Thursday, April 19, 2007

Half dome toupee

Aside from the gun craziness here in the US, my last few days in California were great. Last weekend, I helped out with the construction of a band stand (made out of car bonnets, recycled wood and computer motherboards), with the girl I was staying with and a few of her friends. A project involving a bunch of Burning Man veterans, the bandstand will be about ten metres high and about 18 metres wide and will be set up in a park here in San Fran sometime in July. I was chuffed that my idea to sort the motherboards out in order of colour and then nailed up in a gradient of light to dark was taken on. Looking at the plans and seeing what we had put together on the first day of construction, this thing will look amazing. There was a brief moment of KBE where I was chatting with the guys about going hiking on the weekend with some random San Franciscan. When I mentioned I was going with this guy called Tim who works with a local theatre company, they all said they knew him and that I was going to have an interesting time hiking with him. As it turned out, the hiking guy's name wasn't Tim, and he worked with a totally different theatre company and wasn't the homicidal axe murderer that I was warned about.

Sunday brought another day of suffering from the inordinate amount of wine consumed on Thursday night. I should have either vomited or gone hair of the dog to sort it out earlier. I spent the morning hanging out with Amy until she went to help a friend dig a garden with her friend in Oakland. Earlier in the week, when I thought I had been caught short with accommodation, I emailed a few people asking about staying with them. One of the answers I got was similar to one I got while I was in Austria. Sure you can stay with me, but you have to do it while I do this cool amazing thing. I'm going to Yosemite. Hadn't seen too much of the national parks here in California, so I jumped at the offer. Around 4pm, I walked the 3 miles over to where we had organised to meet up and there I found three guys packing camping stuff into a car. Two Danish guys who had been travelling with each other for a few months and our guide, Ted (Tim.. Ted.. I was close). On the drive up, the city thinned out like my granddad's hair until eventually we were in Red Barn, Americana farm land. We stopped for food and petrol and were greeted with a waft of cow shit. We're not in San Francisco any more Toto.

We get to the park and drive trough the unmanned entrance. While Ted has a yearly national pass, it appears that if one arrives after 6pm and then leaves the following day after 6pm, one can avoid paying the $20 required for entry. Dodgy. There are signs everywhere telling visitors to not leave food or drink in their cars, as bears will either sniff it out or spot it through the windows and then proceed to peel your car door open as if it was a sardine can. We sorted out our stuff, enjoyed an overpriced beer at the local and bunked in for the night. An early morning followed, and we made our way to Half Dome, via a collection of fairly grouse waterfalls. The Danish boys took turns in singing Danish pop songs, Monty Python anthems and defending their language.

When we got to about 2 kms from the base of Half Dome, we turned back as one of the Danish blokes has a blood sugar issue and hadn't brought enough sweet stuff with him. That and the weather looked as if it was blowing in. The park is a beautiful place with plenty of random trails, that after the magic mile mark, the amount of not so keen hikers thins out. Later that night, I met some of the guys who worked in the camp. They were fairly entertaining and told me about the joys of seasonal work in the park and the economic advantages of drinking booze in the cheap seats ("Out here, beers cost $1. In there with the tourists, they cost $6). Initially when I approached the group of friends, I found one of the guys was rather against chatting with a tourist. But he turned out to be one of the more entertaining people to speak with, having that quick, slightly competitive streak in his tone that most young American guys carry. It's weird speaking with Americans in their home country. Having only been exposed in any great quantity to their accent via the TV, sometimes it can be a little surreal interacting with the American accent, something that up until recently I only found in fiction.

After that I went into the main area (the $6 beer place), and saw the Virginia Tech shootings unfolding on the TV in a confusion of phone videos and second hand reports. On the table next to me, an Australian family expressed their dismay at the most recent of school shootings here in the States. We agreed Australia, while being close to the US in many regards, had some fantastically wonderful distinctions. They were here on a two-week family holiday and they had just arrived in the park for a couple of days of hiking and sightseeing. I sat down and chatted about the last year with them. What's been going on in Australia, what I've been doing, the motivation for the trip, how they were taking in their family holiday and eventually collectively fending off the advances of one of the drunken, non-cheap seat workers on their 14yo daughter.

On the second day, the Danish guys and I walked up to the Mariposa Sequoia Grove for some big tree touristing. This time, Ted took a back seat to the adventure and let us "youngins" explore the woods by ourselves. The sequoia trees are amazing to see up close, with their soft bark, massive circumferences and their unexpected low height. Walking through the handful of trees left in the grove, you get the idea that once upon a time, there were hundreds of these guys huddled together like an Ent meeting.

Our trip back was fairly uneventful, with a visit to In-N-Outs coming as a little bit of an anti-climax. The boys dropped me off at the Bart station and I trained it back into central San Francisco, back to Amy's place. In the morning we walked down the street for a coffee - good coffee - and said goodbye. I spent some of the day sorting out some future travels and saying my goodbyes to the city. San Francisco has been my highlight as far as culture, architecture and community attitude goes. There's a bit of snootiness and snobbery there, but I guess if you want to be like a European city, you need to behave like one.

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