Canyon wonders

Canyon wonders

The American South-west is best recognised for its diverse landmass of magnificent natural wonders.

Picture spectacular soaring stone arches, dramatic columns of skinny spires of red rock, ultra-deep canyons surrounded by monoliths of rugged mountains and labyrinth of crevasse (or fissures) carved out in a multitude of shapes, designs and hues.

Among the region's famous "residents" are the Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon, Antelope Canyon and, certainly, the Grand Canyon.

Vibrant "hoodoos"

My group of six arrived at Bryce Canyon after a four-hour drive from Arches National Park in Moab, Utah.

Think of Bryce Canyon as a living theatre of geological wonders. Weathering and erosion over millions of years by snow, ice and rain water have sculpted the canyon into a spectacular display of limestone pillars and delicate red rock spires called "hoodoos".

While the park provided free shuttle bus service, we decided to drive.

There are altogether 13 viewing points, with Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration and Bryce Point being the more popular ones.

At Sunset Point, standing in awe on the elevated ground above the canyon, we were blown away by the "Bryce Amphitheatre".

Below our eye level, the unobstructed panoramic view reveals a maze of towering limestone spires glowing in vibrant shades of pink, red, white, orange and yellow colours against the afternoon sun. The whole spectacle was breathtaking and stunning.

There are also gravel tracks you can use to get down to the different levels of the canyon for more close-up views. But the steep incline and loose gravel of the tracks require stamina, dexterity and a good sense of balance.

Sandstone sculptures

Located within the Navajo Indian Reservation near Page in Arizona, the Antelope Canyon is divided into the Upper and Lower Canyon.

Our 90-minute guided tour of the Upper Canyon started with a performance of the Navajo native hoop dance before we were organised into groups of eight to board the four-wheel drive pick-up trucks of the Chief Tsosie tours.

"Buckle up, hang on to the railing and your cap," warned Ms Macaria, our driver-cumguide.

Fifteen minutes later, I was glad to have heeded her warning. The final stretch to the canyon entrance was one of the most bumpy, sandy, dusty and windy rides I had ever experienced.

The awesome sight before us was like an art gallery of stunning sandstone sculptures, except that here the "exhibits" - beautifully crafted designs - are part of the high canyon walls.

Shafts of sunlight radiating down from openings at the top of the canyon further accentuated the curves and intricate forms of the rock formation, showing off its magnificence.

The Upper Antelope is on ground level and hence less demanding physically.

However, with a single point for entry and exit, it got crowded and human traffic control and manoeuvring got chaotic. Thankfully, the amazing beauty of the slot canyon adequately made up for that.

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