The Daily Explorer

March 18, 2009

Arizona Rocks!

Arizona: March 2009


MOZZIE BYTE (Editor): A warm welcome back to all our Daily Explorer readers and greetings to those of you who are joining us for the first time. To our regulars, many thanks for viewing our online publication and for giving us your feedback.  Over 10,000 visitors have been to see our site since we launched just over a year ago, for the latest information from Ray as he explores different parts of the world. If you are new to this site and would like to know more about what’s in our archives, check out some of our Previous Issues. We aim to maintain our high standards of journalism and presentation at The Daily Explorer, so please keep sending us your ideas to help us improve it. You can use the comments box online, or email Ray, ‘Mozzie’ or any of our correspondents at

In our fourth issue of 2009, we celebrate the return of our top American guest correspondent Nick Elandimer (above), who first worked with our team in November 2007. Hailing from New York, he is one of the most experienced online journalists of his generation and brings us the latest news and pictures as Ray returns to the USA after a brief stopover in London. Find out what happened when Ray met up with his friends in Sacramento and visited Sedona for the annual Film Festival. The awesome Grand Canyon was also on his itinerary. We have all of the details. Plus, we have a reminder about our first caption competition of 2009 and an update from Ray as he begins preparing for his first ever marathon – yes, marathon – in New York this coming November.

In our last issue, Dolly Lama followed Ray as returned from Tibet to Nepal, to complete his three month tour by visiting Lumbini – the birthplace of the Buddha. Whist he was there, he also explored Nagarkot and Bhaktapur on the outskirts of Kathmandu before leaving Nepal for the UK. If you missed it, you can read it now at: Namaste Nepal


Above: Ray observes a group of Buddhist monks who have gathered in the Sacred Garden at Lumbini to meditate. Lumbini is the birthplace of the Buddha and one of the holiest places in Nepal. You can read more about it now at: Namaste Nepal

As I had not seen or spoken to Ray since he was last in the USA about a year ago, I was interested to find out what had made him come all the way from Nepal for a relatively short visit to the United States. “It’s a good question, Nick” said Ray. “I spent much of last year in countries where the infrastructure is vastly inferior compared to England and other western countries. After three months in Nepal, with power cuts for 16 hours every day, heavy pollution and crumbling roads, I felt rather exhausted. As I was thinking of going directly to India, where these problems would most likely be the same or worse, I decided a couple of weeks break in the UK would be great for rest and re-couperation. As Nikki was also in the UK with her family, it meant I would be able to see her again before she headed back to her base in Chiangmai (Thailand), as well see my own family and friends before heading out to India” explained our global nomad. “So I flew to London with this plan in mind without realising that when I got there, it would all change” recalled Ray.


Above: Back in London – “It is so great to be in a place that is familiar for just a little while” said Ray. “In London, everything works pretty well compared to what I have been used to in the last few months. In the past, I complained a lot when I lived here, but now I think that people who live in England generally have a pretty good infrastructure and quality of life” he told me

Below: Whatever the time of year, there is always so much going on in England’s vibrant capital city – “Seeing London from a visitors perspective is a great experience” said Ray. “For example, I visited Chinatown to meet Nikki and (her good friend) Nigel Shilton and discovered that the Chinese New Year celebrations were in full swing” (left). “Nigel is a previous winner of a Daliy Explorer caption competition and it was great to see him again after a long absence. We decided to hang out for a while at Soho’s cool Bar Italia” said Ray, who sent us this picture of Nigel and Nikki chatting away inside the famous coffee shop


Knowing Ray has been living nomadically for over three years, I wondered what it felt like to be back in the place that used to be his home after such a long time. “Well  Nick, it is not as strange as you might think, probably because I have been back a few times since I set off in November 2005” said Ray. “With each visit, I have come to appreciate the important things more and more. Seeing my family is really fantastic and I always feel quite re-juvenated from staying at my brothers home. Fortunately, it was his birthday when I was there so I was able to celebrate with him” added our traveller. “My niece and nephew are also growing up fast and I really like being able to touch base with them and find out where they are as their lives unfold” said Ray.

