Sunday, May 30, 2010

Maui Wowie

By Yana:

Yes, it has once again been embarrassingly long since our last post.  So let me fill you in on the last little while, in a large nutshell:

We spent a few more days in San Francisco, which included highlights such as riding some borrowed bicycles to and past the Golden Gate Bridge, and checking out the very nifty Musee Mecanique, which is crammed full of awesomely antique and totally functional coin slot machines.  We also tried out the local "Japanese" bath house, which was fun, and went to see Iron Man 2 with Kate, which was gratuitously violent.  The day before we left San Fran, we were also treated to the sight of a bunch of army helicopters landing on the lawns of Crissy Fields.  As it turned out, Mr Obama himself was scheduled to visit a few days later, and this was a practice run with the copters.  We looked up his schedule, to see if there was any possibility of actually seeing the man.  Upon deciding it was unlikely, we stuck with the flights we had, and got up at sparrowfart the following morning to fly to Maui.

The flight and airport time was uneventful, though it was a very strange feeling after having been so in charge of our own transport for so long.  Well, we whiled away the time by watching some episodes of Heroes, which did the trick.

We actually arrived a little early, and enjoyed the balmy weather while waiting for our friend Garrett to pick us up.  As we were arriving a short time before the Mai Tai, a big kite surfing event here on Maui was to start, we knew we would be in for a crowded house soon enough, as Garrett is hosting some kite surfers.  We did spend a bit of time at kite beach over the next few days, me only flying the trainer for a bit before opting to just hang out in the sand, and Sundance occasionally getting to body-drag through the water with the big kite, and then moving up to the actual board.  As public transport on Maui sucks, we rented a car for a day and drove down to Little Beach, to see if any of the friends we made last time were still around - many of them weren't, though we did get to have a chat to Frank, a fellow who seems to be a permanent fixture there.  We also spent a little time wandering along the Iao Valley before returning the car.

After two days, the other two Mai Tai folk (Erin and his friend Steve) came along, and Garrett took us to a few of the social events there.  We also managed to slot in a game of Catan, which Garrett didn't win for a change.  His lady, Crystal, is immune to his methods of winning.

As I had little to do with myself when everyone was kite surfing, we ended up renting a car again, this time for a few days.  We made another trip to the Iao Valley, this time walking along one of the ridges, up to a little clearing where yummy thimbleberries grow.  Ah, wet tropical forests.

Today has been a kite surfing day for Sundance, during which he discovered that he has a much easier time with the double-ended board rather than the uni-directional one.  I went and did my own thing, doing the walk (and swim) up to the top of the Golden Emerald waterfall.  It was every bit as beautiful as I remembered it, and then some, as the weather was nicer this time round, and the water wasn't so cold.

We are also going to hang out on Maui a little longer, mostly because we missed the window period in which we could get a cheap flight, so we booked the next one of the same price out of here, which is a few days later.  We may decide to stick up our tent somewhere, in the name of not imposing on Garrett and Crystal beyond the time we said we would.  Meanwhile, there is more kite surfing and walking through wet rainforests to be done.  Hooray!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

By Sundance:

Yes, we're still here! And still blogging (sporadically). So here's the very short version of the last couple of weeks...

After our boat ride to the Marquesas fell through, we did a little shopping around online on various crew-finding websites. We went and met a fellow who was heading from San Diego to Australia (which would have been perfect) but he eventually decided to take along a different person as crew, so we have found ourselves essentially boatless, and given the time, effort, expense and energy we have expended to find a boat ride - to no avail - we've decided to not bother. We spent our last few days in San Diego accommodated on the boat of Mike, the son of Gayani and Rob whom we'd met on our first trip to SD. We also found a fantastic Greek restaurant to have lunch at, and the owner was nice enough to drive us out to the Old Town section of SD to see the Drinko de Mayo festivities. We got a ride, via craigslist, up to San Francisco, and are now staying with my cousin Kate, whom I haven't seen in about 18 years, as well as her partner Jeff, and their son Shepard. We've been cruising around looking at stuff, including parks, the Golden Gate Bridge (of course), took a family car trip out of town to a beachside town north of San Fran, and saw Wicked. We also found out just how foggy SF can be, and Kate pointed out a nearby rockclimbing gym to us, so we went along there and got to do our first climbing in months. We've been walking along the waterfront between the Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge quite a bit, since that's the area where Kate lives, and recently ran into a couple of guys just heading off on a cross-USA bike journey, which stirred a bit of envy and nostalgia within both of us. You can catch their blog at and follow their exploits in the reverse direction to ours. We also hung out in Palo Alto for Jeff's dad's birthday (and en route discovered a pizza restaurant called 'Pi' - actually spelled with the appropriate Greek letter, and open from 3.14pm every day!). We've also been past the Palace of Fine Arts, which is a gorgeous building, and dropped in on the LucasArts building to see various Star Wars related stuff.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Back to square one

