Ian silenced the alarm at 08:30 and we couldn't wake up enough so continued to sleep until 10:30 when Ian's mobile rang once, and then a few seconds later rang again. It was Ian's brother in law to be. They had a brief conversation and arranged Ian's visit while the reality of it all hit me and my lips began to quiver, permitting silent tears to slowly pass down my face. We were going home. It's all come to an end, quite literally, Ian will be parting company with me on Sunday. We hugged each other closely to rid me of my tears and then began our day in San Francisco.
We went next door to eat a little breakfast which would see us through to dinner this evening, then returned to Powell Street bart station to get a three day transport pass. For USD 10 we are entitled to travel at any time any route served by cablecars, street cars or buses.
One of the cablecars terminates at the station so after watching it change direction at the turnstile we boarded the cable car and enjoyed a ride up to the top of the hill, enjoying magnificent views of the bay and Angel Island. San Francisco is a very jovial place. At one stop along the way another cablecar came to rest besides us and the driver of that cablecar joked 'you're going mighty fast there, Junior!' It was just like a scene from a film. The street views are terrific.
We leaped out and walked up two blocks. It was a fairly slow and incredibly steep walk. At the top, however, was Lombard Street, the World's most crookedest street. It was a sight to watch both tourists and locals navigate the beautifully hedged street. The houses up the side of the bendy road were attractive and even had tiny turnoffs to reach their driveways.
At the top of the twisty section of Lombard Street we had our first view of Alcatraz, perched on top of the rock. We walked down the road a bit and rode on a bus a bit further, then at the entrance to the former military camp, Presidio, we had our first view of the Golden Gate bridge and took a free shuttle bus to the bridge. All of our transport so far had been informative. The shuttle bus was particularly interesting and the driver informed us all about the former military compound, the houses, the buildings, the former airfield. If you were going to be an officer you definitely wanted to be in Presidio, if the accommodations are anything to go by! The barracks were very nice too, the architecture struck me as being very British, built of bricks and somewhat Georgian.
We photographed the bridge and San Francisco and then walked across to the first tower. It was unbelievably windy and bitterly cold. The railings on the bridge really aren't very high and with each gust of wind I became increasingly nervous of falling or dropping something. Some able windsurfers were demonstrating their skills far below.
As we took shelter in the windbreak protection of the tower we stared down at the ocean and saw black shapes diving under water and others emerging and bobbing around on the surface. We couldn't distinguish what they were until the wet birds spread their wings and took flight. But then other black objects surfaced and then dived down again. They were sea lions! Great! Then I realised that Seal Rocks were not too far from the Golden Gate bridge.
Back at Fort Point, a fort which reminded me of Fort Boyard in England, we rode on another bus to Golden Gate Park.
As we walked along the road Ian and I commented on all of the molehills rising from the ground. We discussed that neither of us had ever seen a mole. Then, most surprisingly, I saw a small taupe coloured head sticking out of a hole then disappear. I was delighted and exclaimed to Ian 'I just saw a mole!' Both of us then stood watching the place of the hole from behind our viewfinders waiting for him to reappear just as he blocked it up from within. We strolled on and came to a green lake. I saw a very black bird that had bright orange wing tips. It was such a contrast. Catching Ian up we then both spotted something peculiar in the water, on the surface. We both thought that it was a frog, its eyes sticking out of the water. Then it disappeared. We sat down hoping it would reappear and it did. Still we thought it to be an amphibian of some descript. Another appeared, bigger, and we then considered them to be fish, but why would a fish stick its head out of the water and keep it out of the water? They both disappeared. When they next reappeared I had my binoculars ready in my hand and my camera ready round my nexk. I took a photograph or two and then viewed them through my binoculars. Still we could not decide and accepted that they would remain a mystery. In the meantime a very large brown fish was performing acrobatics the other side of the lake.
As we turned our backs to the lake I saw another creature pop its head out of a hole, what we thought was a molehill. As I caught Ian's attention he reappeared and kept on sticking his head out and nervously looking around. We both filmed him before he sealed off the hole. Ian confirmed that our light brown furry friends were gophers, not moles.
