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Watching The Earth’s Tilt

Let's talk...... Posted on Wed, January 23, 2019 18:55:49

Week 31: 21 August to 27 August

21 August – The journey seemed to be over before it has begun. Virgin are very slow at getting things organised. Eventually we disembarked and headed to the officialities. Waited ages for my luggage – thought perhaps I had had it sent to another country. Feels strange already being back. I just about picked out Kevin in the crowd, he looks so different, very thin and pale. He did not recognise me at first but his face soon lit up when he did. No hugs, no kisses, not even any real conversation. If I appeared a little off I didn’t mean to, but it did feel strange. I think he thought I still hated him. I never did in the first place. Our hotel was minutes away in Hayes, the Hotel Arlington. We only have it for 3 nights, one of which has been used up. Finally we had our cuddle and a kiss, he had to ask me so did not feel so natural.

Drove to London centre for the day, was only about 9am when we got there. Everything feels so alive at the moment. I expect to see $ and to have tax added and ‘Walk’, ‘Don’t Walk’. I should be grabbing leaflets and buying postcards, but I have nothing to do. London seems so small and easy to be in. Did Covent Garden, Hyde Park, Houses of Parliament. I seem to be cutting conversation of the serious kind short and mentioning silly things about what I had done. Things sound so samey at home, so boring. Parking was dear, all day £11, so we came back before it got any worse, I was flagging anyway. We ate out at an Indian restaurant just by coincidence. I did have a postcard from John Sloan, from New Zealand, which cheered me up. Must do some writing soon. Can’t think of much else to write, it feels good being here and it doesn’t, very strange.

22 August – We had an occurrence last night, with some orange juice. The small bottle that Kevin purchased at Fleet services exploded and actually shot about five feet into the air and hit the ceiling and the rest spilt over on the table. Some splatted the bed cover and floor. I have never heard the blast but Kevin did and went back to sleep. Must have looked amazing. Made us chuckle all day anyway. Kevin has gotten back his sense of humour now, and we can lark about like we used to. One thing I forgot to mention that Kevin gave Pablo away. I never meant for him to do that, he doesn’t seem so bothered about it, not up front anyway.

We hardly did anything today, went into Hayes and found out about inoculations and flights and came back to the hotel. Kevin sorted the car out, extra work days off and accommodation. I strolled around the town looking for the ‘buzz’ on the street but it wasn’t there. I guess maybe I have been on a high for the past seven months, strutting confidently around and now I am not. We should have gone sightseeing for something to do. Wandered around a nearby village and ate in one of the pubs. I value the experience of life in preference to possession, you are a richer person for knowledge. You can take your memories with you, but not objects.

23 August – We had ‘Horse Magazine’ at breakfast this morning, (Flora Margarine to you and me), Kevin was obviously not himself. Had a very leisurely start today, full of breakfast ‘n’ stuff.

Went into centre of London again and basically did the same as yesterday. It was cheaper to take the train and more relaxing too. Managed to get back by 9pm. Could go up to Stevenage for a week after Kevin goes back. Seems things are going well up here for the Londoners. Watched TV. Got to bed late.

24 August – A lazy day, very lazy. Did a bit of shopping in New Malden. Feeling a bit low so crashed out all afternoon. Went out for a drink in Wimbledon. Quite a good evening.

25 August – Rainy day, for a while anyway. Actually, I have not done yesterday’s diary yet so will do it after. Also called Maria and got an ok on our accommodation next week, for Kevin too.

Trudged through the rain to the National Gallery and had a wander for a while. I actually got a bit bored, I am not really a good companion for traditional art conversation. I think he should go on his own or take another critic with him. Not doing too bad at the moment, I desperately want to get my finalé trip sorted, getting a bit wayward from it at the moment. However only seen a few familiar faces over the past four days, but no one significant. Just as well send some postcards. Walked to the shops again, had some tea in Leicester Square too and came back fairly late. The smog from the traffic is quite disgusting, more noticeable than in some cities, so we are no better than the rest. Saw the guy from the ‘Mary Whitehouse Experience’, Steve or Hugh is his name.

26 August – Hung around Kingston all day. Not really having many deep thoughts at the moment, just having a laugh. Went to the pictures to see Mask, a little light relief, not a brilliant film but funny in parts. Spending lots of dosh and not thinking about it………..yet. Nice mall in Kingston. Went to a fairground in Ealing, didn’t go on the rides. Watched a man puke on one of them and came back, not very exciting. We stayed up and chatted. Found out a few things about people. Should have left the men to talk I think. They could have had a deeper conversation, next time eh!

27 August – Left midday to search for Stevenage, and what a trial it was. We had no map but new the general direction. That, however, was not the problem. I cannot believe a) how many roads there are to drive down and b) how congested the roads are. Britain is mega over-populated. We never seem to be able to get ourselves organised. After a frustrating escape from Kingston we stopped in Kew for a rest and a pee, whence we found a tree to coopy down by. They had their 50th flower show going on so had a wander round and ‘ad tea and cakes you know. Got to the M25 which was a god-send and after one more sandwich stop got to Maria’s, via her spot-on directions, after 4 hours.

Margaret was here with two friends, they have come to stay with her for the weekend. Eventually Marg and friends left and we were left with the kiddies.

Current day thoughts

I was back in London for the interim, planning the last bit of my journey. It would be easy to say that London was not part of the journey but really it was, I was in my home country but not home.

I never wanted to include much about my relationship in the blog but this section of my journey was partly about that. Have edited some but couldn’t avoid it all.

I am not sure what I thought my relationship would be like when I came back, the same probably, but time away changes the both of you and so a relationship can never be exactly the same as it was before. No amount of Polyfilla can cover over all the cracks. We soon relaxed though and regained some of the chemistry. I do think that relationships are stifling and that as individuals we achieve more for ourselves when alone.

Every so often I de-clutter and get rid of stuff. Stuff that might come in handy one day but never does. The older I get the less I want in terms of material possession. If my parents are reading this, please de-clutter, we don’t want all of your stuff.

Menus can be written in very fancy script font and the one in our Hayes hotel was like that. Anyone could be confused into thinking Flora Margarine was Horse Magazine. What would that even be as a food item! The orange juice incident was funny though – something to do with the room temperature and gas trapped in the bottle and build up of pressure. Glad we didn’t get the cleaning bill for that one.

We stayed with some friends in New Malden for a few days. Really nice to just be allowed to crash at short notice. Little did I know that New Malden would feature in my life again a few years later when I ended up living there for about a year and a half. It was also the place I from which I launched my next big travelling experience – more of that in time. So many people we knew went to London to live, guess that is where money was to be made. And here I am now living it – except for the big money. You get out what you put in. I didn’t put in enough when I was younger and now I am getting older and too tired and a little desperate. What career did I want to get back to?

It is true what I said about this country being over-populated, all squashed in, we can’t breathe and after all these years we are still no closer to being able to cope with a bad winter.

