A Travellerspoint blog

Travel, travel, YOSEMITE, and more travel!

Days 10, 11 and 12

Okay, I know I’ve been really bad with updating the blog, but with the amount of driving, flying and poor internet I’ve had over the last couple days it’s a miracle that I can even update atm! Currently sitting on a plane on my way to Palenque, rural Mexico – hopefully I’ll get some good quality internet there but pooping money is probably more likely.

Days 10, 11 and 12 was pretty much a whole lot of driving! We drove from San Fran to Groveland (just outside Yosemite National Park – pretty much the first ever national park in the world – it is absolutely spectacular!). We stayed at this redneck small town in a hotel - a guy with a long beard stared at as as we walked past the "Saloon". It looked like we stepped into the 1800s! There were a whole range of creepy teddy bears in the room – I opted to sleep on the air mattress which was a hell of a lot more comfy than the beds – which in this country seems to be built for people who like to jump up into bed because I literally need a stepping block to get into bed – they are so high off the ground!

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The next day we spent the whole day at Yosemite National Park. After packing the camera and my bathers in the bag we got into the car and did a 20 minute drive towards the park. Got out to take a couple of photos and both Declan and I thought that we left the bag with the camera back at the hotel, so for the whole day we spent our time in this beautiful park without a top notch camera – bit disappointing since it was actually in the car the whole day, we just didn't realise! We ate at this old school luxurious lodge and continued the day looking at the giant sequoia trees which (correct me if I’m wrong) are the largest trees in the world. Since it was over 30 degrees we cooled off in a small river with Declan and Kent diving after fish and running around with the GoPro – hopefully I can get some footage up! The photos of Yosemite really do not do it justice – it’s a beautiful place and we didn’t even see all of it! You can easily spend a couple of days here – lots of hiking opportunities. It was a really long day, absolutely exhausted so the long drive back to Groveland I fell asleep on Declan.

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The next day we headed off to Bakersfield just outside LA to have a scheduled rest stop. The highways are pretty windy and they look ugly because they are made of concrete and not asphalt like back home. Stayed at a nice hotel in Bakersfield and pretty much just slept the whole time. Apparently I had fallen asleep and in the process kept farting in my sleep – I didn’t know this was possible but it was quite funny because Declan and Raph were both awake when I was doing it.

Ate dinner at this classic country style bar – an American dude bought us 3 beers which was super nice – it helps to be Australian in this country hahah

Not too much happened these last few days, mostly just chill and lots of walking – still getting really fit!

Likes:
- washed my clothes in a sink with shampoo, hand soap and hot water
Dislikes:
- some of my shirts still smell bad because I washed it in dirty sock water…great
Observations:
- Americans love Australians
- Lots of Americans seem to love roadtripping with caravans
- Service is pretty high standard here…apparently waiters legally earn 2.50 a hour but make up the rest in tips…I earn 31.90 back home!

Posted by larabester 18:02 Comments (0)

Bester goes to Castro!

