he dies. After his project became famous, people from around the world started to visit him. He began asking them to bring tiles from their country of origin. Recognize any of these places?


So every artist has their signature style or image; and for Senhor Selaron, it happens to be the the image of a pregnant Black woman. Hmmm…some people have their theories (I think this is the one I favor) that this is the image of a woman who was his pregnant lover who died in childbirth/or was pregnant with his child and they had a major disagreement, which destroyed their relationship. Selaron says it’s a personal matter. A’ight, bruh. I understand. What do YOU all think? He’s even created a version of the image with HIS head on the pregnant body. Here’s the image on one of his tiles.


A mural with Selaron’s head on the pregnant body. Kinda freaky, ain’t it? This was in anticipation of last year’s World Cup.
My guide, Madson, seemed to be pretty cool with Senhor Selaron, so he brought me to meet him. Oh my…what a guy!! I want to say that Senhor Selaron took a little liking to me. After starting to speak to him in my 5 year-old girl souding Portuguese, I just started speaking Spanish, which weirded him out but made me more comfortable that I wouldn’t sound totally crazy and that we could actually talk and understand each other.
After learning that I was born on a small island in the Caribbean, I think that totally set him off. You see, his goal to collect a tile from as many countries in the world as possible, and here he saw me as a golden opportunity to get a tile from a teeny little island that (no offense to my people) probably doesn’t have a population that may make the trip to Brazil. He started letting me pick out one of his drawings to take FOR FREE. He even posed for a picture with me!


Madson told me that it’s the first time he’d ever seen Senhor Selaron react this way. While I’d like to think it was perhaps my magnetic personality (Ha!), I think it was more that I was from someplace a little exotic. Either way, it was nice to get the royal treatment regardless of Senhor S’s motivations.

I have not forgotten him and his request for a tile from my little island homeland. Sadly, I have not been back to Antigua as much as I would like in the past few years, but I intend to keep my promise to him. Senhor Selaron, you will get a tile from me someday soon!!

Have you been to any local curiosities or met any local “celebrities” during your travels?
[PS: I still need to get him the tile.]

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