My lovely family in Stevenage were more than hospitable, I am sure I outstayed my welcome. I had been to Stevenage before but when I was younger, so no huge memories of the place. Much more to come from Stevenage. If Stevenage is reading this, I loved you then and I still love you now.

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23 January 2019

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the date I set out on my first backpacking adventure and I thought it might be fun to share with you some of my diary entries from then coupled with my current day thoughts. I’ll do this by creating a summary of each week rather than giving a blow by blow daily account of what I got up to. I may even throw in a few photos on the way. My journey was 10 months in total and took me to Australia, Canada, United States of America, (London) and India, in that order. It might seem strange to have visited India last of all as my direction of travel would have taken in India first, but believe me it was a good decision. Having built up the confidence in the preceding months this allowed me to cope with a country that was so different to any which I had experienced before. 10 months that helped to shape the person I am today.

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Week 1

23 January 1994 – 21:09 hrs – London Heathrow.

Well, this is me, departure lounge at Heathrow. Can’t really believe I am here. Salisbury has been on flood alert all of this past week, I never knew I had so much inside of me waiting to come out. I have a feeling of deja vu at the moment; it has been with me for the past few days. I am on a journey with a goal in mind, but as it gets closer I realise that I do not know why I am doing it at all. I have been searching for myself forever and looking for love. I have love now, so I guess I am still looking for me. I ride through a tunnel, it is dark and there is no atmosphere, just blankness. My mind has disappeared, I simply have no thoughts about what it is I am doing here, and then suddenly I come close to reaching my destination and I come through the tunnel. I guess I am very apprehensive and quite simply lonely. This is something I should be sharing.

The flight is ok so far and, yes, I knew they would do this, a full meal, they call it supper, at 12:00 midnight, yeuk! I will eat it anyway as I have paid for it. And so to bed, for a few hours at least.

24 January

Did not sleep well, may have had half an hour shut eye. Breakfast at 6 am (2 pm Singapore time). The first leg of the journey over. It is 7 pm here in Singapore, looks like it may rain. I looked out of the window on the plane, we were floating on fluffy cotton buds, twixt earth and heaven. A bit like my life at the moment, all up in the air. Flight from Singapore to Perth, smaller plane, only 4 hrs trip, but did not enjoy so much. Fewer tourists on board, mainly locals. Still more food. More calm now and looking forward to touch down. Although having said that, I feel secure up in the air, once down I am on my own for real, despite being met by Ron and Celia.

25 January – 0:30hrs

Arrived half an hour early. A little rainy, but still warm. I recognised Ron and Celia straight away, but they did not remember me, I looked a right mess anyway so I don’t think they would have stood a chance. Celia
thought it was cold, but it isn’t, even with the wind blowing.

I feel strange being in another person’s house. I think I would prefer to be on my own in a hostel or something. It was suggested that I ring home tonight (morning), but I will wait until the evening of the 25th as I do not think I could cope with it right away. 2:45am, so signing off now, I shall sleep forever.

Did not rise until 12 noon. House seems strange, more like a holiday villa, will get used to it soon. Went around Armadale this afternoon, everything seems so spread out. I guess because not much is built at two storey, all on one level, there is certainly plenty of room to spread out here.  Not too big a place, shopping malls all under cover, a few businesses dotted around. Mainly a residential area. Much the size of Wilton probably. I do not feel able to dash off and do my own thing whilst here, feel obliged to wait until taken to places. It may be too secure a start, home from home type thing.

26 January – Wednesday, Australia Day! A bank holiday.

The flag was flying in Herriard Road. They all go on about how proud they are to be Australian. The Brits do take quite a battering, don’t know why. I would not want to live here though, despite the laid back life-style. It is too hot and the openness and extrovert nature of the younger generation would be too much to handle. Maybe the east side is different. Tonight on the train back from Perth, the carriages were packed with young people (teenagers) who all seemed to be drunk, stoned, whatever, and they were loud mouthing it and dancing to music. I thought I was on a par with young people but this is a bit above me and so loud. I must be getting old. Celia told me that a lot of kids don’t stand a chance of getting jobs now, so they just blow their dole money on having a wild time and saying sod the rest of the world, it’s going to end soon anyway. Around 6-8 years ago jobs were ok and most 20/22 year olds bought their own houses and most have already finished paying off their mortgages at 30yrs old, it’s unreal. They have two/3 cars, everything. Even Ron and Celia have two houses. We are going down to the beach house for the weekend. There is more opportunity to make something of yourself through schooling. Because a lot of places (towns, cities) are so isolated or 1000’s of miles from the next, like everywhere in Western Australia, (Perth is the most isolated city in the world), they tend to have everything you can think of on their doorstep. 3 universities for W.A. alone. If it is there and you don’t have to travel far, you make the most of facilities and work hard. I hate myself for not being more aware or more alive when younger. Almost forgot to say that we went to the annual light show in Perth tonight, always held on Australia Day. Quite a big fireworks display, had some really good ones go off. All the city’s traffic came to a standstill, it was like a mass protest marching through. We stopped off for a coffee to let the masses die down. Still catching up with myself and the time differences.

27 January – The earliest I have been up this morning,
09:00hrs.

Celia took me around Perth centre, for shopping and to see some sights. Experienced a slice of Princess Cake, full of calories and messy, but we enjoyed it. Walked around an art gallery, quite contrasting exhibits on show. One sector was all Aboriginal paintings, they are quite samey to look at, but very colourful and all tell a story. Wacky contemporary and modern art and quite decent fine art by Ozzie artists. All buildings seem quite new in the city centre, very big and modern and everything seems to link into another. Shopping much the same as in England, except more food outlets. Actually did the washing up at tea, which makes me feel pretty good. Have now got some times and prices for coach travel between major cities, so will map out a route soon. I will stay for another week and half or two.

Why is it a lot of countries dislike the original natives of their lands. With Americans it was Indians, South Africans the black people and Australia the Aborigines. A little ancestry still showing through perhaps, after all most Australians are immigrants themselves.

28 January – Up early today, 08:30hrs

Busied about getting ready for the weekend. Beach house not too far away. Stopped off at a couple’s house for refreshment. It would seem that most of them think that the world looks down on Australians and try to defend themselves constantly. They think that Britain should adopt the same way
of life as Oz, mainly on the economic side. Why should Britain have dollars and cents, do the rest of Europe, no, but does that bother them, does it heck. Australia is a continent and Europe is a continent, wouldn’t it be boring if everyone was the same. I think UK is unique and should stay that way.

The beach house is much the same as their town house. Went to the beach with Ron. My first dip in the Indian Ocean. The beach was virtually deserted, just us and one other family to start with. The sand seemed to go on for miles either side and the sea was beautiful. Bit choppy to swim, but had fun dodging the waves. Had Celia told me about the sea snakes much further up the coast, I may not have gone in. Have got a little sunburn and I hardly stayed in the sun. Must make sure I use some lotion next time. By the way, we are now at a place called Singleton. The sea breezes are quite strong and almost constant, deceivingly so.