Day 9 in San Francisco

large_IMG_1877.jpglarge_IMG_1879.jpgToday was my last day in the San Francisco hostel in which I had made so many friends. I loaded up on raisin toast and bagels again and went on my way to catch the number F tram down to Castro – an area well known for gay rights activism in the 70s – to be reunited with Declan and his family because I would spend the next couple of days with them. Hitched my pack on my back and went for a casual stroll down Jones Street towards Market street to catch the tram. Being engrossed in my phone and looking at directions another traveller whom I expect was Canadian runs up to me at the pedestrian crosses and says; “Miss, as a fellow traveller I feel like I need to warn you that you shouldn’t walk down this street. It’s the ghetto area, it’s not very safe. You’re best off to walk all the way to the left until you get to Taylor Street, it’s much safer. With your phone out you would be a massive target, I’ve been chased down this street before”. With a lot of gratuity I thanked the fellow traveller for warning me – I would have most likely been mugged or have my belongings stolen from me – I will be sure to research dangerous surroundings before I go walking with my bright red backpack through the ghetto area. Having done this in a large group the night before to get back to the hostel, it is quite confronting. At night many prostitutes line the street corners in the freezing cold of San Francisco’s wind, wearing nothing but skimpy tops, mini skirts and high heeled boots – I was rugged up in every layer I could find so I felt a strange respect for these women who brave the cold yet at the same time felt rather sad at their predicament.
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Managed to only pay $1 instead of $2 for my tram ride – only had to flash a smile and use my Australian accent to have this minor win of the day. Walking through the hills of Castro I accidently stubbed my toe on uneven pavement and since I was walking downhill I tripped and almost smashed my face against the pavement! Lucky enough I spared my face and my nose and only had a sore toe and foot – I begrudgingly continued to stalk up the hill cursing SF’s crazy elevation.
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Having heard so much about the Castro and its role in gay rights activism, we went for a walk through Castro street to visit Harvey Milk’s old camera shop and apartment. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay supervisor in the whole of United States– his story is quite remarkable, I highly recommend watching the movie Milk or googling his story. A very friendly Castro resident gave Declan and I a personal tour of the Castro – he must have noticed our accents and he gave us almost 30 minutes of his time to tell us more about gay rights activism and the history of the Castro – the locals are very friendly. In America at the moment, a lot of America live and work in different states which may have different laws on gay marriage – this means that if you married in a state where it is legal and work in a different state where it is not recognised and you have an accident then your married partner has no legal right to make decisions for you or be included in any legal proceedings. A story of one man was that he was not allowed to attend the funeral of his partner whom he had married because the state in which his partner passed away in did not legally recognise their union. In other states if children have two mums (one the biological and the other the partner) and the biological mother passes away the kids are sent to foster care because the state does not recognise that children may have two parents of the same gender even if the kids were raised by both mothers – it’s the modern day version of what happened to Aboriginal mothers in Australia as well as illegitimate pregnancy. I was outraged that homosexual people aren’t treated as equal. In a country which claims equality for all in their apparent ‘great nation’ it is shocking that they can deny people basic human rights. I will be sure to follow gay marriage legislation more closely at home. We also visited the Castro museum where we saw the suit Harvey Milk was assassinated in.
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Following this Declan and I popped into a local grocery store (which was very upmarket – OMG it had the best deli and fresh produce I was SO impressed!) to pick up bread and chicken for lunch and hiked up one of the high vantage points to have an afternoon looking at the San Francisco skyline – it was quite the hike! Travelled back through the hills to the airBnB Buns and Co were staying at and caught a tram back into the city to watch the new Transformers movie. The movie seats were terrible because they were almost like reclining chairs so this heavy guy sat in front of me and the chair got pushed back squishing my legs because he was so fat he made the chair move backwards. First world problems.
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A very insightful day today – thoroughly enjoyed the outspoken nature of Castro. The Levi’s jean shop had two male dummies in an embrace, with homosexual couples strolling through the streets looking very much in love – it was very touching.
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Likes:
- the Castro ( I would love to live here for a period one day!)
- Upmarket grocery stores (although expensive)
- All the hills give you great vantage points for a great shot of the skyline
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Dislikes:
- the amount of sweet food is starting to get to me and I’ve only been here for almost 2 weeks!)
Observations:
- Americans seems to be very friendly and always happy to help tourists
- Their toilet seats are strange. They look a bit like fish bowls that are filled with a lot of water, not to mention most of them flush via sensor! So when you stand up it automatically flushes, had quite the shock when I first used one!

Posted by larabester 22:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Alcatraz!

Day 8!

Photos are at the bottom today! A trip to San Francisco wouldn't be complete without a trip to the infamous Alcatraz. Unfortunately all the tours had been sold out, but after some characteristic googling and detective work from me I found out that if you rocked up at the ticket booth at Fisherman’s Wharf in the wee hours of the morning that you might be able to buy some last minute on the day tickets. Setting an alarm at 5:25am and jumping into a cab with Declan and two other girls from my hostel, we went to the dock to line up just before 6am to (fingers crossed) buy tickets to see Alcatraz. We were quite far back in the line but managed to score tickets for the 10am boat!

Visiting Alcatraz was definitely a highlight of my San Francisco trip! Declan and I did the escapists side tour and learnt all about the real characters from ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ as well as some other escape attempts on the island. The tour was spectacularly run with audio headsets – it was narrated by original prisoners and prison wardens which made the experience very authentic. We started the tour in the communal shower room which would have gotten extremely cold in SF winter. Not to mention there was no privacy at all. The cell rooms were absolutely tiny! Alcatraz gave you all the essentials of life but everything else was a privilege – a lot of prisoners struggled mentally. If you misbehaved you would be locked up in the isolation cells where you were not let out for recreation time at all. If you gave extra grief you would be locked into one of the dark cells where it was based almost off medieval principles and all daylight would be taken away from you and you would be thrown into complete darkness. One prisoner told the story that he would pick a button off his coat, drop it, and in pure darkness feel around the room for it and repeat it for days until he was let out again.

What made Alcatraz so terrible for prisoners is that it’s only about a mile away from San Francisco. There was a chocolate factory right on the banks of Fisherman’s Wharf and with the right type of winds prisoners would be able to smell chocolate. On New Years they could hear celebrations on the countless number of boats in the bay and they could see freedom in the form of the great city just a mile away – a key factor in the number of attempted escapes from the island.

