Monday, 26 September 2011

Out to Sea

8th August

For our final day in Yosemite we headed to the south and the giant sequoias of Mariposa Grove.   Whilst these trees are not the tallest or oldest in the world, they are the largest species of tree by volume and it was claimed, the largest living thing on the planet.

The grove includes the famous California tunnel tree, which was carved out in 1895 to allow horse drawn carriages to drive through.

We left the park and headed west to the Monterey.  Whilst there was a fairly simple route we entered the destination into our sat nav and were slightly nervous when it instructed us to take smaller side roads.  However as we were going in the right direction, we were pleased to be off the main highway and found ourselves driving through acres and acres of mainly pistachio tree fields.

A few further side roads and we approached a bank of cloud and dropped down into Monterey and the familiar Victorian Inn in Foam Street.

9th August

We first came here in December 2006, primarily to go whale watching and it was for the same reason we were returning now.   In 2006, we hadn't seen any whales and were given rain checks.  These were honored today as we headed out again in search of Humpback.  The fairly small boat was thrown around a bit and after two hours we did see in the mid distance a couple of humpback whales.  However, we were disappointed as we were in a ring of boats and the experience was not quite as we had anticipated.  Moreover, the blue whales had left, apparently heading south.   Whilst we were also heading that way in a day or so, it was looking increasingly unlikely that we would see them.

Later that evening we came across a fantastic sushi restaurant called Crystal Fish where Jo proclaimed the tempura California roll was the one of the best things she'd ever eaten in her life, ever.

10th August

From Monterey, we headed south on Highway 1 via 17 mile drive which winds along the coast past many famous golf courses.  It was strange to actually see Pebble Beach where Jo had beaten me so many times on Tiger Woods Golf PGA Tour for the PS3.  As I took photographs Jo was hurriedly noting down wind speed and direction on the 8th Hole.

We drove south hugging the coast along Highway 1 and reversing the journey we had taken in 2006.   We arrived in Santa Barbara and our apartment for the next 8 days.

11th - 18th August

Lazy days in Santa Barbara.  Our apartment came with bicycles which we used every day.  The early morning fog here, known locally as the June Gloom, seemed to have overstayed its welcome and persisted for the majority of our stay.  The weather forecasters didn't have a clue what was going on so planning beach trips was a bit difficult.   It was normally all gone in the afternoon to reveal beautiful blue skies.    

We decided to go on another whale trip, this time on a modern catamaran which glided across the water at three time the speed of our previous vessel.  This meant we could get out to sea quicker and further.   

We expected to see dolphins and my previous experience was the odd one or two alongside one boat or another on holiday.  It really is something quite different when pods of hundreds appear in the distance distorting the ocean  at the horizon and when we caught up with them, the speed at which they darted around the boat was thrilling.   

The captain estimated we saw around three thousand all together.  As we went further out to sea, we began to see the tell tale spouts and before long were beside half a dozen humpback whales swimming, trumpeting and diving around the boat. 

We were the only boat, the engine was off, and everyone was respectfully quiet.  It was just us and the Humpbacks and it was finally what we tried so hard to achieve for many years.    

Of course, we didn't know then that it was about to get a whole lot better.  

Because there were so many humpbacks; a further six showed up, and there were taking an interest  in us, we stayed in the one spot for quite a while.  However, the captain did take us out further, and we had a small idea what he may be looking for.   

When we saw the Blue whales, the most striking thing was actually just how blue they were.   Despite the grey overcast day, their skin was like deeply glazed ceramic.  We were lucky enough to encounter a mother and calf and whilst our time was limited, it was such a privilege to see what is the largest known animal to have ever existed.

Our final glimpse was of them diving, flukes out of the water.  As they often stay under for up to an hour, we finally headed back.  

We visited Ventura,  a laid back surfing town just south of Santa Barbara for an afternoon on the beach and the first and only time we really got into the ocean, like head under in. 

A 25 mile bike ride led us through the Santa Barbara University campus and around vineyards and  residential areas which allowed us an interesting perspective we would not have got in our car. There are cycle lanes everywhere in Santa Barbara which made it really safe and fun to get around, though some of the hills were a little challenging on a single speed bike.  

It was in Santa Barbara that I discovered the Cold Stone Creamery, and ice cream shop where they mix up artery clogging concoctions which are simply and literally to die for.    
Even having to ask for 'The Pie Who Loved Me'  or  'Dough't You Want Some' couldn't embarrass me out drooling these names to staff who promptly mixed a series of nice things on a 'Cold' marble slab, deposited them into a semi-giant tub and gave it all to me.

I returned several times.

19th August 

We left Santa Barbara and headed for our final destination of Venice beach.  On the way we drove around Beverly Hills to the ubiquitous sound of leaf blowers and other gardening equipment. 
Our final hotel was the Venice on the Beach, a really nice place at the quiet end of Venice Beach away from the freaks a few blocks north.   

We took a stroll along the boardwalk to muscle beach and beyond to watch skateboarders.  

As the sun began to go down, we headed back and sat on the beach watching the final sunset of our trip.   

Whilst we were looking forward to going home,  it was sad that this fantastic trip we had spent so long looking forward to, was soon to be in the past.  Everything had gone exactly as planned, and as I voiced this  Jo warned me that I may have jinxed us. 

I didn't believe her until the next day when we were refused boarding to our flight. Several bouts of shock, running, bribing, crying and nausea later, found us escorted through a special government security screening to finally board our plane wondering what the hell had just happened. 

No comments:

Post a Comment


© Copyright © Darren Seeley 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Designed by TemplateWorld and sponsored by SmashingMagazine

Blogger Template created by Deluxe Templates