29 January –

I am coping with the heat quite well, wore my hat for the first time today down to the beach. The breeze is refreshing but still very hot in the sun. Slapped on the sun lotion today. Sea was much calmer. Ron came down
to do a rescue mission in case I had frazzled without realising it. He drove down and it is only a five minute walk. I came back on foot, I am missing out so much on exercise. Went around Mandurah this morning, very seasidey type of place. Just off of the centre is a residential area built around man made canals. All gardens go down to the water so that they can hop straight into their boats. Very exclusive and very tasteful as well. Not as many swimming pools as you might imagine in the suburb areas. Everything reminds me of holiday villages with chalets. So peaceful strolling along the water front under a star lit sky. We all sat and set the world to right before bed.

Current day thoughts

I’ve had to cut out quite a lot of my entries, some too personal and some not very PC. We have to be PC these days. Diaries can be a dangerous thing in the wrong hands. Should mention that Ron and Celia Penny were very good friends of my parents, dad grew up with Ron. They emigrated to Australia in 1969 with their two children. I had seen them once in that time when they came back to visit in UK some years later. Seems that employment issues are the same worldwide and the young no different. We don’t always see it on others’ doorsteps. Three universities in Western Australia, it seemed a lot. There are 5 now. I suppose not so surprising when you consider the size of the area and the growing population. I think more logically these days. There appeared to be a lot of problems between the Aborigines and Australians, I am sure there still it but I think in general indigenous cultures are given more of a voice these days. I still wish I had pushed myself harder when younger. Interesting to know my thoughts on UK back then (I knew nothing about the EU and what they did). I don’t think that way now; I think we should become more like Australia in that they use more of their own resources to keep the economy stable. I know nothing about the economy but it seems that way anyway.

I still don’t cope with heat well and I still burn in the sun.

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Week 2

30 January – It’s hot today. Still very tired. I don’t want to get out of bed but I drag myself out before 09:00hrs. Adrian and Shae rolled up mid-morning. Shea is 2½ years old and she still looks like a baby, but she is a fun thing and lively. We all went down to the beach for an hour or two. The sea seemed quite calm but the wind picked up and the waves rolled in. I had quite a frightening experience at one point. A wave broke over me and completely swept me off my feet. I thought I was going to drown. I think my eyes were open, all I could see was swirling water all around me and I somersaulted from the force. I couldn’t get out of the water quick enough. My whole head was filled with water. I can’t imagine how surfers manage to survive some of the big waves. After Adrian had gone, in his 22 year old banger, we packed up and sped off home, stopping a Reg and Elsie’s to say goodbye.

Came home via the country roads. Every so often we came across areas where bush fires had taken hold. They can happen at any time, anywhere and if the wind is blowing you’ve had it. Most are kept under control before spreading to houses. Even as we drove there was some in the distance,
probably Rockingham area. I think 20 years ago the whole area of W.A. was
mainly vegetation, now housing areas are going up everywhere. Overpopulation will make its way to Oz sooner or later.

Tea on the veranda, I thought lunch was the main meal, oh well, its only calories piling on. No sea breezes in Armadale, the fan is a definite must this evening. Starting to work out some routes now. With all that Ron and Celia have planned for me, it will be a 3 weeks stay. I will never be able to thank them enough. Ron rang my mum and dad tonight, I did not realise he was going to, we all had a little chat.

31 January – One week nearly over already, certainly the most mixed January I have ever had, weather wise. Kevin must have been sad
yesterday, I can imagine how sad and lonely he is, I hope he manages to occupy his time ok. Have to admit that I have not been missing him as much as I should. There has been so much to do and see even in this short week and planning my next move as well.

Today was definitely the hottest it has been, but that didn’t stop us going out. First the weekly shopping was done, there seems to be much more choice available especially in the fruit and veg line. After lunch a leisurely drive down to the Serpentine Dam. It is very pretty driving through the vast woodland, so many shades of green with the odd touch of greyish blue.
Certainly a wildlife day. The Dam is massive and supplies most of the area with water. However the water was very low, makes you realise how precious the stuff is here. Stopped off at a Bar-B-Q area and fed the wild parrots with bread.


They come and land all over you, arms, legs, head, for a feed. Scratched my
arms to pieces and ruined what little hair style I had. They were so lovely and tame.


Saw my first Kookaburra, he wanted his share of the bread, only at a distance.


Also saw an electric blue coloured wren.

On the way home passed a dead kangaroo on the roadside. Nobody moves them, the crows will have a picking or two and other small creatures. Can’t wait to see one alive and kicking in the wild, love to see a koala too. Lots of Black Boy trees around, pictures do not depict them very well, you have to see one to understand their given name. Along the woodland areas you come across burnt patches, which is known as controlled burning. If the trees are already burned the natural fires should peter out at these points as there is no more in their path to burn. Golly I’ve learned a lot today. Near to the Serpentine Dame is a garden of Aboriginal design. It is of a snake weaving through areas of water in the hope that its presence will bring much water. This comes from the Aboriginal period known as ‘Dream Time’, from which most of their art work drives.

Met Celia’s parents later on. Dick is in his 80’s and likes to wear loud clothes, he was all in bright red today. Her mum makes you feel at home straight away. Nice down to earth house with granny type furnishings. Supper outside again and a very calming spout on the hammock.

1 February – Paid the price of sitting out last night, covered in mossie bites. A stark contrast in the weather, 40’s yesterday, only 25 today.

Went to King Park in Perth had a fantastic view of the city, it really is a massive place. Everywhere you turn in this state you will see a barbecue, no need to go hungry or have to spend out a fortune. The barbecue is a national pass-time.

Next, to Freemantle, via Cottesloe, where we had a spot of lunch. Freemantle is a seafaring town. The shipping docks are along this part of the coast line. The next biggest place down from Perth I guess. The older buildings have remained intact which gives the place more of an
atmosphere. Lots of good shopping, I will have to watch my step. Most people would probably stick to the town centres, but there can be lots to see on the outskirts. The Round House for instance, not a wonderful sight, but a piece of Freemantle history nonetheless. It is an old prison where the naughty sailors were banged up. Conditions looked extremely basic, probably only a foot square window in the top left of cramped cells.

Some points to think about are rail crossings, it is so easy to get carried away with everything around you that you do not concentrate on the lines. The crossings are not well protected. Some lines run through the middle of towns. Driving – would probably not cost a lot to buy an old banger (cars last for years over here). Roads and freeways are very straight and long,
no banks to hide view. In Western Australia there is hardly any traffic on
roads so driving can be erratic, no stopping at junctions or when turning corners. Again, rail crossings spring up from nowhere, no barriers or anything, maybe a few flashing lights. It is only in the cities that you get a build-up of traffic. On the whole people amble about and do not look where they are going.

I can imagine some people had houses in very secluded parts with nice settings. Now highways run close by and housing estates pop up everywhere and the whole atmosphere is ruined. Seems every spare bit of land is being built on. I know that there is plenty of space here but it is a shame. And being mainly one storey the area of land taken by one house is quite a lot.

