BEFORE WE DEPARTED for the USA in January 1995, three months before the expected due date of the baby, who was in my wife’s womb, we consulted our obstetrician. We wanted to know whether it would be safe for my wife, Lopa, to travel at this point in the pregnancy. Our obstetrician saw no reason why we should not make the trip but warned us:
“Make sure you have good travel insurance because a premature birth in the States will bankrupt you.”
We spent much of January 1995 driving around California and neighbouring Arizona. What we had not expected was the weather. We had wanted to visit Death Valley but were advised against it, not because of the heat but because of the bad winter weather there. On arriving at Yosemite National Park, we were turned away in order to buy snow chains for the tires of our hired car. Returning with the chains we ventured into the snowy wilderness that Yosemite had become.
Later in the trip we crossed a so-called desert, probably the Mojave, the first I had ever seen. It rained nonstop and instead of sand there was plenty of green vegetation. I was disappointed as it did not match my preconceptions of desert appearances. We were travelling east towards Arizona, a state that until that trip I had associated with heat and deserts.
One of our destinations was the south side of the Grand Canyon. We were really glad that we had the snow chains with us because without them it would have been impossible to reach our rented cabin close to the edge of the canyon.
We were adequately dressed for the cold but Lopa was terrified that she might slip in the snow and fall, possibly risking the health of our unborn child. We found her a tall, stout branch and she walked in the snow, looking rather like Mahatma Gandhi on a march as depicted in many statues in India, but dressed in padded clothing.
We arrived at the Canyon after nightfall. The next day, the sun was shining, and the sky was blue. The snow still lay thickly on the ground, on the trees, and in the canyon.
This was my first visit to the Grand Canyon and the snowfall enhanced my enjoyment of this spectacular place. The snow had fallen in such a way that it had only landed on the upward facing surfaces of the many strata that make up the walls of the canyon. This exaggerated their appearance in a positively aesthetic fashion. The Grand Canyon under snow made our visit memorable and exceeded all my expectations of the famous site.
From the Canyon, we drove south to Sedona, which is famous for its vortices that some people. including me, claim to be able to feel. Though not far south from the Canyon, the weather had improved considerably.
When we reached Phoenix, a city south of Sedona, winter had become summer. Whereas the temperature at the Canyon had been below freezing point, at Phoenix it was at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
From Phoenix, we drove west towards Yuma and San Diego in south California. On the way, we traversed a stretch of land that confirmed my preconceptions of what a desert should look like. It was neither soaked with rain nor lacking in sand dunes. On the contrary, it was hot, deserted, and sandy. And we saw occasional cacti. At last, at the age of almost 42 I had seen my first ‘real’ desert. Since then, I have seen a few other sandy deserts including the vast wastes of Kutch in western India.
Although our obstetrician in London was unconcerned about our journey, everyone we met in the USA on that trip was horrified that we had undertaken it. Our holiday in the USA was a great success and our baby daughter arrived intact and healthy in early April. I cannot say for sure whether her in-utero journey across the Atlantic and around parts of California and Arizona is in any way responsible for her love of travelling, but there is a possibility that it was.