When Blin hit America..
30.06.2011 47 °C
I've has the most amazing last week of my round the world expedition. I know it's impossible to decide your favorite part and place, but this week's defiantly been up there.
My last night in Australia was a special one. The girls (Lauren, Dara, Alex, Kajsa, Edith and Susie) came out and we had dinner at Pontoon Bar ($10 meals of course) on Darling Harbour. Afterwards we headed to the Pancakes on the Rocks restaurant for desert where they surprised me with cake and a card, the babes. Of course I was a crying wreck for the evening after that.. The thing about this traveling lark is the goodbyes are the most horrific thing, but I'm already planning my trip to Sweden to see Kajsa and Edith ASAP anyway so it's fine.
And so I left my little life in Sydney early on Tuesday 21st June and said my (emotional) goodbyes to the girls. We had to hide Dara in Laurens bed whilst our drug dealer landlord came round to inspect my cleaning of the flat and return my $140 bond (thank goodness). So I left for central station across the road lugging my backpack behind me, very anxious at the thought of a new foreign land which wasn't the babe Sydney that I'd got so comfortable with.
After checking in (and being told that there definitely were not any free upgrades available) I headed through to the departure lounge in hunt of a sleeping bag for my camping trip. I was then told by the Lonely Planet guy that everyone, in the entire world, buys their sleeping bag before they get to the airport and of course nowhere sells them here. So I sat down for a couple of hours and Skyped my little mummy who's birthday it was that day, sad that I couldn't be with her. Moon pig is my best friend.
The flight was a very lonnngggg 14 hours and the food was minging, but I got to Los Angeles safe at the beautiful time of 7am on the 21st. After questioning and interrogation I collected my bag and wandered round for a bit. Not entirely sure what I was doing with myself or where I was going. I'd been warned by everyone that the public transport in LA is lame and you cannot get anywhere quickly and cheaply. But anyway I eventually got my act together and found myself on a shuttle bus to the Royal Century Hotel in Inglewood which i'd booked myself the previous evening after idiot Martin at STA travel said he couldnt find me a bed to sleep in in the whole of Los Angeles.
It was very exciting when I got there because the receptionist couldn't speak English and the whole place was deserted and on the verge of derelict, and I was going crazy from exhaustion after zero hours of sleep. But I managed to wangle a room that morning instead of waiting till 3pm for official check in time, but I don't think this hotel was complying to normal regulations as the included breakfast was actually the dregs of a box of crunchy nut and some off milk. So I passed out in my room straight away and woke up at 3am very disorientated and confused, wide awake and terrified of gang central chilling outside my room on the street. But I struggled through and got to the Holiday Inn early that morning where we had the first night of the tour. Still having not seen anything of LA, the receptionist rescued me from emotional breakdown and sorted me out, booking me onto a day tour of the entire city with one of the german girls Anja from my tour the following day.
We got collected by the tour bus at 8.30am and were off round the city with big beefy black man Donald the tour guide at the helm. The first stop was the Fishermans village which was sweet, a giant harbor with hugeeee yachts and other exciting sea vessels floating around. Then we hit up Venice, which had canals and was gorgeous. Venice beach was beautiful, loads of native indians mulling around and the smell of cannabis in the air. Next we checked out Santa monica, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, Sunset strip, Farmers Market (where I bought a sleeping bag) Hollywood and then Downtown where the Hispanics rule. An amazing amazing, tiring day and I loved LA soo much. Despite it's pockets of poverty, crime and all round roughness.
That night we returned to the Holiday Inn where I went up to find my room on the 4th floor. Opened the door to the most beautiful sight, two giant double beds all to myself and just general lushness. That night we hit the sack super early to combat the jet lag and were up at 7 the following morning to meet the rest of the group and get going!
So there were 13 of us all together, including Eric (late twenties, california born and bred) from Intrepid. Everyone is so so fun and lovely, couldn't have asked for a better group of people I've been so lucky.
We set off for Joshua Tree National Park, which was incredible. The trees are funny looking (google it) and are named after the prophet Joshua because when the Mormons went there originally they thought it looked like him speaking to God. So we hiked around for a bit and climbed up a giant mountain of stones, the sun was hot and it was just surreal. Then we headed west to Arizona, where we stopped at Walmart to see that they sell guns causally over the counter, like giant huge shotguns chilling on shelves. My dad would looooove it. Anyway we then came to Parker which is a town near Lake Havasu on the Colorado river. We set up camp and spent the evening in the river, the scenery was beyond belief (photos on their way, WELL worth the wait.) as well as the desert heat. That night the heat didn't die down and there we were attempting sleep in 40 degree saunas. But I've assured myself that all the sweat means definite weightloss! We woke up with the sun at 5.45 the next morning and packed up the tents like pros. Then hit the road down route 66 to the Grand Canyon. Came across the wall of shoes on the way (photos to come) and other crazy random stuff. Original towns from when the road first opened were so so cool, and the hells angels cruising on through were sweeeeet.
When we got to the grand canyon around 3pm we set up camp, then headed to the airport for a chopper ride through the canyon. SO EXCITED. Of course I forgot all about my travel sickness issues and 20 minutes in, whilst cruising through the most AMAZING place ever, I found myself reaching for the sick bag. I tell you, helicopters shake you up like you're a cocktail in the making, or maybe it was pilot Steve's dodgey driving. But it was incredible and definitely wont be forgetting that quickly, for a number of reasons.
