The Big Sur

With California being America’s third largest state, and with some world renowned scenery and mother nature peppered around its 250 mile wide and 770 mile long land mass, Han and I had decided to hire a car for 10 days to travel firstly South, to and through the Big Sur, before theoretically over to Yosemite National Park and beyond. The Big Sur is a small area of coastal land around 3 hours South of San Francisco that is generally regarded to be home to one of the most beautiful coastal drives in the world, so as we picked up silver economical Hyundai Elantra at the early hours of 9am, we were excited and eager to get moving away from a city that we felt we had expunged enough energy on with so many other places to see. The drive down was uneventful yet strangely liberating, a small freedom of not relying on public transport, and as we hummed and sang along to the advert-ridden American radio, we soon found ourselves looking West over the Pacific Ocean winding round twisting turns and up and over natures natural obstacle course. We wondered when the Big Sur actually begins; a small pullover and a consultation of the travelling bible, chapter 24 verse 5 – the world according to Lonely Planet of California – and we realised that we had actually been driving for around 30 minutes through what people regard as The Big Sur. With nowhere to stay that night we checked out our options and what there was to actually see along this coastal region. After some thoughts, blind finger pointing and knowledgeable discussion we decided to head to a first-come-first-served campsite midway along the region. 30 minutes later and we arrived, found a suitable patch...

Mount Tamalpais

After 5 days in San Fran we were ready for a change. Originally we had planned to visit Yosemite, but after it was closed down we altered our very loose plans and took the buses an hour North to Mount Tamalpais in Marin County. Although relatively close to the hustle and bustle, as soon we headed over Golden Gate bridge we were transported to a place where life was slower, people knew everyone in the village, and bus drivers discussed world events such as if the wooden bridge should be repaired over some non-descript marshland. I liked it. As Jerry our bus driver dropped us off on the early sunny Sunday morning at our campground up in the state park of Mount Tam, we quickly found a spot to call home, got a cup of brew on the go, and set out the map the ranger had given us to plan the next few days events. With no car and being situated around 5km from the nearest civilization, hiking, fresh air, star gazing, some trail running and lazing around were the order of the trip. Luckily for us the trails and paths were not only amazingly well marked and well trod, they went through a diverse range of fauna and geology, with either breath-taking views overlooking hilly golden autumnal slopes, or vista of the Pacific Ocean hazily lazily splashing its waves. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery The first day we headed down to the beach, mindlessly ignoring that it was an hour downhill that had to be traversed later on the day uphill; we were camping at around 7000ft, so everything apart from the mountain tops were downhill, and as Han fell asleep on the warming soft sands, I read and...

San Frantastic

After two rocky days aboard ship, we alighted in the hilly, eccentric, free spirited city of San Francisco. I felt as though we had properly started ‘travelling’; the Alaskan portion of our adventure feeling more of a splurge, a calm before the storm, an expense before the backpacking penny pinching – and we were excited. As we checked into our city centre hostel we soon found out that the US Government had ‘shutdown’ and as such our plans were to change as we couldn’t hit Yosemite National Park unless it opened in time (which it wasn’t to do), giving us 5 nights in San Francisco to explore, navigate and enjoy before deciding to head North by an hour and camp in the state park of Mount Tamalpais. San Francisco was a great energetic city. It boasts to be very liberal with a lot of history in the gay rights movement, and this eclectic and diverse energy and culture seemed to ooze from its pavement pores as we wandered around trying to visit the main tourist sites along with pounding the streets of the more eclectic areas. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery With the US government shutdown an Alcatraz visit was out of the question, but after trekking for a day from our hostel, through the city, over the famous “most photographed bridge in the world” Golden Gate Bridge and into Sausalito, we caught a ferry back during sunset and drifted slowly past the infamous prison. Even at this relative distance ‘the rock’ intrigued and fascinated me – maybe due to the copious amount of films I’ve seen about it – and it didn’t let down my over zealous imagination as I imagined breakouts and film-esque plotlines playing out within its shores. We had also landed on the eve of a world famous music festival – Strictly Blue Grass – and when checking out the acts saw that one of the bands we both like, First Aid Kit, were playing on the Friday evening at 4pm. The festival that boats 5 big stages over the urban sprawling 1.5mile square Golden Gate Park has been held for the past 10 years after the philanthropist creator of the festival donated millions of dollars when passing away to ensure the festival would run, free, every year for the next 12 years. We headed down to the free 3-day festival and listened to the music, ate from the copious amounts of amazing street food vendors and relaxed on the grass watching the world and all of its eclectic individuals pass by. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery When I first arrived in San Francisco I put out a message on Facebook to ask for suggestions in this city, and my brother who had visited a couple of years previously suggested checking out Bourbon and Branch, a speak easy where booking is essential and cocktails are the order of the day. After finally getting a table (this place is popular) we had the secret password and location by email and headed down to the bar. Knocking on the non-descript, non-signed door, we were presented with a woman asking if we had the password, where upon giving out the secret information were allowed into an amazing 1920’s speak easy bar. This place almost invented the world cool; 1920’s décor, low level lighting, a set of rules (no phones, no pictures, no asking for a cosmo, and of course, speak easy) and the bartenders and waitresses dressed up accordinly. We stayed there for a couple of hours before dinner having an amazing time, tasting our way through some seriously stupendiously tasty cocktails before wandering back to our hostel, slightly inebriated, way beyond our budget, but thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Throw in a random condimental selection of watching the gawping sea lions at Pier 39, moving to a disgusting hostel for a couple of...

Alaska

Alaska, the last great wilderness, or as John Muir said “To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world”. This mythical area was next on our wanderings, a mere 4 days after landing back in Vancouver from our explorative and adventurous Yukon trip. In the 4 days in-between we had worked, packed up, cleared up, partied our goodbyes and left Vancouver to begin our 5 months backpacker trip home via the America’s. Unlike what is to be a more rough and ready, stuff all your belongings into a 60 litre bag, turn up in a city and wonder how to get to an eclectic and eccentric hostel, we had given ourselves one last parting gift in the form of a 10 day cruise from Vancouver, up to Alaska, before heading south finally alighting in San Francisco. Purchased in 1867 for $7.2 million from the Russians to become America’s 49th state, this great landmass spans over 586,000 square miles, is inhabited in only 5.3% of its phenomenal landmass, and is home to some amazingly adaptive creatures and amazingly awe-inspiring scenery. As we departed, teary eyed from Vancouver late on Saturday we wandered around the 10 floor bulking cruise liner and wondered if 24 room service really was free, if we really could dine at 4 course exquisitely decorated dining rooms, where the gym was, what temperatures the sauna, outdoor and indoor jacuzzi’s were, and what time the 12 station buffet closed (it turns out it only closes for 15 minutes between 5pm and 5:15pm). Was this really us, was this what we were after, could Hannah take in the obvious show of money and glorification? Maybe not, but now we were on board we decided to revel in...