Friday, July 31, 2009

Day 54, Times Square...within the Borough of New York

Brenda has sent the guys to TKTS in Times Square to buy tickets for a Broadway show tonight...we are going to see the Phantom of the Opera!....One cannot come to New York and not watch a Broadway show!

Times Square is a major intersection in Manhattan, a borough of New York City, at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue and stretching from West 42nd to West 47th Streets.

Sometimes known as the "Crossroads of the World," it has achieved the status of an iconic world landmark and has become a symbol of New York City.

Times Square is the only neighborhood with zoning ordinances requiring building owners to display illuminated signs.

The density of illuminated signs in Times Square now rivals that of Las Vegas.

Officially, signs in Times Square are called "specta
culars", and the largest of them are called "jumbotrons."

In 1992, the Times Square Alliance began improving the quality of commerce and cleanliness in the district and today Times Square boasts attractions such as ABC's Times Square Studios, where Good Morning America is broadcast live, an elaborate Toys "Я" Us store, and competing Hershey's and M&M's stores across the street from each other, as well as restaurants such as Ruby Foo's the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company , Planet Hollywood Restaurant and Bar and Carmin e's along with a number of multiplex movie theaters.

It has also attracted a number of large financial, publishing, and media firms to set up headquarters in the area.
A larger presence of police has improved the safety of the area.

I am sure that the guys will go to the Top of New York lounge on the top floor of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.The floor revolves giving you a 360-degree view of the entire city in the course of an hour.
Thereafter they are off to the Bronx, to watch a ball game at Yankee stadium!

Day 54, Central Park, NYC, USA

Since we are not able to meet with Mr Trump once again, he has been kind enough to lend us his we are going to have an aerial view of New York City starting with Central Park

This huge inner city park is larger than some countries and is a haven in amongst the hustle, bustle and skyscrapers of central Manhattan.

Oh my gosh, it is so beautiful and I would have loved to have taken a horse and carriage ride around

and then maybe strolled around, had a picnic and taken in the almost endless acres of grass, trees and lakes.

From street performers to free concerts.....and what is that??

Oh,thats the Strawberry Fields memorial, a 2.5-acre (10,000 m2) landscaped section in New York City's Central Park that is dedicated to the memory of musician John Lennon.

Wow, there is museum mile......
New York is famous for its museums....

A total escape from the city, the buildings however are never far from sight to remind you that amongst all the green and relaxation, you're still in the heart of one of the worlds greatest cities.


Day 54, New York, USA

The Grand Canyon let us speechless last night but this morning...the singing has begun again......

Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today
I want to be a part of it - New york, New york
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it - New York, New York

I wanna wake up in a city, that doesn't sleep
And find I'm king of the hill - top of the heap

These little town blues, are melting away
I'll make a brand new start of it - in old New York
If I can make it there, Ill make it anywhere
Its up to you - New York, New York

Yep folks we have made our way to the 49th state on our journey through the USA- NEW YORK STATE!

I am so thrilled to be in Brooklyn right now with one of my dearest friends in the whole wide world-
Hiiii Brenda!
A big bonus is that Brenda has her tour guide licence so who better than her to give us a quick tour of the place??

Brenda told us that New York State is a state in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern regions of the United States and is the nation's third most populous.
New York City, which is geographically the largest city in the state and most populous in the United States, is known for its history as a gateway for immigration to the United States and its status as a financial, cultural, transportation, and manufacturing center.
Actually her own family came from Europe through that very gateway:-))
Both state and city were named for the 17th century Duke of York, James Stuart, future James II and VII of England and Scotland.
New York was inhabited by the Algonquin, Iroquois, and Lenape Native American groups at the time Dutch and French nationals moved into the region in the early 17th century, was colonised by the Dutch and British before becoming an independent state on July 9, 1776.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Day 53, The Tuweep (also known as Toroweap); Grand Canyon

We met some people at the Skywalk who told us that the best views are obtained from Toroweap that is where we are right now.
Toroweap, a Paiute term meaning "dry or barren valley," refers to many local features, including the geologic formation and fault, the valley, and the overlook.

