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Much more than a mule miracle …
For more than a hundred years the mule train is an exclusive mode of trekking down into the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA. It has become so popular that bookings are completely booked out some two years in advance.
Even with this in mind, we still tried our luck. Can you believe it!! We were there for just two hours when two customers were refused travel due to being overweight!
To be accepted, some strange qualifications are laid down:
you should not exceed 91 kg or be shorter than 1.38meter; nor be frightened by heights or large animals; can understand instructions in English, and finally, not be pregnant. What a relief it was that we qualified to take up the two vacancies!
During the strenuous mule trip of 25 kilometres down to the base of the Colorado River, we all followed the instructions of the leader cowboy-guide to the T! At the back of the mule train, his assistant ensured that every rider used their “motivation” periodically to encourage the mules to follow suit. (Apparently, it is not politically correct to refer to this motivation as whips).
Right from the outset, all somewhat stressed and mostly inexperienced tourist riders (consisting of seven women and a single male) had to know their limitations and put the challenging zig-zag bends and devastating vertical cliffs to the test.
After some five tiring hours on mule-back to the bottom of the Canyon, some of us decided to overnight at Chantom Ranch, (an oasis next to the cascading Colorado River) – many with blisters on both hands and buttocks! Despite the sore hands and other body parts, everyone thoroughly enjoyed the awesome panoramic views and spectacles of brightly coloured flowers of spring, despite the arid landscape!
After a juicy Texan-sized Steak for dinner as well as the all American breakfast with baked beans the next morning, we commenced our track along a steeper though shorter and even more beautiful route, the Kalbab Trail. We were now only seven riders to enjoy the experience, because one wise participant decided to rather do the return trip on foot; somewhat nearer to mother earth!
– Ordino Kok
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