Below: Ray’s brother Paul (left) tries on a new pair of diving goggles – “I was very lucky that the timing of my visit co-incided with his birthday. As he was about to set off to Sharm El Sheikh with the family for a scuba diving holiday, I chose to give him a new pair of goggles and a snorkel for his trip, and I believe they were very well utilised” (right) said Ray



Above: Ray’s 10 year old nephew, Daniel (on the left of the three players in red), played his first competitive Sunday morning soccer match for the Barnes Eagles whilst Ray was in town – “It was great to see Dan make his debut, especially as he scored his team’s only goal of the match” said Ray

Below: Ray’s niece, 14 year old Rebecca completed her two week work experience with a firm of architects in Blackfriars whilst our traveller was visiting – “I am very impressed with her” said Ray. “She approached the whole thing with great diligence and professionalism (left) and finished off the two weeks by making cakes for everyone in the office whom she had been working with during her tenure” (right) he told me


Another person who Ray hooked up with in London was Howard Carter, founder and owner of the very successful Incognito brand of mosquito repelling products. “We met at the Spa in Ko Samui a couple of years ago whilst I was doing a de-tox there” said Ray. “Howard was exhibiting his company and products at ‘Destinations 09’ – an international travel show at Earls Court, and he invited me to join him there. I have been using his product on my travels and can wholeheartedly say it is very effective – I think he wanted me to convey this message to as many potential customers as possible coming to the show” explained Ray. “By the time I got to meet Howard, which happened a few days into my visit, I started getting a sense that the plans I had made to travel through India were likely to change”. Curious to understand more, I asked Ray to explain what he meant.

“Being in London was a great opportunity to review my plan for the year and explore all of the options available. Through an email, I discovered details of an upcoming two day (personal development) workshop in San Francisco which I was very interested in attending. When I mentioned to Nikki that I was thinking of going to California, she got very excited about coming with me, as she had never been to the west coast of America. So the idea expanded from me going alone on a short visit to attend a workshop and visit friends, to a much longer month long road trip, with both of us touring California, with me attending the workshop towards the end” he explained. “At the same time this was going on, I was also considering the possibility of running in the New York marathon in November this year, which would require a radical re-think from me regarding this year’s travel schedule. With a commitment to five months of training being necessary, constantly moving and having no fixed routine simply would not work” added our global nomad.


Above: Ray meets Howard Carter (left) at the ‘Destinations 09’ international travel show at Earls Court – ” I am delighted that Howard’s business is going so well. He is a very charming, genuine chap and works tirelessly to be the best at what he does. He deserves all the success that he gets” said Ray

Below: Ray met unexpectedly with new US President Barack Obama who happened to attend the Destinations 09 travel show – “Maybe it’s an omen?  Perhaps it is a clear sign that I should go to America” thought Ray


Whilst mulling over the future, Ray took full advantage of his impromptu visit to London by flying over to Switzerland for a day to visit his ex-wife, Charlotte. “Anyone who has read the story in Man of a Thousand Days, about how my nomadic life began, might remember that I used to run a consulting business in London with her when we were married” said Ray. “Unbelievably, this year is the fifth anniversary of our divorce and the world seems so different to how it looked back then, I can scarcely believe I am the same person” he told me. “Of all the things I am proud of in my life, one of the greatest is that we have been able to remain such close friends after the end of our marriage, especially as I do not believe this to be the case for many couples who decide to part. I have had plenty of time travelling to reflect on and enquire about this period of my life and it has enabled me to understand parts of myself much more clearly. Through sharing these with Charlie, we have both been able to navigate through a very difficult period of time between us. It was fantastic to see her, her husband and their two lovely children, albeit for a few short hours” said Ray.