This has an excellent setting with colourful cliffs visible in all directions including those of the inner gorge to the south, and with flourishing desert vegetation.
We strolled for a few hundred yards eastwards across sand until we reached the canyon edge.

Whoa!! My heart almost jumped out of my chest!!!

That's a 3,000 feet VERTICAL drop directly below.
Some of the huge rocks at the canyon edge are split and uneven, and it is slightly unsettling, yet exhilarating to stand at the very edge, and gaze into the chasm below.............

The Grand Canyon is among the earth's greatest on-going geological spectacles.

Its vastness is stunning, and the evidence it reveals about the earth's history is invaluable.
About 65 million years ago in the earth's shifting, a huge area of land was lifted a mile and a half above sea level, forming what is now the Colorado Plateau.
For the last 5-6 million years, the Colorado River has been slowly carving its way down through the many layers of rock.
The river and its tributaries, together with the erosive forces of rain, snow, heat and cold, have formed a spectacular gorge one-mile deep and at some points 18 miles across.
The colorful strata of the canyon walls reveal the rock formations of the earth's evolution from nearly 2 billion years ago.
Even if you do not believe in the concept of GOD or SPIRIT...a visit to this place is certainly a spiritually uplifting experience...
Truly a wonder of the world!!!!

Day 53, Hualapai Indian Reservations, Grand Canyon

We are now in the Hualapai Indian Reservation and we have obtained a permit to hike through the Hindu Canyon which is found in the vast, empty lands of the southwestern Grand Canyon corridor.

Like all canyons in this remote area, Hindu is very little visited, completely unspoilt yet easy enough to reach, though only a short part has nice narrows; most of the upper reaches are wide, grassy and with gently sloping sides while the lower part, after a big drop off, is deep but open.
The slot-like section is about half a mile long, where the drainage cuts down into the thin strata of the Supai formation, and has a sequence of beautiful narrows, pools, chutes and cascades.

Hmm, Sita, Prasad, Amit and I are looking around trying to figure out why this place is called HINDU CANYON????? We see nothing Hindu about it!

The guide explained:-
The 'temple' designations in the Grand Canyon are the work of geologist Clarence Dutton, one of the first geologists to study the canyon in detail and thus he gave the official names to many of its rock formations.
Dutton had a poetic nature and believed the Grand Canyon was a unique treasure for the entire world and thus its place names should reflect the cultures of the entire planet.

As a result, he deliberately named many features after gods and mythologies from around the world . So, you have Budda Temple (southeast Asia), Shiva Temple (India), Cheops Pyramid (Egyptian) and Freya Castle and Wotan's Throne (Norse).

The designations of 'temple', 'pyramid', 'castle' and 'throne' are not scientific terms, but rather part of the feature's larger grandiose place name and sometimes inspired by what spiritual, romantic or mythological structure that Dutton thought it might somewhat resemble (for instance, Cheops Pyramid is somewhat pyramid shaped when seen from the south).
Hmmm, interesting.
Ooooh, the highlight of this trip for us adrenaline junkies....The Grand Canyon Skywalk.

The horseshoe-shaped glass walkway stands at a 3,600 feet (1,100 m) height above the floor of the canyon, a height exceeding those of the world's tallest skyscrapers

The Skywalk extends over a side canyon and affords a view into the main canyon.

Okay, lets put our booties on as we walk on this glass floor that protrudes 20 metres beyond the edge of the canyon, and look down towards the Colorado River, nearly 4,000 feet below about a mile to the west.
Ooooh, this is sooo cool!
Hey look Sita, there are birds flying UNDER us!!!
This place is rather commercialised, but we don't care, the experience was mind blowing!!!! Not for the faint hearted!!!

Day 53, Havasupai Native American Reservation, Grand Canyon

The guys decided that they wanted to go whitewater we let them whilst we found some shops......

We have taken a short hike through the Havasupai Native American Reservation

whilst waiting for the guys.
Where are we? We are at Supai Village - the only place in the Grand Canyon still inhabited by native people.