Forgot to mention the pioneering village yesterday. A look at Victorian life. There is a school, which we did not get to see, where the children etc all dress up in authentic gear. Also gold panning and olde worlde shoppes. A shame that they had to stick an amusement arcade in one of the buildings.

Something else I learned today, which annoyed me slightly. Ex-Pats who have not taken Australian citizenship still get a British pension. Mind you, the amount remains static from the time you leave the UK. Plus they
get full Ozzie pension as well. No wonder pensions in the future are
jeopardised. I know a lot of the people paid taxes etc. but that is not the
point.

2 February – Thought to myself if the shower this morning, could have used a shower gel that does for hair as well. Would have cut down on weight in the rucksack. Glad I did not bring any dressy clothes, we haven’t gone out much in the evenings and nobody dresses up here anyway. Casual all the way. Just one smart skirt that folds up small will suffice.

Started to think about the format for my book. Got some good advice from Shirley Conran’s book, ‘Down with superwoman’. Looking around I see a lot of second-hand bookshops with plenty bargains. So, if it’s too hot and you fancy sitting quietly in the shade somewhere, pick up a book and read, you may improve your mind.

Taking a short interlude from diary type things to remark on some useful hints. Do join the YHA, you can get a 10 per cent discount on certain things, which is handy from travel tickets point of view. I gave bus company two routes to work on and asked them to calculate the cheapest way to get from A to B. Give the actual travel dates and days you wish to start at each point. 7 day passes can be used for any 7 days (non-consecutive) in a one month period. With YHA discount = $170.00. Before you start out, calculate and
average amount per day for travel, accommodation and food. You will find that through searching out information you probably will not spend your total quota each day, so do treat yourself to the odd excursion every so often. By the end of your stay you could buy a nice souvenir for yourself. Souvenirs – the most stupid tradition ever invented. A trip like this should be purely for your self-indulgence. Unless you are a reckless youth who has just decided to up-anchor, you will have spent months, even years, like me, saving every penny. Travel light with a rucksack, that way you are restricted with space. Use the YHA to stay in, they are cheap and are not that uncomfortable for a night’s sleep. During the day you will be out. If you find that there is no room at a hostel, YMCA, YWCA are in most cities. The hostel may tell you where a cheap hotel is. Sometimes I wish I could head off and take things as they come, but where travel and accommodation is concerned I like to be organised. If you can book all bus routes up and pay at the start, you know how much money is left to spend and you don’t have to worry. Forward booking accommodation means you have somewhere direct to head for. Travel in Australia can take a day or two and at unsociable hours. If you are a woman travelling on her own you do not want to be wandering around bewildered once at your destination. There is danger all around. People will also know to expect you. Every other aspect of your trip can then be taken at leisure. Plan to spend the first day forward planning and finding your way around a city. The rest of the time is yours.

Back to today – a very overcast dull day, but pleasantly warm. Spending most of the day deep in thought. Finished one roll of film yesterday, good idea of Kevin’s to use masking tape to record what is on the roll for future developing. (Post cards – if a lot in one area send in one envelope, mark ‘card only’, the rate is cheaper and you save on postage). Apologise if I waffle, my mind is all a buzz at present.

Paid a visit to Daphne, one of Celia’s yoga friends. She is part Indian and lives up in the hills on the outskirts of Armadale.

(I have some James Galway classical music on in the background. I can concentrate more with classical music in the background, I have found that with writing poetry, it inspires me with feeling.)

Daphne and Celia gabbled on and Ron and I sat back and ate cake. Delicious at that, banana buns and shortcake. Nothing really to write, about the day. A reflective, organising day. Some of the houses in the hills look very exclusive, it gets colder in that area due to the higher altitude. Spoke to Bridget on the phone, wasn’t sure what to say, so didn’t hang around long. I hate talking on phones.

3 February – Learnt a helpful tip today, always carry a spare beer in your bag. You can easily bribe an Ozzie with a beer.

Walked around Armadale Museum this morning. Apparently Ron and Celia have never taken a visitor there before, I am the only intelligent one that has stayed with them. The oldest exhibits are aboriginal. It is interesting to see how technology has come on, in the past 100 years, quite sad too. Next to the History House Museum are two buildings: Armadale’s first church and Primary School. They originally stood in ‘Third Road’, but were moved to Minnawarra Parks historic precinct. Not taken in pieces either, but as a whole, quite a haul. There are an enormous amount of parks in each town/city, very shady, very peaceful.

Drove up into the hills again to Kalamunda. An orchard/horticultural type area. Had a nice afternoon tea. Some of these small towns are very nicely situated, but can be all shops and cafes. I would like more to see. But as Ron pointed out, buildings are not the thing here, wildlife is. Some of the larger cities have some fantastic modern buildings. Made our way to Churchman’s Brook reservoir, the water is out of bounds but did look inviting. A nice picnic spot under shade, with a stream trickling through. I could lose myself in places like that.

Good old fish and chips in paper for tea, no messy washing up tonight. Decided to test some of my poetry out on Celia for an opinion.

4 February – Today’s tip, (for women only), one that I poached. If washing a limited supply of undies is a pain every other day, wear a panty shield. Dispose of at end of the day and your undies are fresh for another day.

Managing to keep up my exercises before breakfast, all the calorific food I am eating, I need to.

Into Perth to book my bus ticket, glad that is all sorted. Took a detour through the Royal Perth Hospital. A massive 13 storey building. It seems to me that a lot of countries have a similar code in the design of the hospitals. Charity shops, refreshment area, cashier etc. Had lunch in one of the malls. Shopped ‘til we dropped, (not really). Stayed around the house for the rest of day. Walked under an amazing fig tree in Perth. It grows on the sidewalk, or rather, the sidewalk grows around it and it spans the entire road in a kind of umbrella shape.

5 February – It rained today, very hard, but only for 5 minutes, been a mixed day weather wise. Cold to an Oz, but pleasantly warm to me. The chores were done this morning. Felt tired over lunch so rested before we went to visit Celia’s mum in Armadale hospital.

Popped to Wongan Dam. Quite spectacular piece of architecture surrounded by forest. Afternoon tea was at the Elizabethan Village pub, a home from home English pub. They have Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Shakespeare’s house, his birth place.

Sat through a plate of hot chilli con carne, a Ron special. The ice cream went down well. Got lost in my music earlier on, like a dreamer in my late teens. Jean and Malcolm came round for the evening. From Coventry, moved here 9 years ago. She would prefer to go back and live Coronation Street style.

Current day thoughts

Not much editing this week. Staying with the natives is a very good way to see the best things and get to know how things really are. I really started to get into jotting down travel tips to make life easier so sorry for rambling on. Celia was a good source for these too. It really was lovely to be so immersed in the wildlife that I had only read about in books before and the kookaburra took me back to my Girl Guide days when we sang the song about the ‘kookaburra sitting in the old gum tree…’ I feel warm thinking about the weather which is great as it is cold in London today. Nothing this week to compare to now.