Above: Just an hour away from Heathrow, Ray took full advantage of his trip to London and spent a day in Steckborn, near Zurich, visiting his ex-wife Charlotte

Below: Charlotte arranged for Ray to stay at this local hotel – a good example of traditional Swiss architecture



Above: Charlie, with baby Joey in the pushchair and the pretty village of Steckborn in the background – “I am really delighted that Charlie is happy in her life here and that we are still great friends. Although it was hard, our parting was a very catalytic event for me and opened the door to the life that I have now, which I absolutely love. Five years ago, when things were falling apart, it was hard to know that everything would be OK, but it does seem to have turned out brilliantly” said our optimistic traveller. “Charlie helped me immensely last year when my consulting business was sold, by agreeing to take part in the handover of our materials to the new owner, which I wanted to thank her for” said Ray. “The best thing is that when we get together now, we don’t make many references to our shared history, but actually spend most of our time talking about the things that are currently going on in both of our lives. Our relationship really affirms ny most basic belief that love can transform anything” he added

Below: Charlie and her husband Patrick have two delightful children – one year old Joey (left) and Lola (right), who is three


Returning from Switzerland, I asked Ray if he was any clearer about going to the United States, or whether he was still planning to go to India. “Having made the discovery that I can buy a relatively inexpensive flight ticket, I’ve decided that I am going to attend the workshop in San Francisco and take a month long road trip around California and Arizona with Nikki. In the few days I now have left before we depart, I have to make a final decision about running in the marathon and book a place in the race with an associated charity” said our highly organised traveller. “And there will still be time for me to catch up with a couple of particular people whom have been in my thoughts in recent weeks” he added. “Strangely, they nearly all have the same name – two Helen’s and one lovely lady called Helena” said our traveller.


Above: Helena Dennison (right), pictured here at home with her daughter Andrea (left) – “I met Helena over 25 years ago when we both worked at a company called Programmes and Andrea was a very young girl – I cannot believe she is all grown up with a son of her own!” said Ray. “I haven’t seen Helena for a long time and discovered last year that she had been reading The Daily Explorer, so I made a point of meeting her to get some feedback for Mozzie Byte and the team. For the last few years, she has been running a very successful landscape gardening company” he told me

Below: Another one of Ray’s old friends is the delightful Helen Coffin (left) – She was once a girlfriend of mine and was the best woman at my wedding, so our friendship goes back a long way” said Ray. We met at Somerset House near The Strand in London, which has a delightful little cafe and views over the River Thames. Ray and Nikki were also able to grab an evening with Helen Chilvers (right) – “She has appeared in The Daily Explorer many times so some of our readers may recognise her” said Ray. “As always, we spent a wonderful evening together and I am very pleased to hear that things are going well for her” he told me



Above: Soaking up the cultural scene in London – Nikki meets Ray outside the Duke of Yorks Theatre in St. Martin’s Lane to see a performance of Arthur Miller’s play “A View from the Bridge” – “It was a special treat for me as the daughter of some friends has a leading role in the play” said Ray. “Hayley Atwell, who is pictured in the poster with Ken Stott to the left of Nikki, has been in a couple of movies recently, including The Duchess and Brideshead Revisited. The chance to see her perform live was an opportunity too good to miss, especially as I was hoping to meet her father, who lives in California during my visit to America” said our traveller

As Ray was completing the last bits of packing for his trip to America, I called him in London to get his arrival details and find out if he had decided to run in the marathon in my home town of New York later this year. “Well Nick, you might be very pleased to hear that I am going to go for it and I have actually secured a place already” was his excited reply. “I have never run a marathon before, or any distance come to think of it – in fact I am not really a runner of any description” he told me. “But I have so enjoyed the physical challenge of trekking at altitude in the Himalayas and as I am in good shape healthwise, I reckon if I train properly over the coming 5-6 months that I will be able to complete it. And it gives me the first real opportunity in five years to raise some much needed money for a couple of charities. In due course, I will pass more information to you so that The Daily Explorer can let readers know who I am running for and how they can support me to help these organisations” said our soon-to-be (charity) marathon runner.