"Havasupai" means "people of the blue-green water"

We have been informed that Havasu Canyon has been dramatically altered following a large flood caused by heavy rainfall on August 17th, 2008, an event which caused closure of the area for nearly ten months; it reopened June 1st, 2009. Navajo Falls is no more, having been completely bypassed by the water.Havasu Falls has changed shape, and although Mooney Falls is less damaged, most of the beautiful travertine pools in the lower canyon have been swept away.

Aaah, bummer, we were really looking forward to seeing

Havasu Falls

Mooney Falls!!

Day 53, Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

At last we have arrived in the State of Arizona, another a state located in the southwestern region of the United States.

The capital and largest city is Phoenix. Arizona is noted for its desert climate, exceptionally hot summers, and mild winters, but the high country in the north features pine forests and mountain ranges with cooler weather than the lower deserts, of course the GRAND CANYON!!

Ok, Nopi, since you are afraid of heights I think it will be best for you to take the Coconino Canyon Train. It is a 90-minute ride that originates in Grand Canyon National Park at the old Grand Canyon Depot and travels 24 miles through the canyon landscapes.
The train is made up of 1923 Pullman cars and runs on tracks built in the it should be rather enjoyable.....

The rest of us are going by Helicopter to view the North & South Rims....let's go.......

...........I simply cannot find the words to describe the vision that is the Grand Canyon....

We were absolutely speechless, totally in awe of this magnificent natural wonder.

Stretching east to west, like a scar across northern Arizona, this UNESCO World Heritage Site reads like a diary of the life of Earth itself,........

like a treasure waiting to be discovered and,......

like a treasure, the series of canyons are filled with jewels at every turn: around every corner another unforgettable panoramic view,

and Mother Nature breathing fresh air right into your soul.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day 52, Utah, USA

Utah is a western state of the United States.

The name "Utah" is derived from the Ute Indian language, meaning "people of the mountains.

We are now flying over Great Salt Lake, located in the northern part Utah.
Did you know that it is the largest salt lake in the western hemisphere, the fourth-largest terminal lake in the world,and the 37th-largest lake on Earth??
In an average year the lake covers an area of around 1,700 square miles (4,400 km2).

The Great Salt Lake effect is a small but detectable influence on the local climate and weather around Utah.
In particular, snowstorms are a common occurrence over the region and have major socio-economic impacts due to their significant precipitation amounts.
The Great Salt lake never freezes and can warm rapidly which allows lake-effect precipitation to occur from September through May. Lake-enhanced snowstorms are often attributed to creating what is locally known as "The Greatest Snow on Earth."

Wow, there is the Salt Lake Temple,

the largest (of more than 120 around the world) a nd best-known temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is the sixth temple built by the church overall, and the fourth operating temple built sin ce the Mormon exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois.

We are now going to Bryce Canyon National Park

Thousands of delicately carved spires rise in brilliant color from the amphitheaters of Bryce C
anyon National Park. Millions of years of wind, water and geologic mayhem have shaped and etched the pink cliffs at Bryce, which isn't actually a canyon but the eastern slope of the Paunsaguant Plateau.

We decided to take a 37-mile round-trip horseback ride to Bryce Canyon's most famous viewpoints.
The guide explained some geological facts to us.
A hoodoo (also tent rock, fairy chimney, earth pyramid) is a tall thin spire of rock that protrudes from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland.

They are composed of soft sedimentary rock and are topped by a piece of harder, less easily-eroded stone that protects the column from the elements.
The difference between hoodoos and pinnacles or spires is that hoodoos have a variable thickness often described as having a "totem pole-shaped body."
A spire, on the other hand, has a smoother profile or uniform thickness that tapers from the ground upward.
Hoodoos range in size from that of an average human to heights exceeding a 10-story buildin
g, their shapes are affected by the erosional patterns of alternating hard and softer rock layers, and minerals deposited within different rock types cause hoodoos to have different colors throughout their height.
Our first view of Bryce Canyon was dramatic, as rows of pine trees veil the color and grandeur of the canyon until we reached the rim.

