Other things

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Santa Cruz


Ah the sun, sand, and ocean. Not quite the same as a day out in Blackpool but close. No litter on the streets for a start, and not a donkey ride in sight.

This is where I learned much about American town layouts - they are big! On my first full day I left the hostel in the morning, just a few overnight belongings with me in my flight bag and wearing the same clothes I'd worn on the plane. I set out to find something to do with the day. My US friends were off doing something else and told me I'd have to call them that evening to find out where I would be staying and what the general plan was for the rest of my stay.
I walked from the hostel toward town and soon discovered that Sunday was not such an exciting day in SC during the winter, even though many shops were open and there were people about. I walked and walked; I got lost in a large residential area, each street looked the same as the last and all the houses looked very similar. My right knee started to ache a bit. Eventually I found the beach so I took a well earned rest, watching the surfers desperately trying to make the best of shallow waves. There were people hanging around doing things with large pieces of driftwood, I think it's a tradition to make camp fires on the beach from them; some of the driftwood consisted of entire tree trunks, probably washed up from the logging trade or something.

The day dragged. I found the video arcades a bit of a treat though; they had all the old machines - Star Wars, Joust, even Gorf! I spent a few quarters in there, I can tell you!! Eventually the day turned to dusk so I retreated to a Borders book shop for a drink and some cake. I phoned my friends and was told that I was to spend another night at the hostel; they met me in town and dropped off my huge heavy ruck sack, saying that they had to rush off somewhere and I'd have to make my own way back to the hostel. OK...

The walk back to the hostel was not something I had anticipated (expecting to be picked up and taken to stay with my American friends), and I had little idea of how to get to the hostel from town in the dark. I walked from one end of the main street to the other, and eventually asked in a coffee shop for directions; this turned out to be a bit of a wild goose chase and I walked, with an aching knee, in two large circles past the boardwalk, through some houses and back again, over a bridge twice (trying to follow landmarks I had noticed when we came to the hostel by car). Another attempt and eventually I found the hostel.

At the hostel I met a curious bunch of people - one guy who had a broken leg I noticed was spending quite some time talking to a lady in the dorm living room; an oriental lady had with her various paper objects - I learned that they were origami sculpures, and that she had a thousand miniature origami birds on display at the local museum of art (or some such place). During the night, besides the snoring and people getting up to go to the toilet, I noticed an asian guy managed to get up and ready himself to leave (quite noisily I might add) in the very early hours of the morning, only to return some time later! In the morning there was no sign of him.

Next day I made my way up to the university (via bus) and met up with my friends. There they showed me some of the university and told me of how I could stay at their old place in the countryside, since they were moving to a new place close by. A chance to get away from snoring strangers and smelly toilets? Yes please! I should point out at this stage that someone had left something in the toilet the previous evening, and it was not the fault of the hostel staff.

That week...

So Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were spent at the beck and call of my friends. They were kind enough to pick me up and drop my off as they were passing to and from university, but as the days passed I became more and more annoyed that I wasn't spending any quality time with them; they had their studies, sure, but wouldn't let me help or even be with them after about 6pm. Very fustrating, and a few lessons learned there. One of them had said she would show me how to make Pot Stickers - an asian kind of dumpling - but alas this too never came to be.


I'd had enough. They could see I wasn't at all happy with the situation and they weren't going to do anything to help it, so we agreed I wouldn't stay in the shack any longer and they'd have to move the rest of their stuff (what little was left by this stage - they'd already taken the settee, tv and crockery) that day. It didn't happen. Even after doing my best to help with the removals I eventually got a lift off the landlord who until that day didn't have a clue who I was or where my friends had gone, and was as much shocked by the whole situation as I was. He gave me a lift out of sympathy back to the hostel, and I am eternally grateful to him for that.
My biggest mistake was to leave some heavy items for safe keeping with my friends: some university books I'd brought over to help them with their studies, and some other things I didn't need for my little excursion away. I had intended to get them back in a couple of weeks' time.

While waiting around for them on that Saturday I met the landlord properly and introduced myself; he showed me the llamas and alpacas. I explained to him how I had come to be staying in the place on my own, and we exchanged views on what had been going on with my erstwhile friends.

I took a few pictures of the place... Some llamas in their enclosure, and one last look at the shack.

Llamas Llamas
McGivern Way

Evening in HI Santa Cruz, and some familiar friendly faces. I was happy to have human company in the evening and the chance to get a decent meal; I went out to a fish restaurant on the pier and ate all I could, though being America the portions are somewhat larger, and not having eaten much over the last week my stomach had probably shrunk slightly. After a stroll along the pier I suddenly felt that British urge to have an ice cream, it was no more than 12 degrees celcius, but the urge was there; I went to the nearest vendor and bought a ginormous mint cholocate chip icecream, my favourite! I was spotted by some locals - "Man, look at that guy with the icecream. There goes a brave man!" they said, I licked my icecream and took their taunts as a compliment.
Later on in the hostel they showed National Lampoons European Vacation on video, rather ironic to my current situation I thought, and a very welcome bit of comic relief.


At the old lighthouse

I had left the solitude of the shack and was able to do things on my own for a change. I was lucky enough to be invited out for a short bike ride by Kalei, one of the hostel staff, and her friend; so off we went around the headland.

Beetle Buggy Santa Cruz coast

I decided to try my hand at water colours (having never done any before in my life, only poster paints at school) so I bought some cheap paints, a brush, some cheap watercolour paper, got a couple of cups of water and set myself up on the pier. Not a great success owing to the subject matter and materials available, but a good first effort (left). Later when I returned home I painted the headland from my photo (right).

Santa Cruz painting Santa Cruz headland

Some more shots from Santa Cruz:

Santa Cruz Pier The Boardwalk at dusk

Something I was becoming all too aware of by now was the American car, or truck I should say. So many of these huge monsters were to be seen where any small hatchback would have sufficed. I noted various makes but the most popular had to be Chevrolet with the slanted cross on the radiator grille. No shortage of American flags adorned the vehicles too, dirty with dust and dead insects most of the time.

Later I checked out one of the surf shops by the beach. Surfing lessons weren't cheap, and the guy said ideal conditions for learning were forecast for the next day; a dilemma - do I delay another day in Santa Cruz just for a surfing lesson, or move on to Monterey? I decided to head out to Monterey and perhaps try surfing some other time. I had heard good things about the 17-mile drive and aquarium.

And so it was that on Monday I headed out. I went to the Greyhound station and got myself a ticket to Monterey.

This was no longer a trip to see my penfriend, it was now something completely different...