Declan and I spent about 4 hours there on Alcatraz! From there we set off on an urban jungle hike through the – I dare say – Everest-esque hills of San Francisco. These hills are crazy! I would not drive manual in this city at all – hand break starts are pretty much next to impossible, I think I would poop myself. To keep it short and sweet, Declan and I hired those city share bicycles (they were terrible) and rode down Market street in search for food. Ended up in China Town to buy some New York sized pizza twice the size of my head and then headed to a Chinese restaurant to eat some dumplings. As a dumpling lover and fanatic I thought Melbourne’s was much better. After lunch we trekked up another hill towards Russian Hill where we got on one of the infamous San Francisco tram. It wasn’t quite the experience I was expecting – overcrowded! Technically speaking we had to pay $6 for the ride but the tram was bursting at capacity so we just got on and off!

We made a stop at another significant landmark – Lombard Street – which is the world’s most curvy road! As expected, Asian tourists with overly large cameras bombarded it, so we made our way down the street to have another view from the bottom. We then hiked off to Coit Tower to see the San Francisco bay area from a high perspective – we took a short nap here and then continued hiking on to find some grub. Stopped over at a Thai restaurant which had really nice Pad Thai but shocking fried rice! I also hate how you have to tip everyone in this country and that sales tax is added on afterwards – so when you think you’re buying a $1.20 bar of soap it’s actually costing you $1.40 after sales tax is added.

Likes:
- Even though it hurts my butt I like the hills of SF
- The water here tastes a whole lot better
- It’s a much greener city than LA
Dislikes:
- Sales tax
- Tipping everyone
- Sidewalks still smell like pee (especially in the Tenderloin – ghetto area)
Observations:
- Suburb names are weird – Tenderloin, Nob Hill, Lower Nob)

That’s a wrap! Bester out till next time I find the time to write another blog entry!

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Posted by larabester 18:29 Archived in USA Comments (0)

July 4th Celebrations! San Francisco

Day 7

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Today was my very first day in San Francisco! So I caught the Megabus from LA through to SF. They were on time, good service, but the girl sitting next to me kept falling asleep on my side of the bus seat and was leaning over my shoulder. 11:30pm-6:30am I got about 3 hours of broken sleep, might need to invest in sleeping pills for my next overnight bus trip! Rocked up at Caltrain station at 6:30am and looked up my hostel on Google Maps - apparently I was 3km away. Being thrifty as I am I decided to hitch my backpack onto my small body and carry my 14kg all the way up SF's crazy ass hills for 3km because my own two feet would eventually get me there than the $12 odd I would have to pay. It was actually quite a nice stroll. Being tired from lack of sleep and food overnight I did struggle quite a bit and needed to stop at least 3 times to catch my breath! The pack just keeps getting lighter though - fit life! Eventually got to my hostel to stuff my face with as much toast as I could - to my delight they had bagels so I had my very first bagel in San Fran!

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Decided to go on the hostel bike tour across Golden Gate Bridge so we hired these crappy bikes and in a group of 19 slowly made our way through the ridiculous hills of SF and all the way down to the waterfront to be confronted by the big famous red bridge. It was unfortunately a foggy day so you couldn't make out the top of the bridge and it was a typical windy and cold day in SF - but apparently it's always foggy in SF! We stopped by the Palace of Fine Arts which had this beautiful moat and lovely sandstone architecture!

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I made a tonne of friends on this bike trip - met another guy who guys to Melb Uni and had just finished his exchange at the University of Illinois! Got lots of great tips! Cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge was really a highlight so far! The fog added this aura of wonder! Got some pretty sweet go pro footage of the entire crossing, which took about 15 minutes (it's a super long bridge!)

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We kept cycling on to Sausolito - a really upper class suburb, houses would go for a couple of million - it's very exclusive! Stopped there for lunch and picked up a pizza and some beer (which I'm not supposed to have because I'm under 21 but everyone offered to buy for me). Caught the ferry back across the bay and rode our bicycles back to the hostel to prepare for July 4th celebrations.

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Party kicked off with a typical American dinner of Budlight beer, cookies and hot dogs! Myself and the other 8 or so friends I had met today played a drinking game and chatted about our travels! I met a lot of people who have crossed tracks with me before! One girl (Ash Otto) went to Knox School with my friends Steph, Brie and Courtney from back home and another girl gyms at my work! Small world after all!

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We walked 40 minutes down to Fisherman's wharf to claim a prime spot right on the beach to watch the fireworks! They went for about 20 minutes and they were quite spectacular because each firework illuminated the thick San Francisco fog that had formed! At this point I had become quite well known for my variety of silly faces I could pull!

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Being exhausted from my 3 hours of broken sleep, myself and one of the German guys walked the whole way back because we were both too tired to go out and decided to go to bed instead!

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Likes:
- I love SF A LOT more than LA - it's more green
- The hostel here has bagels as well!
- The hills are ridiculous! My butt is getting a great workout!