Above: Ready for take off – Ray and Nikki arrive at Heathrow to board their British Airways Boeing 747 to San Francisco, with a flight time of around 11 hours

Below: Nikki displays her unique ‘Ada Dollars’ at the airport – “One of my nicknames for Nikki is ‘Ada’, as she comes from the north of England” explained Ray. “It was a great opportunity to plan a little surprise for her and print up some money with her picture on it” he told me. “Maybe I could spend some of this in the casino’s in Las Vegas?” thinks Nikki ……


Regular readers of The Daily Explorer may remember that Ray visited Sacramento in November 2007 and spent some time with his very good friends, Nic and Regina Meredith. “Nic and I go back a long way and ironically, when I was going through my divorce in 2004, the two of us went to Sedona (in Arizona), where he met Regina who is now his wife!” said Ray. “Nikki and I headed straight to Sacramento after arriving at San Francisco airport, leaving California the next day with Nic and Regina in their RV (mobile home) to attend the Sedona International Film Festival, which has been gaining popularity over the years and draws exciting film-makers from all over the world” said Ray.


Above: Map showing Sacramento, where Ray and Nikki had arranged their rendezvous with Nic and Regina before leaving California in the RV for the neighbouring state of Arizona. Later in their trip, our two travellers would be calling in at many of the places in California that you can see on the map, before finally reaching Oakland in the San Francisco Bay area for Ray to attend his two day, personal development workshop (more about this in our next issue)

Below: Nic, who used to work with Ray in the eighties in a company called Programmes, standing beside his ‘home on wheels’ at an RV park in Bakersfield, California (see map above) en route to Sedona – “These vehicles are really well equipped, with a kitchen, toilet, shower, two double bedrooms and a lounge, with TV and DVD player!” said Ray. “Some of the people we met in Nepal last year would think they had died and gone to heaven if they ended up living in one of these” he told me



Above: One for the ladies! In 1991, Nic looked like the next George Michael (left). This was a distinct improvement from the long hair and beard he had been sporting in the late eighties, as shown in the picture on the right, with Ray’s ex colleagues John Arroyo (left) and Will Welch (centre)

Below: And today, Nic is more handsome than ever as he enjoys a lively evening of conversation with Ray, Nikki and wife Regina, over supper in their RV – “He has become a lovely man over the years I have known him” said our global nomad



Above: Crossing the border from California into Arizona, on the Interstate 40 Freeway about 20 miles south of Kingman, Ray saw this odd structure. “Looking like a cross between a giant golf ball and a spaceship, it has three levels and measures 40 feet in diameter. Lake Havasu Estates built it in 1976 as a restaurant and cocktail lounge for a land developer. However, the company went bankrupt and the sphere now serves as a private home. The owner has added aliens walking up the ramp and space ships. Sadly for us, it’s not open to the public” said Ray

Below: The red rocks of Sedona. Perhaps one of the most spectacular secrets of the world, it is located less than two hours north of Phoenix and two hours south of the Grand Canyon – “It was great to be back again and I enjoyed introducing Nikki to this unique town in the middle of the Arizona desert” Ray told me. “I cannot believe how beautiful this area is” said Nikki. The road trip from Sacramento took them around two days. Sedona has a population of around 12,000 and since the 1970’s, has been an art and tourist centre and a resort, retirement, and spiritual mecca. ‘Vortexes’, which adherents of New Age philosophy believe to be intense concentrations of spiritual energies, were identified here in the 1980’s, attracting numbers of metaphysical believers to the red rocks and mesas surrounding the town



The expanded 15th annual Sedona International Film Festival featured a week of Oscar-winning movies, directors and nominees. The increasingly popular festival has been attracting sell-out crowds of movie fans and a growing list of producers, directors, screenwriters and actors from both independent production companies and big-name movie companies with burgeoning independent divisions.

In total, visitors were able to see 135 films in a range of categories on six screens at the local movie theatre. I was interested to find out which films had caught the eye of our two travellers. “The best film was definitely a German sub-titled movie called “Revanche” said Nikki. “It is a dark, carefully crafted story of a man who plots to take revenge on a policeman who accidentally kills his girlfriend during an ill-conceived bank raid. He eventually realises that this would not really be the right thing to do, as she would not have been present at the crime scene if it had not been for his thoughtlessness. If any Daily Explorer readers are into art films, then this is a must see for you” she told me.