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Week 3

6 February – You can tell that I have had a dreary few days, I am writing a load of drivel, maybe it’s time to move on. Feels like a two week package holiday, you eventually have enough of the same kind of living and want a change. The coming week will be a refreshing break. Much cooler today,
24 degrees. It was a Shae day, picked her up at Adrian’s. He has a nice house, but could do so much more inside. Adrian wanted to snooze so would not have been much fun hanging around the house. Spent the afternoon trying to keep Shae amused.

Tired today so glad for a rest. Finished the famous Chilli for tea. My music still makes me cry a little. I associate each record with different things. I really feel in the need of a cuddle tonight.

A tip for the bachelor pad. Keep one fridge by the bed so that you can stretch over for a beer and the other under the TV, so you don’t have to move far for beer whilst a movie is on.

7 February – It definitely rained today. We got up early and headed off for Albany, approx 545kms from home on the highway. Four hours going along a straight road, it did have the odd bend in it, but we did not have to turn off once. Stopped off at Kojonup for lunch. I could quite easily have nodded
off, the scenery was so boring and samey. The weather turned nice once we
arrived, however, the two olds donned trousers and sweat tops, it was fairly
cool, yes, but cold, no way. Saw a bunch of pelicans by the shore. It would
have been good to have seen just one, but ten, it was wonderful. Had a look at the Amity, replica of a ship landed in 1826, by Major Edmund Lockyer, really quite a small and flimsy, considering the strength of the sea, the Residency Museum, depicting sea life, wildlife and the history of the area and the Old Gasle Museum, again very nautical. Middleton beach – beautiful soft sand with calm waters to bathe in, a well-adapted seaside town. Would not get too hot in this part of WA. An old town on the whole unspoiled. Dog Rock – bit of a let-down tourist attraction. At one angle the rock resembles the shape of a dogs head. It just rests along the street side, if you did not know it was there you would miss it. Hoping for some spectacular scenery tomorrow. I remember likening the houses to holiday villas, well the place we are staying in is definitely how I remember some of the chalets we used to stay in, very 60’s.

8 February – Two weeks, and a hectic two weeks at that.  Seems like I have been away for ages, can’t imagine how the next 7½ months will go. Maybe once I am out on my own it will go quicker. R & C have crammed a lot in, although up to now distances travelled have been minimal. Feel very tired, I will never have the strength to work again, I must try to keep my mind active. Off to the rugged coast line to the tourist attractions. First, Mount Clarence, not too much of a trawl to the top. You have an all-round view of Albany town, the Southern Ocean, the highway leading to the town and the main of the coastline. Situated on the mount is a bronze statue of the Desert Corps Memorial, shipped from Port Said, Egypt. This is only a replica, the original can be found in one of Albany’s museums. Commemorates the War 1916-18. The coast line forms part of a national park to protect its natural beauty. With the main of attractions you will never find them swamped with visitors, thus enabling you to have a leisurely look. The Gap, a massive recess in the cliff side. On a fierce day waves can thunder up over the sides. Spectacular rock formations, but also extremely dangerous. Safety barriers are there for protection. The Bridge, a horizontal column of rock that forms a bridge across one section of the cliffs. Again, a stupid thing to want to climb down too close, the waves swell up so far, one freak wash and you go into the water. Just as magnificent from a distance. Observe the rules and a happy holiday is had by all. Blow holes – was not sure quite what to expect. These are fissures in the rocks which form holes into the caves underneath. The sea rushes into the caves with such a force that the pressure forces a blast of air up through the cracks and equally sucks air back through by force. Occasionally the sea splashes up through, today we could only see some spray. The sea in this area is made up of the most pretty blues and dazzling surf. The Whale Station, now thankfully dormant, is a museum, $5
to look around, only worth looking around if you are interested in yet more
nautical history. The whaling stopped here in the 1970’s, not so long ago. Easy to imagine the boats bringing in their catch to be butchered for oil. A
barbaric way to earn a living. Sharks used to swim the waters, for a tit bit or
two, the blood drew them. The waters of Albany have seen many wars. The ships that carried soldiers to war set sail from the port. How peaceful they seem now. Albany is potentially a good spot for a large port, but has little in the way of industry, agricultural exports only, tourism is now the main source of income. So many beauty spots to stop and take in. We could drive the car along the sand to Emu Point, time for a nice rest watching the pelicans on the water.

Pub grub for dinner, very nice, but I hate eating late. How pretty the lights
of Albany look at night, set into the hillside. Am managing money ok so far,
must remember to hold back $20 tax. Have to admit it was a little chilly
tonight. Tip – Out on the town, hungry, can’t drive home. Go order a home
delivery meal and ask the driver to take you home as well.

9 February – Mixed bag sort of day, rain, sun, chill. It is
about 21 degrees and to see R & C you would think it was the middle of
winter. Even now C has put the fan heater on. You can certainly pick out the
tourists – shorts, t-shirts. Arrived in Pemberton mid-afternoon, via Denmark
and Warpole. Stopped off at Williams Bay, a beautiful shoreline set in national
park territory. A barrier of rock provides a tranquil area to bathe, the water
is clearer than clear. We walked along the massive rock formations to some
spectacular surf crashing in on them, did I spot Stonehenge on the horizon? A
lot of shrub areas are out of bounds to replenish the foliage. Could have
brought my cossie down and stayed for a while, but for C, who was freezing and
doesn’t like sand anyway, or water come to think of it. The journey to
Pemberton covered immense areas of forest, sections of which housed many dead
trees, a bunch together look quite stunning. Some of the settlements we pass
through are quite self- contained as they are miles from the next village/town.
Easy to see how you can lose touch with reality. Our unit in Pemberton is a bit
more upmarket than Albany. We have towels provided and soap. Went to see the
Gloucester Tree, 200 feet high, used as a look out many years ago. It still is
today and many more trees surround it. Pemberton has a timber industry that
dates back years. Today members of the public can climb the tree to the watch
tower at the top, where a little man waits for you. Wooden slats and metal
rungs provide a spiral ladder up the tree side. If it were not for the metal
rungs I would have gone up, possible to the top. The wooden slats were solid,
but the metal was rounded and you could easily slip, with no safety net, I
would not risk it, did the first ten for the camera’s sake. Ron climbed to the
top six years ago, the view must be fantastic. Judging by the visitors’ book,
only macho idiots have made the ascent. Bar meal again tonight, nowhere to go
for an evening stroll so back to the shack. Have to admit, the Gloucester Tree
is a challenge but I thought it would look more spectacular. A lot of the trees
are very tall, but spindly. I thought I might see some humongously thick ones.
Have to wait until Canada for that.

