Wednesday, August 11, 2010

462 Days In - Out and About

A while ago, my brother said: “You are in America; travel and see places, that is what you will remember."

Pretty sensible guy, my brother.

Yes it is silly that we should have to have this fact pointed out to us, but you know, when you live in a place there will always be another opportunity to visit X desert or Y canyon.

But luckily we had shipped over our tent and cool-box and camping chairs and so were ready when our fancy took us to go a-travelling.

And if California has one thing, it is a variety of landscapes.

So far we have been to three places - maybe not that many for over a year, but a start at least.

Place number one, was Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez valley - city wandering, sitting by a lake and a little bit of wine tasting.

Place number two, before it got just too hot, was to the Joshua Tree desert.

Chris has always had a thing for deserts - I don’t think even he is sure whether it is the blistering sun, lack of vegetation or (as we discovered) the whipping winds that scratch your face with sand and dust, that endears him to the place. But facetious wit aside, there is something eerily lonely (in a good way) about the place, even with tourists abound - and the star-gazing certainly makes it worthwhile.
Most recently we went to King’s Canyon. Home of the world’s largest trees and some pretty breathtaking views of rock walls.

Not having made it to the area when the bears were still hibernating, Chris was a little apprehensive, and we couldn’t quite work out whether having a special metal bear-proof container in which to put all our belongings that had any sort of smell (food, shower-gel, lipstick) was a good thing or a bad thing.

Once set up and ready to venture out, my curiosity for seeing bears begins to appear; I have visions of spotting one fishing as I carelessly glance down the river, or of catching one slucking on ants just as we have the camera posed.

Idle thoughts.

And though Chris’ curiosity does join mine, his heightened sense of imagination works on him slowly and subconsciously.

This is the imagination that, on our first night in Peru (in a somewhat questionable hotel establishment), had him believing the clerks low whispers into the phone were most definitely to friends with shotguns who liked to rob and kill British tourists.

We did not sleep much that night.

So when, one night in King’s Canyon, we are woken by loud metal bangs, Chris’ imagination is all too ready to put forth its image of were-wolf-bear savagely careening towards metal boxes containing food, and, finding no food, raging apoplectic, soon to take out its fury on innocent inhabitants of near-by tents.

The next day, finding ourselves complete with all limbs intact, we conclude that there must be some drunken students on the campsite, and take off on our hike.

I, not having done much exercise in quite some time, think that nine miles would be the perfect way to start a day, and over the course of mile number two chat chirpily about all the other places we will visit later in the day, and how beautiful everything is. Chris stalks ahead of me, looking for potential photographic opportunities.

By mile number seven or so, I am reduced to a whining child - knee injury from the Inca trail having returned, and general endlessness of hike taunting me. Chris, however, now having achieved numerous great shots of rocks and water and rocks, skips along, light-of-foot.

My memory of this is faultless.

Following some proper out-in-the-wild cooking on a campfire, and far too many marshmallows, the night brings awesome storm after awesome storm. Zeus’ brightest of flashes is chased by the most thunderous of thunder I have ever heard. There just is no other description for it.

At four am, slightly confused at our own behaviour, we pack up a sodden tent and head off to the panoramic point to watch the sun rise - which it does, spectacularly at just about the time, in England, two years ago, we would have been getting married.