Here the brilliant hues came alive - especially with the rising and setting of the sun.
From brilliant red sandstone hoodoos and mazes to open amphitheaters and lush green forests, Bryce Canyon National Park inspires awe and appreciation for one of Mother Nature's greatest miracles.

We wanted to go to a rodeo, but couldnt find one to go to so we drove to Zion National Park, another of nature's great wonders.

Designated in 1919, Zion is Utah's oldest national park. Gigantic red and white rock monoliths to wered around us like a skyscraper city of stone, concealing pockets of abundant flora and fauna. The park is known for its incredible canyons, including The Narrows.

The Virgin River has gnawed through native sandstone to create the incr edible scenery found in Zion Canyon
There are the Three Patriarchs!

These massive cliffs consist of Lower Jurassic-age formations, including (from bottom to top): the Moenave Formation, the Kayenta Formation, and the massive Navajo Sandstone.
These Jurassic-aged cliff-forming formations overlie older slope-forming formations along river level: the Moenkopi Formation (Lower Triassic) and the Chinle Formation (Upper Triassic).
The cliffs tops in Zion Canyon range roughly 2,000 feet above stream level.
We also viewed the giant screen production "Treasure of the Gods" before leaving the park...Next stop, the Valley of the Gods,

a stunning, 50-square-mile basin studded with intricately eroded sandstone spires, buttes, and towers. Navajo legend says that the towering sentinels in this sprawling, ocher-hued amphitheater are warriors turned to stone.

We can now see Monument Valley in Arizona in the distance.........

wow, lots of excitement in the camp!!!....Hmmm, I wonder why?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 50,California, USA

California is the most populous state in the United States, and the third largest by area.

It is located on the West Coast of the United States, along the Pacific Ocean, and is bordered by Oregon to the north, Nevada to the east, Arizona to the southeast, and the Mexican state of Baja California to the south.

We are now flying over Hollywood! There is the Sign, a famous landmark in the Hollywood Hills area of Mount Lee in Los Angeles, California, spelling out the name of the area in 50 feet (15 m)high white letters.!!

Did you know that it was created as an advertisement in 1923, but garnered increasing recognition after the sign was left up.
From the ground, the contours of the hills give the sign its well-known "wavy" a
ppearance. When observed at a comparable altitude, the letters appear straight-across.

Nopi and Sita want to walk along the Walk of Fame sidewalk, w
hich now has a double row of stars and they want to take a double decker bus ride around the Hollywood stars' homes...........ok, shall we leave you girls here?

There, nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, is the valley of Yosemite National Park,

featuring the world's largest single piece of granite (El Capitan), North America's tallest waterfall (Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls), and three separate groves of giant sequoia trees – the world's oldest living things.

Wow, Mel was right, California is simply awesome, so we will definitely have to return to this state.

Hold on guys, isn't that the Chandelier Tree?

Yes, it is a 315 foot (96 metre) tall coast redwood tree in Leggett, California with a 6 foot (1.83m) wide by 9 foot (2.74m) high hole cut through its base to allow a car to drive through. The hole was carved in the 1930s!!

Wow , these trees are really tall!!

Day 50, Hawaii, USA

Hawai'i is the newest of the 50 U.S. states, and is the only state made up entirely of islands. The state encompasses nearly the entire volcanic Hawai'ian Island chain, which comprises hundreds of islands spread over 1,500 miles (2,400 km). At the southeastern end of the archipelago, the eight "main islands" are (from the northwest to southeast) Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Maui, and Hawaiʻi.
The last is by far the largest, and is often called the "Big Island" or "Big Isle" to avoid confusion with the state as a whole.

So guys, what are we going to do in Hawaii????
Hmm, everyone is looking at me, because they know its a loaded question.......
I expected them to say that they wanted to go to the beaches.....but they are all silent..........
Geeez, am I so dictatorial??? Don't answer that!!!