Around the corner we met the lake again and it all became clear to us. Three frog, fish types were visible from the path. One of them was clearly a terrapin, we could see the rest of his body shape. And on reinspecting the other two we agreed that they were all terrapins. What a surprise. So two creatures had us fooled in a short period of time.
We visited the Japanese tea garden which was very tranquil and much more Japanese that we found Japan to be. It was very pretty.
We found the arboretum to be closed so began to walk back to a bus stop to travel to the financial district and beyond to the Embarcadero. But something caught my eye as I walked down the path and I saw a playful grey squirrel gripping on to the side of a tree. Further on, Ian and I synchronistically, saw and watched a beautiful bird of prey soar and land on a lamp post right beside us. A mock hummingbird was hovering besides her. I immediately reached for my telescopic lens as I watched her in disbelief, thinking back to New Zealand and all the trouble I went to to photograph the falcon at Mount Potts Station. As I engaged my lens she took flight but only to the other side of the road. I crossed the road and carefully approached her. She was sat in a blossom tree. I shot an exposure. I moved a little bit closer and took another photograph before she took flight again. She was gorgeous. Her feathers were pink in colour and had stunning markings on them. Seeing her completely made my day. It was spectacular!
On the bus there was a woman with two young boys. A disabled man boarded the bus with the aid of the woman and sat next to one of her boys, who had instantly stopped crying when his mother went to the man's aid. Merrily and with volume, the boy exclaimed 'Hi!' The disabled man responded with 'Hey! How're you doing, buddy?' and the boy smiled. It was great.
We found that the bus stopped short of our destination so to escape the cold wind for a moment we enjoyed a hot drink in Starbucks Coffee. At the Embarcadero I photographed the Bay bridge and a giant statue of a bow and arrow and the ferry building. We boarded a street car to travel to Pier 39, a very touristy centre. We were about to leave as soon as we arrived when I thought I recognised the sound of fur seals. We followed the sound to the end of the pier and both the sight and the smell confirmed my suspicions. In excess of one, maybe two hundred Californian sea lions were balanced on some boat jetties! It was a completely unexpected and amazing sight. The adolescents were competing for space out of the water and were pushing each other from the platforms. Others were all huddled up to each other keeping warm in their mass. As the sun set behind Angel Island it was a glorious sight to enjoy. A seagull flew past us and pooed as it went. I told Ian about it who had also witnessed it and on looking at his shoulder stated 'it pooed on me.' I laughed uncontrollably and cleaned his shoulder of runny bird poo. We took that as a cue to leave and walked to Fisherman's Wharf.
We strolled around and peered in some shops then waited at a bus stop for a few moments, long enough for an undesirable man to join us and be abusive and racist. We weren't the only ones at the bus stop luckily but I was still quite fearful. When the bus arrived Mr Potatohead, as he had introduced himself, boarded the bus and for the duration of the journey he was expletive and abusive, continuing his racist spiel. Luckily the bus was popular. The only time he shut up was when a black couple were on the bus, he clearly knew better than to act up in their company, not such a big boy then... The journey was very tense and I was pleased when we reached our destination, Union Square, although he too alighted the bus along with most of the passengers. I have a lot of respect and admiration for the bus driver, for his patience and bravery.
We dined at Max's and enjoyed a bottle of Malbec. Much to Ian's amusement, when he ordered the wine the waiter asked me for some identification, insinuating that I was under twenty one years of age! Ian roared with laughter while I produced my passport. Instead of finishing my meal we discussed one memorable experience from each country that we have visited on our trip and relived some very funny moments. It was excellent.
However, on entering Max's for dinner I noticed that I hadn't escaped the incidence of the seagull poo at Pier 39. I had a big splash on my trouser leg and a bit on my shoulder. I washed my trousers before retiring at 00:00.
Copyright 2003 Helen Fuller. All rights reserved.