10 February – We found paradise today. Followed the coast
back up the west to Bussleton, much warmer day, via, Nannup, Augusta, Cape
Leeuwin and Margaret River. Never seem to stay long in these places. I could
quite easily have stayed in some of the places all afternoon, sitting in the
sun and watching the waves roll in. If I
hadn’t known different I would have said we were driving through English
countryside. Walked up to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. At this point the Southern and Indian Oceans
meet, how cold one side seems to the other. Some high rollers coming in today.
This is timber trade country, small towns who survive on trade and tourism. You
need hotels in these little places because it is such a long drive to reach
anywhere. We drove for miles without seeing another vehicle. New highways being
constructed everywhere, seems that roads and small towns have really expanded
over the last 24 years. Real estate is big business. The Jewel Cave – Ron and I
went on a tour of the cave, I am glad that we did. I have never seen such
wonderful stalactites and stalagmites before, doubt I shall again. Some of the
formations resembled clumps of trees, in certain light you can see a whole
forest. A lot of formations were 1000’s of years old and no one was allowed to
touch anything, so as not to disturb any progress the tites and mites might be
at. The cave has a natural skylight, which is covered with a door now, so that
dust etc from outside does not spoil inside. Even people breathing and
particles from the clothes we wear can affect the colour, formation etc, of the
calcite columns. A very worthwhile tour that I shall never forget with stalactites, mites, straws, corals,
cauliflower formations, calcite flow rocks. Margaret River for lunch, a very
tranquil spot in the sun. Saw the Blackwood River, which is big news at the
moment. An Algae bloom is forming and polluting the river. An awful lot of wine
is produced around the Margaret River area. At the mouth of the river, at
Margaret River, is a fantastic bay, a spot where championship surfing is done.
I doubt the wind ever stops blowing here, the surf is an amazing sight. Today
the water was full of windsurfers, very skilled ones. I could have watched them
for hours, it was quite fascinating. Nothing else but sand and sea, no tea
rooms, souvenirs, nothing. The Ozzies don’t seem to need any accessories to
enjoy themselves. And so the Bussleton, quite a big town, and very seasidey.
Walked along to the 700m pier, part of which was blown away a few years ago by
a cyclone, now rebuilt with conrete and reinforced all along. A section right at
the end is still to be treated, it looked very wonky, makes a nice stroll on a
summer day. Very breezy today, wouldn’t
trust it on a gale force day, it is not very wide and only has a safety rail on
one side. Dirty stop outs that we are, stayed
out until eight o’clock, nice dinner though. If it is warm first thing
tomorrow, I might take a dip in the motel pool. By the way it is the ‘Paradise
Motel’.

11 February – Back on the trail home today and never gladder,
it has been so hot, and in a car, just couldn’t handle it. Came via Bunbury,
Harvey and Mandurah. No time for a dip anywhere except Singleton, too tired and
drawn by then. Too late to see the dolphins in the bay at Bunbury, they come in
at certain times each day, those who are fortunate enough to see them, feed
them. The Greenpeace people are up in arms about it as they say that the
dolphins will get too used to it and could damage their survival in the
ocean. A complex is being built, so soon
the place will simply become a money making venture, as per usual. Next stop
was a large construction area at Dawesville.
A massive estuary is being dug through from the sea to the Harvey
Estuary. There has been a massive growth of Algae in the existing estuary and
it is felt that a rush from the sea may clear the area and solve the problem.
However, there is one problem that I can see. The surrounding area is being
developed into housing, hotel, golf course, quite a complex. Don’t they realise
that by clearing one sort of pollution another strain is being created……by
human greed.

Australia is a relatively undeveloped country (well W.A. at
least) and there has been a sudden rush to build everywhere. Soon
overpopulation will come. And it isn’t just Australia, it is all over the
world. Anywhere that we head for on vacation suddenly booms and the whole
culture of a country is swamped. Not that white Australians have any real
culture of their own, it is all imported and thus the same as any other western
developed country. The Aborigines have culture, but the white man has made sure
that he has taken the best parts for himself and left the natives to struggle.
Celia said to me, after I tried to defend the Aborigines, by saying, that this
was originally their land that has been taken from them, –

“but before them the land belonged to the
animals.” I found that comment very sad, not a very strong argument at
all. There is plenty of land here, but
the only real habitable areas are around the edges and before long there will
be no natural vegetation left, because of the people who wave 1000’s of dollars
in the air and say, “I want this so I’m going to have it”, regardless.
The Aborigines have more respect for the land than any race I know. They build
their lives around nature and understand it, unlike today’s white man who
simply expect nature to live around them.
The Aborigines are expected to abide by government rules and fit into
the community, but how can they when the racists don’t want them and why should
they when they know what is best. I was told that I would return home a
different person and already my attitude has changed over a lot of things.

Visited a National Trust house in Wannerup, 150 years old.
The Layman family lived here. A lovely house built of wood with a veranda all
around. Made to last and not in a perfect way, the erraticness of the veranda
was quite charming. Two buildings in all, one for general
living/eating/sleeping and one for domestic purposes, cooking/laundry etc.
Blacksmith, stables, barn. A self contained family life. Implements that were
used as recently as 1940/50, just around the corner. Furnishings were
beautifully made and made to last. Oh, to live again! how cruel time can be,
and how sad for our children. The lady who works there was very interesting and
a clever historian. I had a chuckle at one point. On one of the walls in the
house was a picture of Salisbury Cathedral.

I am a day behind with writing this so may miss a few
details. Went to Sizzlers for evening meal, it’s an American import. We spent too long travelling and I just wanted
to flake out.

12 February – Hot, hot day, went to Toodjay to see some
people. My patience with these ex pat, WA’s has hit boiling point today. I want
to move on and meet some real Ozzies. I am never impressed with people who try to
impress, whilst at the same time try to degrade all that it is I am. I never
came away to see how well ex pats have managed, I came to see the sights, to
see some culture and in WA, unless you travel northwards, you will not get it.
The majority of immigrants were given W.A. to live in, it the forgotten state.
I wonder why! They get around it by saying that it is the best kept secret in
the world, well I don’t want to share your secret and I certainly will not
spread it. What a difference my opinion has taken on since the start of my
trip. Judy and Allan have bought a small holding and it is quite a project to
take on, however, Allan does not know the land, his veggies, fruit trees etc
never came to be. They have moved around
a lot and have now possibly settled for good. Tried to spot some kangaroos in
the hills, there were two or three, but could only see through binoculars.
Still, my first sighting of live ones.

Desperately wanted to catch up with my writing last night,
but Celia interrupted and it was eleven o’clock before we knew it.

Current
day thoughts

If
I never mentioned it before, Adrian is Ron and Celia’s son and Shae is his
daughter, she was 2 at the time.

I
guess we are all hypocrites to a certain point. Life evolves and becomes about the survival
of the fittest, it always has been that way.
Plant life evolved to animals, animals to humans and everything on this
earth was given so as to adapt and survive.
We all live in homes that were once fields or woodland. We are all concerned about the future of
wildlife but to what cost to humankind, we have to survive too, but the more we
are given the more we take without any thought as to how it came to be. When I visit a country for the first time I
always have a romantic picture of that country in my head of how I want it to
be, derived from movies or historical cultural reference, but when I get there
I find a mismatch of culture that doesn’t quite hit the mark, and the reason is
partly because of the likes of me visiting the country in the first place. Every country tries to accommodate the
tourists and once they do that the whole beauty of the place is destroyed. Old cultural practices are found either in
museums, or specially laid on shows because the natives don’t really live that
way anymore, they live in the society that has evolved around them in order to
survive. Greed is everywhere. Greed is creating a world that one day may
destroy us.