OK, sometimes I like to do the unexpected so I have simply got to visit the most unique place in the United States.......
A place where new land is being formed every day, where new life begins, a live volcano alongside a lush tropical rain forest beats going to the beach any day.
A truly magical place...........

Yep, the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park is a fascinating world of active volcanism, biological diversity, and Hawaiian culture, past and present.
This site contains two of the most active volcanoes in the world, Mauna Loa (4,170 m high) and Kilauea (1,250 m high), both of which tower over the Pacific Ocean. Volcanic eruptions have created a constantly changing landscape, and the lava flows reveal surprising geological formations. Rare birds and endemic species can be found there, as well as forests of giant ferns.

Let's start at the Kilauea Visitor Center. We have just received the latest information on trails, ranger-led activities, road conditions, and safety precautions.

We watched "Born of Fire, Born of the Sea", the featured 25 minute film that is shown in the Kilauea Visitor Center before going to explore Kilauea's summit trails that descends 400 feet through native rain forest into a crater, and across lava flows still steaming from the 1959 eruption!!

Nopi, please STAY ON MARKED TRAILS! The vegetation or cinders may hide deep cracks in the ground.

Prasad is too eager to rush along, adrenaline pumping to see where the lava meets the sea......but please use caution near cliffs, cracks, and steam vents, the edges of these features are unstable and can be slippery.

Thank goodness all of us are wearing STURDY SHOES and LONG LIGHTWEIGHT HIKING PANTS since falling on lava is like falling on broken glass, and can cause severe wounds.

Cough, cough.....what 's wrong? Amit seems to be choking!! The new eruptive vent in Halema`uma`u Crater, Sulphur Banks, and Pu'u 'O'o vent are generating high levels of gasses that are affecting him. He is very sensitive to smells......Luckily none of us have any heart or breathing problems as these volcanic fumes can be very hazardous to our health..... Concentrations of these gasses is often dependent on wind direction. Hawai'i's normal trade wind pattern generally blows gasses, emitted from the two main vents on Kilauea, away from most visitor areas. However, even on a trade wind day, fumes from Pu'u 'O'o and Halema'uma'u may cross a roadway or linger in other areas of the park. Amit has now tied his handkerchief around his mouth and is continuing with the hike;-)

Marti, please be careful, you know that volcanic eruptions can occur at any time and can be extremely hazardous. Even from a distance, gasses and fallout (Pele's hair, pumice, and cinder) can cause lung and eye irritation.
En route the ranger pointed out Sulphur Banks, Steam Vents and hopefully we will be able to view some lava......
Wow! This is quite a spectacle.....

Aloha in the Hawaiian language means affection, love, peace, compassion and mercy.
Since the middle of the 19th century, it also has come to be used as an English greeting to say goodbye and hello.
It is also the state nickname of Hawaii, the "Aloha State"

So Aloha from the Aloha State......where we were enthralled by its only UNESCO world heritage site....

day 50, Tennessee, USA

It's Day 50!!
Goodbye Florida, Hello Tennessee

Wait, what's that tower protruding from the trees..??

We have to stop.....we are flying over the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!!
Yes, we could hike a Smoky Mountain Bald; or fish for trout or explore pioneer history or find wildflowers or backpack along the Appalachian Trail or camp off the beaten path but that tower has simply fascinated us so we are going in search of it.
Aaah, we are going to Clingmans Dome.

The Great Smoky Mountains, the majestic climax of the Appalachian Highlands, are a wildlands sanctuary preserving the world's finest examples of temperate deciduous forest; and this UNESCO world heritage site boasts unspoiled forests similar to those the early settlers found.

Did You Know that about 100 native tree species make their home in Great Smoky Mountains National Park-more than in all of northern Europe.

The park also contains one of the largest blocks of old-growth temperate deciduous forest in North America.

At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is Great Smoky Mountains National Park's highest point. It is the highest point in Tennessee.

The cool, wet conditions on Clingmans Dome's summit make it a coniferous rainforest. Unfortunately, pests, disease, and environmental degradation threaten the unique and fragile spruce-fir forest. Dead trunks litter the area, and dying trees struggle to survive another year.