By Yana:

Quite a bit has happened since our last entry, but if I write one of our patented day-by-day descriptions, this entry is going to be another huge monster, so I'll skip that.  We spent our last few days in Ensenada up to our ears in work dealing with our bicycles.  We decided that our best option for getting them back to Australia was to ship them from LA, and Jim and Ann conceded to let us transport the bikes on the boat to San Diego, which would be our first stop.

Through a coincidental bit of luck, we ran into a fellow bearing a box which was pretty much the perfect size and shape for our purposes.  As it turned out, he works for a company which sells flat screen TVs, and we ended up purchasing a box off him into which we could fit both bikes, actually saving quite a bit of space.

From then on, we spent almost the entire time until we left taking apart our bikes and cleaning the tiny fiddly bits very thoroughly.  I suspect the entire process probably took 24 hours or so.  By the time we had them packed, it was 4am on the morning we were going to leave.  We got a little bit of shuteye, and then set about getting our big bad box to the Cactus Wren.  Juergen, the guy who had first introduced us to the folks around the marinas, was nice enough to drive us, which made the whole thing infinitely easier.  We also got to say goodbye to Daniel, as he had gotten back from LA a little early, so that was nice.

Once we had wrapped the box up in rubbish bags and a sailcover to protect it from the spray, we loaded it onto the boat and were pretty much ready to go.  It was the afternoon by the time we set off, though.  With the wind against us, we ended up motoring all the way to San Diego.  Both Sundance and I got to spend some time at the wheel, and we went through the night.  

Sometime after midnight, when Ann was at the wheel, the self-steering rudder broke off, and we had to fetch Sundance and Jim to haul the thing aboard.  Good thing it had been tethered by the ropes, otherwise we almost certainly would have lost it.  After that, Jim steered us the rest of the way to San Diego, where we arrived at about 4am on Monday.

Shortly after arriving at the Police Docks on Shelter Island, we were in for a rude surprise: the visa waiver program, under which we had been travelling in the US all this time, does not cover travellers on private boats! The reason for this is unclear, especially as it's just fine if you're in a car, on a bike, on foot, or on a plane.  The upshot was that we had to pay a "fee" (a pretty way of saying "fine") of $540 each in order to be allowed into the US.  Heading back was not an option, due to the broken rudder and a bad weather system coming in, and Ensenada being the nearest port at 13 hours away.  All the options we tried to think of were against the rules, and we ended up just having to cough up the money, much as it hurt.  It'd just be nice to actually be informed of expensive trivialities like that before you blunder into them, but it's unclear how we possibly could have known.

On the bright side though, we did end up having a nice chat on the phone with our friends from Kentucky, Clint and Valerie.  For those of you who don't remember, Clint is the State Trooper with a fondness for harrassing possums in courageous ways.  We had hoped that some of Clint's connections might be able to help us weasel out of our predicament with the $540 fine, but no dice.  Still, we got to catch up a little, and found out that their daughter Taylor had recently won two academic awards, which was great to hear.  Took our minds off it for a bit.

We got stuck into getting some of the mundane things, like laundry, done.  In the midst of that, we started to make some local friends, at a smoothie bar called The Point.  Sarah, one of the girls who works there, ended up taking us up to the Farmer's Market at Ocean Beach after her shift, which was a very fun afternoon.  We spent the next day or so getting groceries and such.

On the Friday, Jim and Ann informed us that they'd had a talk amongst themselves and decided that we weren't "boat people", and probably wouldn't fit into the routine of living in the confined quarters of a boat for several weeks, so they'd decided to withdraw their offer to take us to the Marquesas. That was obviously a bummer, and put us into a bit of a spin trying to figure out our next course of action, and our other options for getting back to Australia. So we spent most of the rest of the day figuring out whether we could find another boat, how much it would cost to fly back, and so forth. Saturday was basically taken up by getting our stuff packed and off the boat, and Sarah was nice enough to let us crash at her place overnight. We now have a couple of other boat options to explore, and the next few days should determine how we make our way off the North American continent.