And what about Ray? “Well Nick, my favourite was a documentary called “The Wrecking Crew” said our film buff. “It was absolutely brilliant and opened my eyes to something that I had not known about before. Telling the story of his late father, director Dan Tedesco recalls the early to mid 1960’s in the pop music business, when artists such as The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, Sonny & Cher, The Byrds, The Righteous Brothers, Nancy Sinatra, and the Fifth Dimension, topped the pop charts with songs like Up, Up and Away, Little Old Lady From Pasadena, Cherish, These Boots Are Made for Walking and Good Vibrations. The artists who sang these songs are household names, but the musicians who performed those hits were virtually unknown to the listening public and remain so today. The old studio musicians said these young players were going to “Wreck the music business” with their rock & roll, yet Tommy Tedesco, Hal Blaine, Earl Palmer, Carol Kaye, Joe Osborne and a select host of others remain some of the most recorded musicians in history. These talented young studio musicians were known within the industry as ‘The Wrecking Crew’ said our very well informed film festival attendee. “I never knew that these guys played the backing music to so many of the songs I heard growing up. The film featured 120 pieces of popular music and had us dancing in the aisles – it is definitely a hit” said Ray.


Above: Whilst it was the International Film Festival (left) that had attracted Ray and Nikki to Sedona, there are many other reasons for paying a visit there – “A personal one for me was the opportunity to say hello to an old English friend of mine called Paul Lawrence (right). He is an actor/artist who has lived in Sedona for 20 years and he featured in my Man of a Thousand Days story in 2008″ explained Ray

Below: The McDonald’s in Sedona is the only one in the world with teal arches. They are not yellow because the city thought they would mesh poorly with the surrounding red rocks. The first colour McDonald’s offered was teal, which the city accepted


Above: The Chapel of the Holy Cross, also known as the ‘Chapel in the Rock’ is one of the more unusual and very stunning attractions in Sedona (Photo: Santanartist)

The Chapel of the Holy Cross is an iconic Catholic chapel built into the mesas of Sedona, designed by architect and sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, from the firm of Anshen & Allen. The chapel is built on Coconino National Forest land. The construction supervisor was Fred Courkos, who built the chapel in 18 months at a cost of US$300,000. The chapel was completed in 1956 and rises 200 feet from the ground between two large red rock formations. One of the most distinctive features is a 90-foot cross, which can be seen from the ground along State Route 179. A massive stained glass window turns the chapel’s interior into a kaleidoscope of colour at certain times of the day. No services are held here, but it provides an ideal setting for spiritual reflection and prayer as well as incredible views of the Red Rocks.  “It really is a beautiful building, both in it’s simplicity of design and its integration with the rocks that surround it” said Ray. “The American Institute of Architects gave the Chapel its Award of Honour in 1957. In the sculptor’s words, “Though Catholic in faith, as a work of art the Chapel has a universal appeal. Its doors will ever be open to one and all, regardless of creed, that God may come to life in the souls of all men and be a living reality”. In 2007, citizens voted the Chapel to be one of the ‘Seven Man-Made Wonders of Arizona’.


Above: The guardian angel, found nestling in the small gardens at the Chapel of the Holy Cross

Below: Nikki takes a look at the awe inspiring landscape surrounding the Chapel as she prepares to enter the building for a closer look



Above: The distinctive 90-foot cross can be seen from the ground miles away along State Route 179. A massive stained glass window turns the chapel’s interior into a kaleidoscope of colour at certain times of the day

Below: Sedona’s main attraction is its stunning array of red sandstone formations, the ‘Red Rocks’ of Sedona. The formations appear to glow in brilliant orange and red when illuminated by the rising or setting sun and form a breathtaking backdrop for everything from spiritual pursuits to the hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails. Sedona is named after Sedona Miller Schnebly (1877-1950), the wife of the city’s first postmaster, who was celebrated for her hospitality and industriousness