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Week 4

13 February – Sunday – day of rest. I have calmed down a bit now. Was up at 9am
but didn’t show my face until 12 noon. Finished off yesterday’s diary in peace
and quiet. Managed to pack most of my stuff into the rucksack, think I have it
well balanced out. Just want to be left alone today. Had breakfast for lunch.
It is cooler today, but I feel restless. Walked into Armadale this afternoon,
thought I would never reach it. I wanted to check out opening times for banks
in case I couldn’t get any change for tomorrow. Bought an Ice cream and drink
and settled in the park. Hardly anyone around except this weird looking guy
with a bull terrier. He parked himself quite near to me so I walked back home.
Adrian and Shae were there so that was the end of my quiet day. They stayed for
tea an soon went, Shae was getting moody. I will probably never see her again.

An evening of sitting in front of the TV, which, of course,
the Ozzies never do, but which everyone seems to be doing tonight. Ask anyone
outside of this continent to name an entertainer, or even better, a handful of
Ozzie entertainers and I bet only a couple will come out. Why, because the
Ozzies want to keep what they have and not share with the rest of the world. They
are getting a bit paranoid about losing anything of their own, they could
freeze themselves out. Somebody wrote in to a TV station and said, ‘I came out
to Australia 30 yrs ago and returned to Britain in 1980 and was shocked to know
that it was not the same England’ that she once knew. ‘If Australia was not
careful it could be heading the same way by letting foreigners in.’ Was she not
a foreigner herself? Where do these people come from. Enough whinging, I want
to enjoy my last day.

14 February – A day for getting sorted. I knew R & C
would not want any money for my stay, swines, will have to buy something extra
to put with the frame. Went into Perth
to sort some things out. Booked into the hostel in Adelaide, paid on credit
card. Wandered and wandered around the arcades, I find them all a bit too much
and I couldn’t find what I wanted. Did have a rest for lunch. Finally found
what I wanted in a shop that I had passed a thousand times and didn’t think to
go in. Glad that it wasn’t too hot. Felt bad about not going around to see
Celia’s mum and dad, I did want to but the time just went. She did phone me
tonight though, what a nice lady, she can’t see any wrong in anyone. Not
feeling sad about moving on, not sure how I really feel, a touch excited,
nervous, who knows. I feel more confident after going into town on my own. Try to blend in that’s the trick, you will
not get noticed. Popped over to Muriel and Colin’s to say goodbye. Had a trial
run with the rucksack, hanging a bit on the bum but guess I’ll get used to it.
I will have to do some more exercises to keep my strength up. The presents can
wait until tomorrow. To bed early tonight.

15 February – On the road for real now, can’t believe it. I
didn’t sleep too well, maybe a little anxious. Up at 04:45hrs, stocked up with
a good breakfast. Nearly cried at the thought of having to say goodbye again,
feels like leaving family. After a little confusion and a less traumatic
farewell than I imagined, the coach was away.

Travelled the early part of the morning through Northam to
Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. The small settlements seem like ghost towns, but
always with a hotel to rest the weary traveller before Nullabor. We put down
ourselves to water, much of the journey takes us through scrub land until we
reach Kalgoorlie, for miles it seems. A film kills a couple of hours. My
companion on this journey is a pleasant lady from Holland. She decided in her
retirement to make the most of her time left, and travel. She always travels
alone. I guess her husband has passed on or something. She has children back
home. It seems that her travels have taken her far – Thailand, Malaysia,
Indonesia, Venezuela, Australia, (her brother lives here), and Europe. Two or
so months at a time. It goes to show that you are never too young to travel.
Many friends can be met on the way and it would appear that the female will no
longer be trodden on. However, one can still never be too careful. I notice
that the youth hostels check to see if you are travelling alone and at what
time you intend to reach the hostel. With so many on the same journey it makes
you feel reassured. Kalgoorlie, a much larger town….(stop press – I have just
seen my first live kangaroo hopping over the road)…..than I imagined. Twinned
with a once fending town, it is now called Kalgoorlie Boulder. Together with
Coolgardie, the region is known as the Eastern Goldfields of W.A. There is
still a lot of gold lost in them thar hills (or flats) of Australia. Mining is
still the employer of this town. Many fabulous buildings built around the turn
of the century. First pioneered in the 1890’s, the town thrives and many mining
attractions would make this a worthwhile stopover. Alas, we only dropped a few
off and we were on our way.

I almost forgot to mention just out of Perth we made an
unscheduled stop, at the police’ request. An undesirable character was
frog-marched off the bus, donned in his disguise and whisked away. Seems he
decided to take a break instead of attending his own court appearance.

If this is the start of the Nullabor, then I can’t
understand why people say that there is nothing to see. The erratic wooded area
is one of the most beautiful I have seen. Small Red Gums with floret tops and
shrubs and bushes of all proportions mingle together in a festival of greens.
The slightest of blue grey hints every so often. This long and winding road is
the only vulgar thing passing through. Aside from the Aboriginals this is one
of the only natural things left in Oz. A film is put on to distract. Next is
Norseman, at 16:30hrs, had a most disgusting meal that I am sure I shall
regret. Also on our coach are a few would be hippies who literally love to feel
the earth beneath their feet. Judging from their attire I guess they are the
sort who are out to experience a non-claustrophobic environment, one where
freedom can conquer the system for just a little while. I may have a back pack
but I realise that I am not a true backpacker of today’s standards. Maybe it is
my age catching me out, I like comfort, not slumming and sitting on the ground.
Nightfall came quickly, it is only 20:20hrs now and seems like midnight. We are
embarking on the longest stretch of road in Australia, 90 miles of Nullabor. I
can barely see the surrounding area but make out that it is roughly still the
same. Next stop is probably breakfast at Ceduna.

16 February – I lied, we did stop briefly for drinks before
bed. Not sure if I slept last night or not, couldn’t get comfy and there was
hardly any room. I think we must have travelled across the barren areas during
the night although not as sparse as I thought it would be. Breakfast in Ceduna.
Had some foul muesli. There are hardly any residents in these villages or
whatever they are called. Sat with a couple of girls at brekkie, one an Oz and
the other English. The Oz was working in Perth but got homesick and is going
home to Melbourne. She is known as the ‘Bad Bird’, she complains about
everything. Hates people who spend their lives whinging, she could probably
look after herself though. The girl from England lives in Sussex (west) and has
been travelling around Oz on her own. She has to go back home for a wedding,
otherwise she was going on to New Zealand. She sussed me out because of my
espadrilles, which are very scarce over here and expensive. I think the older
people are much more interesting to talk to, they have a lot to contribute. The
younger travellers, who are nice to meet, seem to walk around with heads down,
there is little eye contact and conversations are a bit samey. Where you from?
Where you been/going to? What do you think of? There are a lot of lonely people
wandering around the place with a purpose of their own. I am glad I stayed in
someone’s home, I got more of political incite of how Australia is becoming. If
I stayed on my own I would have looked at the sights, and be none the wiser,
just awe struck. 10 hours to Adelaide. I haven’t used the coach loo today, it
is dangerous place. You need strapping down for safety. If I were to do this
journey again I would stop off overnight, despite the cost, I hate not sleeping
at night. The public loos along the way provide good facilities to freshen up
after a long stretch, makes you feel better and ready to face another long
drive. Still scrub land, not so much now, a little more sparse but not how it
was described to me. I see the odd farmstead here and there, the land must be
useable, but so isolated. I am still very tired so not taking much in. Following
the long, long road to Port Augusta for a 20 min break, had lunch 2 hrs before
at Southern Cross. Areas of mining at various points. Thought we might stay a
while at Port Augusta, quite disappointed. And so the final leg to Adelaide, we
are all feeling a little irritable and some have to travel further. Braved the
loo, even worse today, splash city. Got to Adelaide 8pm, a little early, it
seems older in character than Perth and
bigger. The City of Churches.

