Two Optometrists Selected To Hike The Exclusive Arizona Wave
Although not listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World; and being less well-known and far more difficult to find than its listed neighbour The Grand Canyon, the Wave in Arizona, with its remarkable swirled bands of coloured geological formations, is nonetheless one of the most sought after destinations in the world for dedicated photographers and hikers alike.
And it is ultimately only a very few, truly determined travellers who will ever be allowed to see this remarkable geographic phenomena with their own eyes. Visitor numbers are carefully regulated allowing access to only twenty people each day and – due to an elaborate “treasure hunt” style map of clues leading to its exact location in the desert – even some of these lucky few might fail to ever find their goal.
Advance applications for access need to be made on the first day of the month four months before the planned hike. The daily quota comprises ten by this advanced booking system; and a further ten who are drawn by lottery early each morning.
As the lottery numbered balls tumbled around the drum at 9.00am on March 12th in the Wave special permit office on the Utah/Arizona border, two London Vision Clinic optometrists held their breath and crossed their fingers along with some 45 other hopefuls.
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“There was no way that we would be able to try our luck another day – this was the only opportunity… it was now or never”, said Brendan Duane who was already bracing himself for disappointment and mentally making alternative walking plans for the next day.
Meanwhile his colleague, Vimal Piparia, was convinced that their number would be drawn. “I never doubted that we would be lucky, even for a minute”, the optimist recalled.
Brendan had first heard about the Wave from a fellow photographer who he had met while walking the nearby and equally spectacular Antelope Canyon.
I knew the Wave would be difficult to get to, but I always had it in the back of my mind – I was determined that should I ever again be in the area, I would try and see it.” – Brendan
Despite learning of the highly restricted access, nothing had quite prepared Brendan for the tension that preceded the permit draw.
Vimal and Brendan had arrived early on Monday (March 12th) morning and, after filling in their registration form applying for access to the Wave for the next day, they were issued with a number. Then the nervous wait began for the two optometrists who watched in dismay as more and more people came through the door diminishing their chances.
“It was really nerve-wracking”, Brendan recalls. “A group of six were selected first, then another couple… and then it was down to the last two places… and finally … our number came up and we got them!”
After the disappointed visitors drifted away, the lucky few were then given a series of photographs and instructions which together form the clues as to the exact location of this hidden gem.
“It’s not a proper map with co-ordinates – it’s more like following clues on a treasure hunt – I suppose they are trying to keep the Wave a unique and special experience”, said Brendan. “In fact it is absolutely in the middle of nowhere. Without the series of photographs which lead you towards the special rock formation, it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack – you would never be able to find it on your own.
“The first phase of the journey is an hour drive along an obscure road where you then leave your car in a gulley … next you set off on foot in the direction of a little arrow. It takes about two hours to finally find it. There would never be hoards of people there, no bus could ever reach it – you’ve got to be really determined to track it down.”
In fact – even with the clues – Vimal, a somewhat less-experienced traveller than Brendan – felt that alone he would probably have got lost.
I’ve done hiking in forests and countryside before but never before in the desert… I don’t know how long – if ever – it would have taken me on my own.” – Vimal
However, the extensive restrictions mean that, without the need of fences, barriers or entrance park wardens, the Wave hike is a truly unique and exclusive experience.
“When you’re there you cannot help but feel extremely privileged – it is wonderful to find it and to be able to walk there only very occasionally seeing another person.
“It is visually stunning – one of the most beautiful rock formations I have ever seen”, said Brendan; while Vimal believes he will carry the images of the Wave with him all his life and would like to return one day for another visit there and to the other nearby canyons.
Surprisingly, even at the Wave in the depths of the Arizona desert, the advantages of Laser Eye Surgery were discussed. On their hike, Vimal and Brendan met a trainee American doctor completing his residency in New Orleans who quizzed them about the London Vision Clinic and their work. He has since been in touch and will be calling in to 138 Harley Street as a possible patient on his next visit to London.