Above: The Amitabha Stupa in the heart of Sedona was completed and consecrated in 2004. It was constructed by Kunzang Palyul Choling, a center for Buddhist study and practice in the Nyingma tradition

Below: Anywhere you go in Sedona you will see fantastic scenery, but if you really want to see Sedona you need to get out on the trails and hike high into its red rocks or down into its canyons. Nikki (bottom, left) explores the ‘Courthouse Butte’ Loop. This trail circles Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock in the Village of Oak Creek



Above: “We’ll have a go at that tomorrow” thinks Ray as he stands at the Courthouse Butte and eyes up Cathedral Rock in the distance. The trail is one of the most popular in Sedona and takes hikers up a steep rock path to the ‘saddle’ in its centre

Below: Cathedral Rock early the following day and Nikki leads the way as her and Ray hike up to the saddle – “The light early in the morning is outstanding and it is so peaceful, you cannot hear anything other than sounds of nature or your feet making contact with the rocks” recalled Ray. “The trail is about three quarters of a mile in length and quite steep” he observed



Above: The gigantic, towering red rock columns of Cathedral Rock cast their shadows in the early morning sunlight as Nikki (far right) sits in quiet contemplation and admires the sensational views

Below: Cathedral Rock, photographed from the river at Red Rock Crossing (the opposite side to the pictures above) – most of the famous photographs that get published all over the world are shot from this point. The sun shines an average of over 300 days of the year in Sedona – that’s more sunshine than Florida!


Catching up with Ray and Nikki in Sedona as they prepared to leave, I asked them how their visit had been. “Visually, this place is absolutely stunning” said Nikki. “But the great thing is that we could actually interact with what we could see and walk and climb amongst those gorgeous red rocks. The film festival provided us with a great opportunity to watch interesting movies from all over the world – quite  a surprise that we were so connected culturally yet so remote geographically. Now that I have been to Sedona, I can confirm this place does have a special, powerful energy, which I had heard about from others. I personally received a healing from Regina’s cousin, which had a very positive effect on me” added Nikki. “So I can understand why so many spiritual, artistic and creative people are drawn here – from what I can see, there are more healers and mystics than you can shake a shaman stick at!” laughed our traveller.


Above: The last day in Sedona and Nikki (left) has some fun at the Java Love Cafe with Paul Lawrence (orange shirt) whilst Nic and Regina enjoy some Java Love of a different kind! And in nearby Flagstaff, Ray discovers the best place in town for a haircut (right)

Below: Ray and Nikki get their first sighting of the famous Route 66 in Flagstaff (left) whilst en route to the Grand Canyon. The highway was officially removed from the United States Highway System on June 27, 1985 after it was decided the route was no longer relevant and has been replaced by the Interstate Highway System (the I-40 in Calfiornia and Arizona) – “I just loved singing the song “Get your kicks on Route 66” as we drove along” Ray told me on his arrival the Grand Canyon National Park (right)


The Grand Canyon immortalises the West in all its wildness. Spanning a monstrous 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and one mile deep, the never ending canyon is one of the great wonders of the world. And it is one of the only places on earth where you can actually walk though billions of years of geological history that are still in the making. “It is one of my favourite spots on the whole planet to visit” said Ray. “Whenever I arrive here – and this is my fifth visit – I am utterly speechless for a few minutes as the sheer awesome wonder of the place literally leaves me with nothing to say, which I am sure a few of my friends will find hard to believe” joked our global explorer. “As it was Nikki’s first visit, I persuaded her to keep her eyes closed as we pulled up at the first viewpoint on the south rim and let me lead her to the edge before opening them” recalled Ray. “Just like me, she was completely gobsmacked” he observed. “It is virtually impossible to find words that adequately convey the power of the experience” said Nikki, “which may not make sense to anyone who reads The Daily Explorer, but if you come here, you will know what I mean!”


