My faithful readers will already know I am married to a wonderful woman who has made my lifelong wanderlust sustainable. To my new readers, trust me, I married right.
This will be the next to last post on this blog for 2012. I intend to do a “year-in-review” post soon, and what a travelicious year it has been.
This is a short look at a long trip around the world. I had never done that before. Due to circumstances and needs, I had all the excuses I needed to circumnavigate the coconut.
We live near Dubai, which just happens to be a fantastic place to travel from. Everywhere is close it seems. We flew Emirates Air, the first of six airlines I would use on to get around the globe.
This trip starts on a tiny rock in the south Indian Ocean called Mauritius.
The Island has an interesting history. First settled by the Dutch who named it after their Prince, it was taken over by the French. The French used it primarily as a port to launch attacks on East India Company ships taking spices and silks to England from India. The East India Company, owned in large part by the royals, did not like that inconvenience one little bit and sent the worlds best naval power to put an end to the piracy. Consequently French and English are both spoken all over the island along with a native patois that combines the languages of India with African dialects. The main agricultural crop is sugar cane, which of course means there is production of rum, ummm, good rum.
My wife was with me for this part of the trip. It was a break from work for her and she wanted a no hassle week, so we stayed at a Club Med. On Mauritius? Yes, in fact they have two on the island. Mauritius is circled by luxury beach hotels. Tourism comes in second in the local economy.
All inclusive not only means ” have fun with our toys and eat until you burst”, it means drink your butt off if you desire.
Now 8 hours on a sailboat, and many “la bieres” can lead one to be a bit clumsy when you set foot on land. Mary Ann headed to the room to change, and tripped over her flip flops.
Besides the catamaran trip, we took one overland excursion across the island. Pretty small towns, one big city, and a lot of sugar cane!
Mary Ann returned to work. I took off back across the equator for Thailand. I flew Air Mauritius to Kuala Lumpur, then Thai Air to Bangkok, then Air Asia to Chiang Mai.
I have been getting some extensive dental work done there, and this was going to be my last trip. I have covered life in Chiang Mai in previous posts, and they are worth navigating to. It is a very excellent city. I stayed three weeks and walked away from the land of smiles with a new smile. I promised my wife I would use it as much as possible.
From Thailand I flew South China Air into some city in China I cannot pronounce or really even spell. The airplane we took from Bangkok to China had one of the windows in the cockpit held on with duct tape, I kid you not. I tried to get a photo, but it did not come out. Trust me, duct tape.
I had a 90 minute layover before I connected on a flight to LAX. This was both the least expensive flight from Thailand to Los Angeles, AND the flight to LA was on an A380, which I had never been on.
I arrived in LA during rush hour (as if LA is not a 24/7 rush hour), rented a car and sat in traffic (managing not to fall asleep after that flight) to my sister’s house where I occupied her living room and had a fantastic turkey day spread. Thanks sister.
Then I went to spend a week in my personal Valhalla, Big Sur. This is simply my favorite place on the coconut, and has been for close to 40 years.
Now for a couple of sunset photos from John’s house. Eat your heart out.
With a sad heart but a happy mind, I left Big Sur. I drove back to Los Angeles in a rainstorm. I got to LAX early, too early. I was flying Virgin Atlantic from LAX to LHR. A five hour layover in the most confused airport in the world, and then onto DXB and finally home’
Well that about wraps up the coconut for the year! Look for my 2012 recap soon. Meanwhile, please make a comment and/or share this with your FB and real friends!
The second leg of my trip.
While Mary Ann went to Panama, a place I am not ready to visit again, I went to California. I had not seen my mother for over a year and I was due. I also needed a New Driver license. I also was gifted great seats to a Dodger game. AND I wanted to visit my oldest friend in Big Sur.
My mom was great. She will probably outlive me. She still drives around, although it is time for her to buy a smaller car.
The driver license thing had me worried. I had not driven anything other than a boat, a camel and an elephant for over 5 years. I studied for the written test for a week before I left. I want to be able to rent a car here in the UAE if I need it for a weekend excursion to some oasis, but I could not because my California license had expired. My sister set me up with an 8 a.m. appointment. I was out of the DMV at 8:07. No test. Just $32 and a how do ya do. My sister, while happy for me, mumbled something about now she knows why there are so many fools on the road. Heh, if you can drive an elephant…
That afternoon I rented a car. It was a 2011 Ford Fusion. It was great! I was able to plug in my Ipod and play my own music. All there is on the radio in LA anymore is versions of Mariachi, Chinese gongs, and right wing talk shows. Anyone of which would drive me to drink. Now I know why there are so many drunk drivers…
The next day I went to Chavez Ravine (Dodger Stadium to the unfamiliar). I picked up tickets a buddy had left for me at will call. The price tag on these tix was like $120 apiece. Ridiculous. But they were great seats. It was a midweek day game, my favorite. It was against the Phillies who will probably go all the way this year. The Dodgers took a seemingly insurmountable lead in the first couple if innings, then the Phillies came back and trounced them. But it was great game. Thanks for the tix Robbie, I owe ya.
The next day I took off on unarguably my favorite drive, Highway 1 to Big Sur. I know this road like nothing else. If I knew anything else as well as I know Highway 1 I would have a PhD in the subject.
I timed my arrival to meet up with my oldest pal John at Lucia Lodge where he has been a waiter longer than either of us can remember. He works two days a week and gouges enough tips to survive just fine. Lucia Lodge sits on a south facing cliff overlooking the granite cliffs of the Big Sur coast. All year long you can watch the waves crash against the cliffs, and red tailed hawks soaring overhead.
