Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Trains and boats and planes: we’re home - for a bit!

At the end of what has been an amazing journey, I am left almost speechless. Note I said - ‘almost’! Eleven weeks and 10s of 1000s of Km - it was all amazingly exciting, fascinating, wonder-filled - yes, even with the few rough nights on some trains and a small bout of travel sickness on board our tough little ship, the ‘Polar Pioneer’.  Would we do it again? Absolutely, like a flash! Where would we return to? 

*The Arctic is a definite. It captured our hearts, minds and imagination. There is so much more to see than I could have imagined, and it is unbelievably breathtakingly beautiful;

*Iceland - the land of fire and ice, fissures and mighty mountains, trolls and elves, we’d like to drive a campervan around the entire island taking in the remote NW and NE regions - off the beaten track;

*The wild isolated Territories of Canada and the Maritimes; and

*The deserts of USA.  

Crystalline wonderland above 80 degree North latitude

Snæfellsnes Peninsula 

But before we think too seriously about those destinations, in February we embark on a month-long expedition to the Ross Sea region of the Antarctic and the sub Antarctic Islands. This is one of the most remote regions on Earth and it has incredible and surprising biological diversity. Can hardly wait – but I must get fit-ter first!  Then once we’ve caught our collective breath, we plan to load up our caravan and heading outback to drive some of Australia’s remaining iconic outback tracks and stock routes.  It will be sheer heaven being in big sky country, getting the red dust in our hair again and sitting under the glorious night skies of the desert.

I have to say a very big thank you to Bev Edwards our amazing travel manager. We dream and she makes it happen - gets us there the best way possible, and organises just about everything we can think of and those things we don’t think of!  Bev also hooked us up again with Wild Earth Travel. It was awesome!! 

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

September 12-15 the last word!

Oh but one very last thing before we board our plane - or maybe two!
Firstly a very big thank you to Bev Edwards our amazing travel manager. We dream and she makes it happen - gets us there the best way possible, and organises just about everything we can think of. And right on cue when we are feeling s little glum waiting to board, she sends an email with documents from Wild Earth Travel that we need for our next adventure - Antarctica in February with Heritage Expeditions. Wahoo - brilliant Bev!! This trip we travel with Bev’s assistance and via Wild Earth Travel and Aurora Expeditions. It was awesome!! Oh also thanks to Nice Travel in Iceland for 2 spectacular days in that magic country. 
What an amazing time we’ve had but we still had a few days to squeeze out. Those days were spent on or near water in San Fran - 'seas the day'! We wandered the street markets at the Ferry Terminal and drank peach lemonade, hopped on a ferry and sailed passed old and new incarceration facilities  - ‘The Rock’ and San Quentin in Marin County (horrible  ....), and stopped for lunch in Larkspur in Marin County on San Pablo Bay. As you do!
Yesterday good ol’ Carl the harr, haar or harl - sea fog, engulfed us  as we headed west into the ocean after cetacea - in this case whales, as well as birds of course. We traveled 20 odd km out to sea and what did we see? Fog and water and a possible whale plus some birds. ‘Carl’ kept the lid on visibility, but it was great being on the water. 
And then it dawned ..... our last day. What to do? It was a glorious morning so we jumped on a bus and headed for the beach, Ocean Beach. A slow wander along the sea wall brought us to the famous Cliff House when we sat in a window enjoying the sea over a couple of Cliff House Classic Bloody Marys (they were almost the same as the Caesars of Vancouver). A great way to end our time in SF and North America - I’m guessing we’ll be back! 

These gorgeous creatures - Pier 39’s sea lions, kept us entertained for ages. They really are special.

So very San Francisco

I swear this gull was still there when we returned hours later.

Golden Gate Bridge was a ghostly shadow in the fog

The fog horn kept sounding its warning. I love that sound it reminds me of camping at Point Lonsdale at Easter - the fog horn sounded constantly or so it seemed. There were lots of dense fogs at that time of year.

Alcatraz. Empty now but for the ghosts of many men, infamous men. It’s worth a visit but a reminder of the darker side of human nature - from the top down.

San Quentin. Huge facility which is quite a leveling and sad reality.

Ocean Beach from Cliff House

If you get a chance to visit this, do it. It's fascinating.

Cliff House on the right, bird ‘house’ on the left cleverly iced with bird frosting! In the background you can see a thick cloud of fog still hanging in the air.

Delicious! We’ve just bought a bucket load of vodka duty free to make these at home - it’s full of healthy stuff, right?!
Thanks again Bev and get ready for more crazy travel ideas when we get home. 