Above: Nikki cannot quite believe her own eyes as she takes her first look at the Grand Canyon from the south rim – “When I opened my eyes, I could not quite comprehend what was there in front of me – this giant geographical phenomena just stretching out into the distance further than I could see, like nothing I have ever come across before” said Nikki ……

Below: ….. Ray sent us this picture to try and convey what Nikki was looking at – “I hope this gives our readers at least an idea of the magnitude. The photo has a visible range of 20-30 miles, less than 10% of the entire length of the canyon” he told me



Above: “Its great to be back” – says Ray, who is on his fifth visit to this awesome wonder of nature

Below: The Grand Canyon is also a fantastic place to see many different species of wildlife, like these deer that Ray and Nikki were able to get close to on their first day in the park


For our readers who are interested in geology, the Grand Canyon is a massive rift in the Colorado Plateau that exposes uplifted Proterozoic and Paleozoic strata, and is also one of the six distinct physiographic sections of the Colorado Plateau province. It is not the deepest canyon in the world – Cotahuasi Canyon (11,598 feet) and Colca Canyon (10,499 feet), both in Peru, and Hells Canyon (7,993 feet) on the Oregon-Idaho border, are all deeper – but Grand Canyon is known for its overwhelming size and its intricate and colorful landscape. Geologically, it is significant because of the thick sequence of ancient rocks that are beautifully preserved and exposed in the walls of the canyon. These rock layers record much of the early geologic history of the North American continent.

Uplift associated with mountain building events later moved these sediments thousands of feet upward and created the Colorado Plateau. The higher elevation has also resulted in greater precipitation in the Colorado River drainage area, but not enough to change the Grand Canyon area from being semi-arid. The uplift of the Colorado Plateau is uneven, and the north-south trending Kaibab Plateau that Grand Canyon bisects is over a thousand feet higher at the North Rim (about 1,000 feet) than at the South Rim. The principal consensus among geologists is that the Colorado River basin (of which the Grand Canyon is a part) has developed in the past 40 million years. A recent study places the origins of the canyon beginning some 17 million years ago. Previous estimates had placed the age of the canyon at 5 to 6 million years. The study, which was published in 2008 in the journal Science utilized uranium-lead dating to analyze calcite deposits found on the walls of nine caves throughout the canyon.Temperatures on the North Rim are generally lower than the South Rim because of the greater elevation (averaging 8,000 feet above sea level).Heavy rains are common on both rims during the summer months.

Although many people come here for the views, some are drawn by the plethora of hikes and trails available in the area. “Having trekked in the Himalayas around the Annapurna circuit last year, Nikki and I were very excited about getting into the canyon on foot. We researched all of the one day hikes with trailheads near the Canyon Village and chose the Bright Angel Trail” said Ray. “We discovered it would be possible for us to reach Plateau Point, some 6-7 miles from the south rim with a descent of over 3,000 feet, and return to the rim within a day, provided we set off early enough” he told me. “The first part of the trail is the steepest part, and was fairly slippery at the top as some of the winter snow that still remains there had turned to ice” recalled Ray.  The steep part ended by the time we reached the first rest station after about one and half miles. And by the time we reached the second rest stop at three miles, we had completed the descent. Then, there is a further walk of around three miles to Plateau Point. Although we did not have time to get down to it, the Colorado river is a further one a half miles from this point on the trail” said our global trekker.


Above: The winding pathway you can see in the centre of the photograph is the Bright Angel trail. The bottom of the picture is the starting point on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. From there, the trail descends some 3,000 feet and continues on to Plateau Point which is where the path ends (in the centre of the picture) and is just over six miles away from the rim

Below: Ray struggles to maintain his balance (left) as he descends the higher part of the trail, where snow and ice lay on the ground, whilst Nikki takes it all in her stride (right) as she comes close to reaching the first rest point after one and half miles



Above: Some of the amazing switchbacks along the Bright Angel trail

Below: The further they hiked from the south rim, in the background, the greener the landscape became. Nikki (left) is around five miles away from the rim at this point, where she made another siting of some wild deer (right)



Above: Nikki makes it from the south rim to Plateau Point in around three hours and joyously celebrates her arrival!

