Natural Beauty and the Beasts

01 Jul

Firstly, I do not think I can ever eat Mexican food again. In fact I can barely write the word, without my stomach flipping and a wave of psychosomatic nausea engulfing me. I posted photos on Facebook that of showcased M*x*c*an food and I think I am going to have to delete them. For me it is now the Voldemort of cuisines. (Thou, that should never be spoken) I am sure it was responsible for my serious case of stomach flu. The last few days of San Diego (for me) were spent holed up in my room, groaning, with chameleon capabilities, that saw me change from green to white and back to green again.
Thankfully, by the time we hit the tiny town of Merced, I was on the improve and the world became a brighter and fascinating place again. We flew into this tiny town, in a small, 20 seater plane. There were only three other passengers and ourselves aboard and as a result we were the first to load. Tom, who is obsessed with rating everything, couldn’t contain his glee. “Mum”, he whispered in my ear “I think we are first class, because we are the first ones on.” His little, jubilant face, quickly lost its elated expression, as we were herded out of the door, onto the tarmac, towards our rickety plane. The pilot also moon lighted as the safety officer, steward and commentator.
The flight was rather scenic as we soared over a multitude of agricultural land, dry and arid hills and small towns that lay baking in sweltering conditions.
As soon as the doors were opened on landing, the California heat wave greeted us. The cabin filled with dense, hot air and the temperature within, rose abruptly. We picked up our shiny, hire car, cranked up the air conditioning and left Merced, with dust in our wake. Our first stop was a food barn, to buy some supplies to sustain the ever hungry troops. As we trundled down isle after isle, we found it annoyingly impossible to buy anything without added sugar. All cereals were frosted, the bloody ham was marinated in brown sugar, the bread was sweetened and the kids kept trying to load the trolley with all sorts of processed wonders. I found Robb at the checkout with a box of beer, delighted at its $12.95 price tag and even more thrilled at being asked for ID. He stood there, with his silvery mop of hair, grinning like the kids, swinging mega packs of Oreos from their hands. As we drove away, he reminisced about the last time he was asked for ID. “Don’t flatter yourself too much,” I snorted “I saw an 86-year-old asked as well. I think it is based on the law, rather than your imagined ideas of youthfulness.”
We drove straight to Sequoia National Park. After a massive delay, caused by a pile up on the tiny, narrow entrance road, we drove into tree utopia. “Do they have rides here?” asked our 8 year old expectantly.
The General Sherman, is the world’s second tallest tree and has the world’s largest trunk. (Don’t put it into the world’s biggest pineapple category) It has a ground circumference of 31.1 meters. He really is a majestic, ancient marvel and is estimated at being between 2,300–2,700 years old. You are humbled in his presence. Most of his contemporaries were cut down for timber. Thankfully, because of accessibility difficulties, a couple of areas were preserved and now are actively protected. Initially, these trees were protected too much. They actually need fires to flourish. Their bark is thick enough to survive the intense heat, that decimates other flora and fauna and it relies on this to naturally cull its undergrowth.
We then hopped back into the car and spent 3 hours driving along windy, hilly roads, weaving through small farming communities, to reach Yosemite National Park.
We had booked to stay at Curry Village, which was a 45 minute drive, from inside the park’s entrance. Yosemite is a place that can not be missed. Its sheer, light grey rock walls, changed hue at sunset and I saw Half Moon, capped in amber and gold as the sun gently nestled for the night. The meadows were lush and thick with grass, and the trees provided us with soothing shade. We experienced temperatures that nudged 40 degrees and decided to rent a raft, to laze our way down the clear, cool Merced river. It was a 3 mile trip, that took us past waterfalls in their last stage of seasonal life. We floated beside deer, woodpeckers and dragonflies. There were small rapids that the boys elected to float down, buoyed by their life jackets, flat on their backs, with their toes and faces exposed to the sun. We beached ourselves on pebbly shores, to sit and gaze at our majestic surroundings. It was the highlight of our stay. In a raft that tailed ours, was a family from Alphington. The vast, atmospheric backdrop of the park, suddenly became neighbourly and as we enjoyed their company.
We sat out on the wooden terrace that evening, dressed in singlets, thongs and shorts, eating pizza, drinking a cold beer or two and playing some Tom inspired memory games. “This is great and it’s not even 5 star” said my little boy with shinning eyes.
Next stop was San Francisco, a place I have wanted to visit since I was 8 years old. My dad had been there and brought me back a t-shirt, with my name stencilled in silver and arched over a picture of the Golden Gate bridge. I had never found my name on a mug, plaque or pencil in my life and had always yearned for a name that could be found on a souvenir, in a tourist shop. So, when dad presented me with this, I knew in an instant, that someday I must visit this exotic city.
Our trip coincided with the Gay Pride parade. The streets were alive with rainbows and whistles. We headed to Market St, to eyeball this historic occasion. It was a colourful and emotional celebration of legal rights, acceptance and love. There were newly engaged and wedded couples, cheeky silver shorts and motorbikes galore.
Tonight, was put aside for a trip to the infamous Alcatraz. After a shower, I emerged in an orange polka-dotted shirt and my 8 year old fashion critic, looked at me and said, “You should have worn that today, mum. It is a really good lesbian top.”
I can’t say that I saw too many lesbians in orange polka dots, so I am not quite sure where he conjured this from.
We all took the ferry to this rather austere and foreboding island. We walked up a steep road to the prison, where we were given audio headsets, that commentated and guided us through its physical layout and we heard the voices of inmates and their first hand accounts, of life on the rock. It was utterly compelling and we all walked along in a spellbound trance. Alcatraz was cold and an icy wind-swept through it. To think that we were in the middle of a heat wave and in mid-summer. A winter in this place must have been brutal. Our ferry trip home provided us with views of the city’s dancing lights and thoughts of those incarcerated men and their ghostly presence, that we had left behind.


Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Diary


2 responses to “Natural Beauty and the Beasts

  1. Anonymous

    July 2, 2013 at 12:11 am

    Enjoying your blog, eloquent and funny, such a compelling combination! Sarah L


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