September 12-15 The many faces of San Francisco

The time has come the walrus said ..... so as we prepare to exit left stage here are a few impressions of Sam Francisco - we fly out far too soon on that ghastly long haul flight across the Pacific.  
San Fran has so many faces - light and dark, colourful and grey. I ‘like’ them all, they make SF what it is. I both love and hate the streets. You’re confronted with the glitz and the ghastly. My favourite street is Market, it’s full of the weird and wonderful and the sad. People begging, many smoking weed and what I think was Ice. Others crazy dancing to some internal rhythm, others simply happy, clothes almost too weird to believe. In Castro a couple of guys strutted passed in high cut very brief leotards - one bright yellow accompanied by buckskin work boots, the other floral with black boots and net knee-highs. Sequins, feathers, net and bright tulle, it’s all out there. Still others line the pavement with stalls of ‘stuff’ they had gleaned or been given - old shoes, opened packet of cigarettes, sox etc, just to get a dollar or two. It’s a busy crowded sidewalk. I went out late one afternoon with some food to give out but poof! The streets were free of the homeless - I reckon there’s a dash for shelter late afternoon. 
I enjoyed a delightful moment or two yesterday when a street man and I stood side by side sharing the music of a street band - 6 musos playing, among other things, ‘Play that funky music’. He and I bopped along smiling at each other - the music said it all. There is some common ground we humans share - thank goodness. But .... Viva la difference! 

Odd fellows indeed!

These cops look so relaxed but the first hint of trouble and they and cop cars are all over the street. Amazingly quick response.

I stopped this gorgeous young man to photograph his ear ornament. I reckon it could be the next designer look in hearing aids - great foil for an aid.

This woman was out there all day selling her meagre goods. It’s an enterprise!

This took my eye as we walked the sea wall at Ocean Beach.

The band which drew me back to listen. Not brilliant but the sound was big and got the crowd going.

Now that’s big hair. I seem to hear faint echoes of a song about hair! Hmmmm 

September 12 San Francisco one last time!

Most of you know what hopeless romantics Lindsay and I are, well here we are, or rather there we were, checked in to the same hotel we stayed at 24 years ago on our first visit to San Francisco - Aida Plaza on Market c.1912. Nothing has changed including the 7am breakfast dash for donuts and coffee in the lobby and the pay phone in the foyer of each floor (those phones introduced us to the concept of phone cards back then). Oh dear we really were babes in the wood!
The hotel is 2 Star with no coffee making facilities or fridge in the rooms, but we have a bath! It’s rather like what most of us were used to growing up - simple and affordable before we all got ‘luxed up’. We’re happy! And it’s central with easy transport options. 
Once ‘unpacked’ we wandered thru SoMa to find lunch. Once a rather scary place, it’s now a mix of street people and associated ‘stuff’, building works and trendy food spots. Give it 5 years and it will be ultra trendy. Many businesses on Market have closed to make way for trendy hotels and other establishments - the local feel is changing rapidly.
Here are some pix of a collection of jute boxes and other memorabilia in the hotel lobby for you kids. All of you!

Weird list of free direct dials!

I remember looking out this window and seeing that steep street stretching up the hill. So reminiscent of numerous movie car chases where cars became airborne as they crashing through those intersections.

A fruit machine - out of order.

A famous name in music production.

Ah the salad days of youth. Many wonderful summer days at the beach with the mandatory visit to the milk bar. I remember these and the mini ones at milk bar tables. We hung out at Nude Nuts (not its real name but one we made up) at Point Lonsdale listening to the jute box - Telstar by The Tornadoes was a favourite.

In 1918 Hobart C Niblack patented an apparatus that automatically changed records, leading to one of the first selective jukeboxes being introduced in 1927 by the Automated Musical Instrument Company, later known as AMI.

In a world now dependent on Mr Google, I can imagine this would have been an absolute wonder in its day.


The hotel is a little down at the heel but it is bursting with nostalgia.

September 11 Aboard Amtrak’s Coast Starlight

The Coast Starlight train journey from Vancouver to San Francisco is around 1300 km. It was interesting and certainly better than flying. I’m glad we did it but neither of us would rush to do it again. We hurtled passed places which meant that scenery rather a blur and as a consequence the pix are fuzzy. We didn’t have a good map or knowledge of what territory we were traveling through so it was difficult to know exactly where you were. The most beautiful places we seemed to whip through without understanding what it was we were looking at unlike the Canadian where the train slowed when travelling through significant spots. Here are a few snap shots of that 28 or so hour journey - the least blurry ones!

Boy do we travel in style! up before the sparrows drinking OJ and eating Pizza slice (5am) at the Vancouver Station. Not  complaining. In over 2 mths of travel we’ve only had two early starts.  We were waiting for the Amtrak Thruway bus to take us to Seattle there to board the Coast Starlight bound for San Francisco

Just pulled into Portland

They have dogs on the station and also through the trains.

Portland Station

Takes you back. Shining marble everywhere

When was the last time you saw seats like these?!

Clouds and reflections

Not snow capped mountains but fluffy clouds

The railway waiting room at Century Fields, Eugene

Benicia is a waterside city in the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area. In the distance in the early morning light you can make out some large ships ` and lots of window reflections unfortunately

The play of water

The gently rippled surface reminded me of permed hair or sheeps fleece. Unbroken crimps.

Add a disturbance and voila! Made we think about gravity waves in space and the bodies that impact that to create ripples in space! Yes I know.