Below: Plateau Point is still a long way from the Colorado river – around one a half miles along the trail path



Above: Ray sits on top of a rock column and contemplates just how insignificant one individual life is when surrounded by millions of years of evolution – “These were here a long time before I arrived and will be here a long time after I am gone” he said philosophically

Below: “There are few sights that any living person can see that would be more inspirational or stunning than a sunset at the Grand Canyon” said our appreciative traveller


Editors Note: Our thanks to Nick Elandimer who has pulled together a fantastic set of images showing highlights of Ray and Nikki’s experiences in Arizona! During the second part of their tour, our two travellers plan to visit Las Vegas, Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Seattle and San Francisco and Nick will be right there with them. We look forward to the next instalment of their USA adventure!

Caption Competition

Our first competition of 2009 was announced in our last issue (“Namaste Nepal“) and is still open to readers who would like to enter. The winner will be announced in our next issue. All you have to do is look at the picture below, taken by Ray in the Sacred Garden in Lumbini, and come up with a humorous caption to match what is going on in the photograph. Please send your entries in an email to ‘Caption Competition’ at You can send as many as you like!

Below: Our previous guest correspondent, Dolly Lama, came up with: “On your marks, get set…. go!” If you would like to enter your own caption, please send us an email at


New York Marathon 2009

For readers who missed our last issue, Ray has decided to fulfil yet another of his lifetime ambitions and complete a marathon in 2009. “When I was trekking in the Himalayas at the end of last year, I discovered that I have a huge apetite for physical challenges” said our nomadic adventurer. “This year, I wanted to undertake something that I normally think of as ‘impossible’, partly for the mental discipline of transcending my own limiting beliefs and partly as a major investment in my health as I get ready to enter my fifties” explained Ray. “Running in the New York Marathon on 1st November is the goal that I have chosen and I am delighted to say that I have secured my place” said our excited traveller.

In the coming issues of The Daily Explorer, we will bring you all the news and pictures as Ray starts his five months of training in order to be ready for the big day in November. “It is my first marathon, so naturally, I am a bit nervous” he told me. “I am also very excited about it, to say the least. “In my mind, I have a list of  “Things to do before I die”, a bit like my own “Bucket List” I suppose. One of these is to “Run a Marathon by the time I am 50″ and since I will be 49 this year, time is of the essence, so I decided it was now or never” he explained to me. “When I leave the USA, I am going to spend 5-6 months in Thailand, training to get ready so that I am able to complete the race in a time of four hours or less. Fortunately for me, Matt Campbell, a friend who lives in Chiangmai, has run six marathons and has agreed to be my mentor!” said our grateful virgin runner. “Naturally, I will be in touch with everyone in due course and asking for your support, as I intend to raise loads of money for a couple of charities. If any reader would like me to consider running for a cause that means something to you, I am open to suggestions. If you want to let me know, send me an email at” said Ray.

That’s about it for this issue. We aim to maintain our high standards of journalism and presentation at The Daily Explorer, so please keep sending us your ideas to help us improve it. You can use the comments box online, or email ‘Mozzie’ or any of our correspondents at



From the man made wonders of Las Vegas (above) to the natural beauty of Yosemite National Park (below), make sure you check out the next issue of The Daily Explorer, due online in a couple of weeks. We will keep you posted!




  1. Nice one! Really enjoyed reading this blog as ever. Your photos are outstanding. Thanks for including me!

    Comment by Charlie — March 20, 2009 @ 9:00 pm

  2. Great site. I am really pleased to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor 🙂

    Comment by clespitle — April 5, 2009 @ 12:29 am

  3. Thanks for reading The Daily Explorer and welcome on board!

    Comment by The Daily Explorer — April 5, 2009 @ 8:46 pm

  4. I’ve just read this Ray after weeks of being too busy… great stuff and fantastic photos! Look forward to seeing you soon I hope, though we are bound for the UK in May… keep ’em coming! Thanks again!

    Comment by Susie Moberly — April 6, 2009 @ 5:56 am

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