If you can take your eyes off the view you will notice tourists from all over the world who stop in for an expensive lunch. As John tells them when they say “15 dollah for buggah?” he just points at the ocean and says “$7 for the burger, $8 for the view, and don’t forget to tip”. By the time 4 Germans are done eating and drinking $8 beers, (and of course a couple of $5 coffees for the driver) the tab for lunch runs about $100. But John has created an art form out of being a waiter. He has them laughing so much that they do not mind that he added an 18% service charge and fork over the big green backs. And as he reminds them “enjoy the view”.
John moved here in 1976. He bought 20 acres of land that yours truly wanted, but he ponied up the money first. I would never had made the paradise out of the place that he has, and I am lucky because I can visit it whenever I want. I used to take advantage of that privilege quite often when I lived in Sonoma County, but I think it has been 5 years since I last visited my Valhalla. It is now at exactly the comfort level I would have made it, if I had the gumption.
His views are incredible. He can see 50 miles out to sea, over valleys chock full of redwoods.
No one can get to his place without knowing the combo to his locked gate, and even more importantly a very sturdy vehicle to climb the roughest road I have ever been on, and I have been on a few.
On his “town” day, we drove through a town called Cayucos. I had to laugh. I had never noticed the name of this little ville before. This time I made him stop at a couple of realtors. I would truly like to retire there, all I have to do is convince my wife.
Sadly it was now time for me to drive back to Los Angeles. I should mention here that gasoline costs about three times what it did in my old days of driving a VW bus on this trip. However, I actually spent less on gas because of the mileage on the Fusion. People should stop complaining and embrace the federal MPG statutes. It all works out in the end.
Thanks for reading. Tell a friend. Make a comment.
Next post, the ‘Nam. I never thought I would go there, but I am married to the most wonderful woman who makes even my wildest fantasies come true.
I’m old. I grew up with cameras that shot film. I learned how to develop and print my own B/W shots to save money. However, I still had to worry about how much film I had in my camera, or on my person whenever I was out taking photos.
Now, along with just about everybody except some true pros who still think film renders a better image, I am a member of the digital age. I was unhappy with the performance of my first couple of digital cameras. One of them bit the dust (make that humidity and corrosive environ) of my previous home. Consequently when I left I bought a new Nikon digital.
It was an OK unit, but it was slow at capturing an image, and I really missed the abilities I had in my old SLRs, things like aperture and shutter speed. I was using it to take pictures for this blog and in the final analysis, I was not happy with the results.
So I splurged on a new camera.
In making my decision I had to consider weight and ease of use. I remember well my old Nikon SLR’s with a 50mm lens, a wide angle lens and a telephoto lens. I also remembered having to carry a camera bag and being in a hurry to switch lenses when I needed to. I did not want to get into that again. Because I carry my HP mini with me, with the power unit, I already feel like a sherpa when I am on the move.
Then I was reading Wired magazine and I saw an ad for a new Nikon. I feel free to digress here, after all this IS MY blog. I have always believed in Nikon over the lesser brands. I think the Nikkor lens is superior to anything short of Hassleblad, which I cannot afford. I also know that a Nikon is much more rugged brand than say a Canon.
This new Nikon is called the P7000.
The ad listed the features and I was blown away. I googled the P7000 and the list of features in the review were even more impressive. It was compared to a new Sony that had most of these features, and one my camera does not have ( an adjustable viewing screen, very nice) but like I said, I am old, and Sony, as far as I am concerned, makes stereos. Then I read this independent review and user comments and I was sold.
Now the search was on. I live in the UAE. Dubai has a worldwide reputation as a place to go shopping. All you have to do is visit a mall and see the hundreds of sunburned overweight Russians carrying multiple shopping bags full of things they cannot buy back in the USSR, even under capitalism. So I looked for a Nikon retailer. There are many of them, but only one carried this new fangled P7000. When I walked in and asked the Indian gentleman (Emiratis NEVER do retail) “Do you have a Nikon P7000” he knew he had a sale. His was the only store in Dubai that had one, and I obviously wanted one. Because of all my travels lately I have become a true haggler. I tried to get his price down, but by the look in his eyes I could see him say “This aint Bombay Sahib.” All I managed to get was a free case, which it turns out I do not use now.
This camera has an instruction manual longer than the computer I am typing on, or for that matter my last automobile. I have spent hour upon hour trying out features in search of the perfect setting for that Ansel Adams moment.
All I have to do is pop open the manual to any page and I am astounded at what this camera will do. I flip the pages and just stop anywhere and I say to myself “really, I can do THAT?”
The camera goes from lens settings of 28mm to 200mm effortlessly and quickly. I can change any of the settings I used to play with on my old SLR’s as easy as using my Ipod. Or of course I can just set it on auto, and it does everything necessary for a good shot all by itself. But I like playing with the knobs and altering the outcome of my shots.
When I used film, I thought that if I was very careful composing the picture, I might get one good shot out of a roll of 36 exposures, or maybe one great shot out of 100. Now, I am happy with three or four out of 1000. Yes, I have a big memory card in it, it handles over 10,000 images. I have never come close to running out of space, even when I take videos.
I am about to travel to a very exotic location, New Jersey, to attend a wedding. I am sure I will be the obnoxious person running around taking shots of people I do not know, in hopefully embarrassing situations.
After that I am on my way to my favorite location on the planet, Big Sur. One cannot take enough photos in Big Sur. I just might fill up that memory card.
Stay tuned for pictures of over-served guests at the wedding, and waves crashing against granite cliffs.
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