We then explored the canyon on foot and got trekking through and in it. Weather was gorgeous and the amount of photos I got were ridiculous. We met Eric at 7.30 for sunset and he'd arrived with copious boxes of pizza for us. (we are LOVING Eric) the sunset was surreal and really ended the most amazing day on an even bigger high. Life is good in America.
We woke up early again the following day (saturday) with the sun and packed up our camp eager for Vegas baby!
After a long old drive we arrived at our hotel (Best Western Mardi Gras), then hit up the Strip. Amazing amazing, everything you ever imagined and more. Vegas is king. Checked out a few drive thru wedding chapels and then went back to chill by the pool before a night of carnage..
At nine on the dot a giant huge 4x4 limo pulled up and we piled on in. The music was pumping and we were high on life (and Malibu, jägermeister and vodka) amazingggggg. Actually not possible to describe the high. Jason was our driver (and my new best friend) and he catered to our every need providing hip hop beats by the bucket load. We stopped off at the Vegas sign for the obligatory photo and then old Vegas for the Beatles light show which was incredible. Basically I flipping love everything about Vegas the babe. Last and final stop was the Bellagio for the famous water show which defiantly exceeded my expectations! We were then loose to explore the Strip by night and on foot! The casinos blew my mind, I don't have a clue how to gamble or use the machines but I had fun pretending I knew what I was doing. Caesars palace was another world, it's just crazy. The night turns into a blur after that but the photos are priceless! I feel like I'll need a couple of weeks to digest the sights and sounds of Vegas, but i know for a fact that it was hands down the most exciting city everr.
So on our last night here we decided to see a show, and obviously Holly Madison's (playboy bunny) Peepshow was top of our agenda. After spending the day recovering and soaking up the Nevada sun by the pool we headed off to the Strip to Planet Hollywood for the show. Our bags were searched and camera batteries removed before going in and it was all very strict security, but once Holly and the girls got going it was mental. Such a good show, loads of beautiful people. Girls swinging from the roof and giant swimming pools of milk, only in Vegas! It was an emotional goodbye to Las Vegas, but I'll definitely be back!!
Next stop was Death Valley. We randomly stopped off at this place on the way. called Armagosa Opera House, its literally this white building in the middle of the desert. The story goes that some women loves singing and also the desert, so decided to build her very own opera house. Obviously as it's in the middle of Death Valley no one hardly ever comes to watch her perform so she's painted faces onto the back wall of the auditorium so when she's on she has an audience. It's all pretty freaky and it's been half converted into a hotel because tourists come to check it out as apparently it's haunted too. Anyway it was freaky as and just weirddd.
The Valley itself was crazy crazy crazy. The consistently hottest place on earth apparently, it's reached 57 degrees in the past. The salt made the ground white which was cool, but after 20 minutes exposed to the heat I thought I was on the verge of collapse. I dont know how people do marathons in it!
After that we set up camp for the night in Bishop, California. (I now have tent erection down to a tee) We chilled out for a bit and then rustled up some sausage pasta for dinner on the camp stove which was goood. Then went to the hot springs!
I was expecting hot tub like things but when we arrived it literally looked like a swamp. Little pools of water dotted around everywhere in between long grass and mud but it was so amazing, the water was bath temperature. The stars were out in force as were the beers and it was an all round cool experience. Each thing tops the last on this trip!
On returning to camp after our communal bath we (the boys) stoked up the fire and we indulged in the American tradition of S'mores. This is marshmallow toasting to a new level, (biscuit marshmallow and chocolate sandwich) and England definitely needs to learn from this.
After a good nights sleep we set off for Yosemite! Didn't realize that snow was actually an option, and was pretty shocked when the temperature plummeted and we were surrounded by icebergs and the most incredible scenery. I'd actually put it up there with the grand canyon. I spotted a black bear in the forest, and we have to lock up all food and toiletries in a bear box so we dont get killed. Had such a chilled afternoon relaxing in the valley with the girls, Rachel and Ollie.
That night was a cold one, but more importantly, wet. The rain descended as soon as we set off from the yosemite valley village up to our campsite in the woods. Serious rain, complete with thunder and lightening illuminating the entire wood. Pretty freaky. And to top it all off, us girls didn't put a tent up so were confined to sleeping in the van. When were dropped off at the campsite, everyone else made a mad dash for their tents and we stayed put. This stint in the van lasted just under twelve hours as we were too scared to get out what with the weather and the bear threat. At 3am we woke up screaming as a bear (which turned out to be Geordie boys Scott and Shaun) was attempting a breakin to the van. That morning everyone piled in drenched from their night in the tent lake and the rain was still pouring. All the girls were desperate for wees and decided to wait it out till the first service stop. But the drive to San Francisco passed fairly quickly as we were all so knackered from a couple of hours sleep.
It was amazing. I had no idea the whole city was entirely on water. Reminded me of sydney!! I spent the afternoon exploring and checking it all out, amazed at the cable cars and general lush weather. Really loved San Fran. That evening the boys decided to go out for a last meal so I tagged along. It was really nice, but the goodbyes were awful once again (I need to man up.) so that evening Anja and I snuck into Ollie and Rach's room for one last sleepover and it was really sweet. But I've just woken up and dreading the goodbye!
My airport shuttle's coming at 8.30 and I'm flying into LAX then onto Heathrow. I am excited, nervous and sick. It feels like another world and I cannot believe it's all over. Already planning my next adventure!