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Dislikes:
- In SF there isn't a law saying you have to wear a bike helmet, since I didn't have one I did the whole 6 hour bike trip without a helmet. At the start of the year I crashed my bike and flipped over the handle bars and cracked my helmet right through the middle so I decided to go really slow down the hills.

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Observations:
- The streets smell a little bit like pee
- Still quite a few homeless people around the place

That's a wrap! Loving San Francisco so far!

Posted by larabester 16:46 Archived in USA Tagged the bridge golden gate across Comments (3)

Got dropped off in a seedy suburb and I'm still alive.

Day 7 - Greyhound buses suck.

Today is a massive travel day for me! Had another homemade granola at the Finch & Fork – couldn’t leave without having the greatest breakfast again in the world! Said goodbye to the whole extended family who has invited us to stay in Singapore/all over America anytime that we find ourselves travelling across the world – which I’m sure will be soon!

Buns and co couldn’t fit me in the car to drop me off at the station – the freedom mobile is chockers with luggage! But I had a nice stroll down State Street – took me about 15 min with my heavy pack on to make it to the bus station! Booked my bus ticket back to LA in the morning with Greyhound bus company – I do not know where to start…

So I rock up at the bus station – the office is closed till 1:30pm, so I have to wait a hour to pick up my ticket and then another hour before I could get on the bus. Amtrak would not store my bags for me because I wasn’t an Amtrak passenger and Greyhound would only store it for an extra fee – screw that, that extra fee is my next meal! Hahah (no mum I’m not starving – just eating thriftily!) The bus stop looks quite sketchy, people chilling outside smoking. Decided that I didn’t want to walk around the waterfront with my 14kg pack so I sat in the sun catching some rays before heading to SF (which is like a max of 19 degrees in summer and raining).

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Used the bathroom in the greyhound bus terminal – looked like it hadn’t been cleaned for years and the toilet even had blood on it. I reckon the Greyhound bus terminal toilet is somewhere you could easily stab someone and no one would know. Luckily I made it out alive and boarded the bus for a lovely 3 hour journey back to LA with some of the sketchiest people I’ve seen in my life – don’t worry mum I’m fine!

The bus was a hour late thanks to LA traffic. Looking around, the Greyhound terminal was in the sketchiest area of LA, amongst the ‘Warehouse district’ – a tonne of homeless people were walking around, lots of dangerous looking Hispanic people. No where on the Greyhound website did it say that they weren’t dropping us off at Union station, which by now was a 3km walk away. With my surroundings and situation I decided that I felt unsafe walking down the Warehouse District with a 14kg bright red backpack on screaming out to everyone “Hey look at me I’m a tourist, steal my stuff and please stab me while you’re at it”. I begrudgingly hopped into a cab and paid my $10 to drop me off 3km away at the train station where I am now sitting in the secure lounge.

Already in a bad mood from all my agonising bus travel today sitting right next to the bus toilet (it had a beautiful aromatic smell) – I walked over to Philippe’s the Original which claims to have invented the ‘french dipped sandwich’. It was recommended to me by some of Kent’s family so I decided what the heck – spend some money and buy food tourist style. So off I went 500m down the road in LA downtown with my backpack on trying not to look like a tourist. The place was quite cool but I thought it was overpriced for what I got – I’m still quite hungry but it cost me 7.60 so I can’t be bothered finding more sustenance. I should’ve just gone to the diner down the road and gotten a $4 classic burger which has 1200 calories in it (that sure is sustenance for me…almost a whole day of calorie intake in one burger! Value for money…only need to eat once a day! Hahahah)

So here I am, sitting at Union Station for the next 3 hours waiting for my 11:30pm departure with MegaBus up to San Francisco. LA has welcomed me with open arms but it is definitely not a place I have fallen in love with. I think I just want to pack my bags and run out of LA and head off to more greenery and somewhere less urban jungle!

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Likes:
- French dipped sandwiches are quite nice
- I’m getting heaps more fit! Walking around so much has definitely made my pants size drop a wee bit and my backpack doesn’t feel as heavy anymore! Everyone was so astounded to see me walking around with this huge pack!
- Saw two guys on a LA freeway have a huge fist fight – ON A FREEWAY! – Classic LA

Dislikes:
- Never using Greyhound again, shocking shocking shocking
- The amount of high calorie food – a healthy person’s nightmare

Observations: Most of LA is actually safe, police seem to jump onto any opportunity that may arise. What makes LA look so dangerous is that it is dangerous looking. The area where I was was surrounded by dark looking buildings and not much colour or greenery. So while LA might not look safe to a tourist’s eye, I’m sure it actually is.

Bester out!

Posted by larabester 22:01 Archived in USA Tagged travel la santa barbara greyhound Comments (0)

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