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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Zion & Vegas

Today the Green Tortoise stopped at a store called Smiths for breakfast. This provided a good opportunity to make food from scratch and save - many sandwiches can be made for the same price it costs to buy one already made. After undoing “the miracle” we headed for Zion National Park in Utah. A few of us used the shuttle there and got off at the junction for a swimming hole with a waterfall. In the 100* heat it felt amazing which almost made up for the 3-4 liters of water needed every few hours just to keep hydrated. In fact, the intensity of the heat this time of year makes hiking Zion a bit of a feat. Fortunately, Green Tortoise trips generally attract more adventurous and outdoorsy types, so many actually seemed to welcome the challenge. Up on the left side of the falls Bonnie and I found a waterfall… okay, more of a painful water-powered beating. Bonnie didn't even hesitate and went down smiling the whole way, something I took as a good sign and quickly followed... seems she is one of those people who smile through pain. A better idea is to go to the bottom of the slide and swim against the current; this is fun and much safer.

On the shuttle back to camp some guys from Vegas were very informative - just goes to show that being social while traveling can be a useful gesture. After dinner, some played with a Frisbee and later set up the “cuddle puddle” - a collection of cushions from the bus laid out on a tarp so campers can sleep under the stars. I set up my hammock for the first time and slept on that. As it got dark the sky flickered with lightning. Ear plugs worked to drown out the frogs and any resounding thunder, but a little later it spit a bit as it had done many times that day. This sent everyone on the “cuddle puddle” running for the bus but, as expected, the increased humidity didn't last.
This morning I woke up extra early to prepare for the hike. Setting out early made it possible to do the Angel's Landing hike before getting toasted by the scorching sun. At the top Bonnie and I fed the chipmunks trail mix and one suicidal daredevil dove off the cliff after a peanut… it probably grabbed on the wall on its way down though... probably. On the way back some of us stopped to eat at the cafe and then headed back to the bus to lay in the shade. 
Cool wildlife

After popping over to Las Vegas in Nevada there were many things to see, but only six hours to see them. After wasting time looking for the Vegas sign, the diagonal elevators at the Luxor, and getting lost in the Miracle Mile Shops, it was time to phone a friend. After dropping into Caesars palace for the talking statues and getting footage of the Bellagio fountains on the way, a local friend picked us up and provided a short ride down to the Fremont Experience AKA old Vegas, where all the best FREE and reasonably priced entertainment can be found. Over at Fremont, live street shows, such as shadow bands and motorcycles driving around in a ball, can be seen and, if you want to do something with a bit more movement, a zip line ("flying fox" for Aussies) takes you almost the whole length of Fremont Street for $20. When your turn comes it is highly recommended that you ask the assistants to push extra hard, you'll be glad you did. Also, if you're hungry, you won't want to miss the Fremont Casino Buffet which offers a whole range of choices from steak to Crème brûlée in the evening for only $12-15.

After all of this, the six hour allotment was surely running out and the time to leave or be left was near. Back at the bus many began to vie for the chance to experience the wonder and excitement of sleeping on a shelf (bunks hanging from the ceiling)… nights of relative comfort for the 'vertically gifted' were numbered. Hey, beats paying for a hotel room and having to drive during the day!

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