Ello ello! I’m actually posting this from Quito, although I wrote most of it at LAX/on the LA – Panama flight. I’ve just got to get it posted before more stuff happens to write about!
I believe I left you in Monterey, after our SF and Yosemite adventures… man has it been hectic since then! The road trip from that point went as follows:
Monterey –> San Luis Obispo –> Santa Barbara –> Hollywood –> Santa Monica
Monterey and the SKYDIVE. Possibly The Event of the road trip. I have been wondering how best to capture in words the experience of chucking yourself out of a plane at 18,000 feet. Not an easy task. The prospect felt very far away and unreal until, after filling out various waivers, being fitted with harnesses and doing some basic training, we were all bundled into a light aircraft and strapped to our instructors. The reality of what I had signed myself up for dawned on me when I watched the guy in front of me in the plane – a veteran solo skydiver – as he hopped expertly out of the opening. Seeing his body fall away through the sky sent a bolt of fear straight through my body, which might have prevented me from following him had my instructor not started crab-walking me to the opening and pushing me out before I’d had much of a chance to consider my options.
At that point, the order of my thoughts went something like this:
“AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH” ….. “SH**********T” ….. “AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH” ….. “It is SO SO SO BEAUTIFUL” ….. “I am literally falling through the air, how mad is that?!?!” ….. “OH CRAP I’ve gone about a minute without breathing – BREATHE KATRINA BREATHE!!” ….. “I am ALIVE!!!!!” ….. “AHHHHHHHHH” ….. “Thank Christ we didn’t get this videoed – the wind is blowing the skin off my face” ….. “AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH” …..
Apart from the thoughts that I have been able to distinguish, I basically laughed hysterically all the way down. The parachute opened after what felt like about 10 seconds of free-fall but which was in fact 80 seconds, and my instructor then sent us swooping and gliding through the air for several minutes before landing us lightly on terra firma. The sense of freedom and pure exhilaration was unlike anything either Emily or I had previously experienced. We spent the rest of the day trying to put into words how we had felt, and even when the conversation moved on, it continued to be punctuated with sudden bursts of “… Mate, we actually jumped out of a plane today. HOW COOL was that though??” Utterly unforgettable.
San Luis Obispo and Pete’s Place. Airbnb did us proud here. We rocked up at Pete’s place a couple of hours late (Google Maps did us not so proud) and were met by an old-ish tanned bloke, who wandered down the driveway and, by way of greeting, offered us a cracker from the box he was holding. We accepted and he solemnly placed one into each of our palms before breaking into a huge smile, hugging us warmly and beckoning us up to the house. I use the word ‘house’ in a broad sense; Pete’s pad is quite unlike anything I have ever seen. It has sprung purely from his imagination and takes eclecticism to a whole new level (the pictures will probably illustrate this better than my writing can). We chatted about his ideas and his guests, although it would have been great to stay longer and find out more.
Hollywood. After calling in at Santa Barbara for lunch and eating our body weights in Mexican food, we rolled down the highway and onto Hollywood Boulevard. It was very much as I remember it: loud, bustling and peppered with Darth Vaders, Spidermen and Jack Sparrows (and now with the addition of Minions, Princess Elsas and selfie sticks). A bit mad really. But as soon as you accept that it’s all nuts and resolve to not take anything too seriously, it’s quite hilarious.
The morning following our arrival, we jumped back in the car and made our way up to Griffith Observatory: the starting point for what would turn out to be a tough 4-hour hike in the punishing heat up to the Hollywood sign. Stunning views over LA, despite the heat and lack of drinking fountains to top up on water.
Later that evening, I embarrassingly let us walk down Sunset Boulevard for half an hour before realising that we were going in completely the wrong direction (ended up in East instead of West, whoops!) We called an Uber to take us back the other way, and ended up carpooling with a British couple who were heading to the Comedy Store, close to where we were headed. We decided to join them, only to find out when we got there that Sarah Silverman was in town and doing a set there that very night! She was bloody brilliant – I was crying with laughter. Some of the other acts were a bit more variable, but despite a few groans and cringes, the whole evening was brilliantly spontaneous.
Santa Monica flew by as I only had a day there, but was really glad of the fresher coastal air and the relaxed vibe wafting around the palm-lined streets. We took a walk down to Venice on my final evening, as the promenade there makes for some excellent people-watching. Having a chilled day also gave me a chance to prepare for the next major transition on this journey: pressing on ever further south to Ecuador!
I will round off this post by adding that I have just spent a lovely first day in Quito with an Australian couple I met at the hostel. I am still pretty tired after spending the whole of yesterday travelling and not sleeping too well the previous couple of nights.. but I have really enjoyed wandering down the cobbled streets to the basilica, cathedral and numerous little galleries today – Quito feels good and the people have been so incredibly friendly! So many smiles all round. Anyway, more Ecuador impressions coming soon to a laptop screen near YOU. Right now however, is nap time.
Big shout out to Emily for being such a smashing road trip buddy – we tore up that highway good and proper! I only wish WordPress would let me upload the spectacular videos we made outside of Santa Barbara (although perhaps the web isn’t quite ready for your singing ;)).
Love love love x x x x x