Clouds, precipitation, and cold temperatures are common at Clingmans Dome. Temperatures at the dome can be 10 -20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than in the surrounding lowlands, so we dressed in layers before embarking on the steep half-mile paved trail that leads from the car to the 54-foot observation tower.

Wow, vistas from Clingmans Dome are spectacular.

We are really lucky to have a clear sunshiny day...and we can see over 100 miles and into seven states.
The beauty of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is displayed in its awesome waterfalls, cool mountain rivers, wildflowers, floral and fauna, and the glory of fall as the tree leaves change to brilliant colors of red, orange, and gold.
Feroz is whistling this awesome tune as we leave this great UNESCO site for the next........
What are you counting Marti??
The number of states that we have travelled through in the USA.......

Sunday, July 26, 2009

day 49, Florida, USA

Jean was ready to take us on an airboat ride in the swamps of Louisiana, but Brenda returned with ...palm trees, a thousand miles of beautiful sand and surf, hard bodies and Mickey Mouse - our next destination ??....yes, must be Florida!!

As the southernmost state in the continental US, golf courses, tennis courts and water sports abound in this sub-tropical environment.

It boasts some of the most popular beaches in America, such as Miami and Daytona, as well as outstanding natural landmarks such as the Everglades, and obviously, Disney World, with its attractions, thrill rides,theme parks and shopping and entertainment venues.

With the addition of Universal Studios, Universal City Walk (an enormous dining and nightlife complex), Islands of Adventure, and Downtown Disney (featuring shops, restaurants and Pleasure Island, a hip collection of bars and clubs ...this has got to be 'the happiest place on Earth!'.

With 3 NFL football teams (Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars), 2 NBA basketball teams (Orlando Magic, Miami Heat) and 2 MLB baseball teams (Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Florida Marlins), Florida has no lack of opportunity to see the sporting event of your choice.

Mel wanted to go to Key West,

everyone else wanted to go to Disney World, (C'mon guys, you know that a whole week in the entertainment parks wouldn't be sufficient......and anyway, we will be returning to the US...) but I decided that I wanted to go the only place in the entire western hemisphere where I might see a shuttle launched into outer space!!

Yep, we went to the The John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC), which is NASA's space vehicle launch facility and Launch Control Center (spaceport) on Merritt Island, Brevard County, in Florida!!!

Wow, this was so cool!!.

An observation gantry on the grounds of Launch Complex 39 and the Apollo-Saturn V Center provides unobstructed views of both launch
pads and all of Kennedy Space Center property.

The Apollo-Saturn V Center is a large museum built around its centerpiece exhibit, a restored Saturn V launch vehicle, and features other space related exhibits, including an Apollo capsule.

Feroz was "over the moon" because he went to a theatre that simulates the environment inside an Apollo-era firing room during an Apollo launch, whilst Prasad went to the one that simulates the Apollo 11 landing!

We also visited a building where modules for the International Space Station are tested; and saw th
e impressive Astronauts Memorial Foundation's Space Mirror Memorial, also known as the Astronaut Memorial, a huge black granite mirror through-engraved with the names of all astronauts who died in the line of duty.

We had a million questions...but guess what? We had lunch with an Astronaut!! A veteran member of NASA's Astronaut Corps, Al Worden was happy to answer all our questions. Where is the Space Shuttle assembled and launched? How does it land? Where do astronaut crews prepare and train? etc, etc

We had a tour of NASA's Space Shuttle program and we visited KSC's
Shuttle Landing Facility, saw the massive Vehicle Assembly Building, and caught a
glimpse of NASA's gigantic Crawler Transporters.

This was totally, totally awesome.....

Hmmm, Brenda is so fortunate to be able to see "lift-offs" from her backyard!!

I think now that we have experienced KSC, my friends are not so upset that we didn't go to Disney World

...well I hope so anyway;-)

Thank you Brenda, for being such a great hostess..........We will defintely visit you again, when we return to the US.