I put my sweatshirt on, but it was warmer than I thought. A
guy pointed me in the right direction to the hostel and I started the 1/2 mile
trudge. Checked in ok although did not take much in. The room was full. One
quite sweet Japanese student who has been studying English in Brisbane for 15
weeks, she checks out tomorrow. An English lady below me who I do not know much
about, 2 Germans I think, they check out tomorrow, and 3 others who I know
nothing about. Feeling a bit disorientated so maybe sort myself out tomorrow
and get some kip.

17 February – Bed was amazingly comfortable, well anything
would be compared to the coach. The showers etc are quite clean, not bad for a
2 star hostel. A new recruit has just walked in, she sounds a bit butch. The
sleeping sheets they give are a bit hit and miss, like mummified shrouds.

Got myself together by 09:30 hrs (ish) and decided to get
breakfast on the way in to town. Had toast and a banana for only 70/80p, not
bad. Why do they always put hostels so far out of town. Eventually found my way
to the tourist bureau after stopping off at the post office and post card shop.
Glad all of these things run down the central street. Spent a while sifting
through the various tours on offer and whittled it down to a few possibles, so
came away with a fistful of leaflets and unfortunately had to come back to the
hostel. Must remember to take everything I need out with me during the day. It
does take it out of you having to walk so far, it wastes time too. I did notice
today how much my left hip hurts when I walk. In fact I ache all over
tonight. Was tempted to look around the
shops, but determined to get my bearings and my itinerary sorted first. Once I
have done that I can see about enjoying myself. I have been to so many places
and wasted time looking around shops I am determined to devote a short time to
look. Having said that the shopping malls are quite something here, you need at
least a day to get around them.

Decided on the excursion I want to go on after a lot of
humming and haaing. I know I am on budget but feel that I can treat myself. It
is never a good idea to continually keep a tally of all that you spend. A
mental note each day will suffice. You end up saving here and there anyway so
there is always a little left over.

Off to find lunch. Wanted something substantial as I do not
intend eating again today. There are a lot of reasonable places to eat if you
look, most can be found just off of the city centre. Stopped at Freddie’s Bar
in Pultney Street, they had some Chinese specials for $4.00. Only one choice
left though, Chicken Curry. Oh what the hell, it’s cheap and you always get
plenty with Chinese.

Donned some leggings for the rest of the day, so it turned
warm again. Have to find the bus station to book my trip, the day is going by
so quick. Because I have my bus pass I got the trip at a discount, not bad eh!
Now do I have time to walk to the Cathedral. I am in no hurry so what the hell.
I could have planned my days so much better. Glad I went, despite my lack of
religion, it was worth it just for the statue of Mary in the Lady Chapel. Wandered
back through Elder Park via the Adelaide Oval. Never seen an international
cricket ground before, an all-seater stadium . The outfield looks small. Think
the tennis courts are along the top of the park, this must be the sporting
area, lots of activity on the water. Walked through the festival building
grounds, a very modern style building, with colourful sculptures surrounding
it. This looks like the business area of town. Came back to the hostel via the
Rundle Mall, this is a pedestrian shopping area, sorry had to have a peek. I
will tackle the shops tomorrow. Carried on past the mall down the rest of
Rundle Street, lots more shops and eating places. Quite a buzz going on in this part of town, a lot of young
people staying here. Nearly walked off the map in my excitement, lucky the
streets are on a grid pattern, soon found myself back on track.

Spent part of the evening writing cards and letters, got
tired early so went to bed 21:15hrs.

18 February – Slept really
well again. Still tired this morning, planning on a more easy going day.

Got the mail off. Hit the shopping centre to get it over
with, the Myer Centre was by far the best.
Seven levels in all. Because of the festival starting soon, there are a
lot of street performers and a show was put on in the Myer Centre, not for long
though. All of the security, you’d have thought someone special was
coming. Made my way to the top level and glad I did, this was the fun level.
Watched as a train rode the roller coaster and before you knew it I was on the
thing. You could see everyone shopping in the mall, this was my excitement for
the day. The food level was amazing as they always are. There is no going
hungry, whatever your nationality.
Promised myself I would be done looking by 14:00hrs, so found lunch. I
always look to see what servings are dished up before buying, I know when I am
getting a bargain. Made the mistake of
doing some grocery shopping, have to carry it for rest of day.

Found the Botanical Gardens, they would not look after my
bags whilst I wandered. It was hot today. I am not one for noting what plants
are, but the pleasure of just seeing them will do me. Palms, giant water
lilies, orchids, rare exotics, you name it, it was there. My leg was playing up
a bit today but I had a most pleasurable afternoon. Could have rested a bit more, but just kept
going, I don’t know why. Missed out on
the Bicentennial Conservatory , I think I may be being a bit tight with my
money. I might treat myself again with an excursion, perhaps the beach.

One of the women is here for the festival. She said a lot of
people were going to see the parade of arty farty’s tonight, but think I will
give it a miss. Some of the girls looked
really tarted up, I don’t know what they are here for, but could do with some
packing advice. Just about to get started on this and this guy sat down with
his tea. He was interesting, likes to travel and often cycles around places.
Comes from London and is away for a few months like me, covering Oz, New
Zealand, Hawaii, Canada, and has already done Thailand and Hong Kong, but not
for any great length of time. He shares a lot of my views of Australia. We
talked for ages about all sorts of things, he liked my poetry very much. Got
out whilst the going was good so I could write my diary. A few chores to do
tomorrow before going out, I am looking forward to it. Almost forgot, I did my
good deed for the day, gave the sweatshirt to charity.

19 February – Started the day off well, did a
couple of chores after breakfast. My duty to hoover the stairs, quite an easy
one. Got the washing in. Will book for Alice today. Mooched around most of the morning forward
planning and checking time tables out. Thought I had better eat a snack before
going out.

Took my picnic to the south parklands, this is more of a
local sports area, quite pleasant though. Saw movement in the bushes so walked
back. I hate waiting around for things. I notice that the Melbourne hostel offers
a courtesy bus to pick you up. Backpacking doesn’t have to be so bad, the
hostels do like to take care of you. I would recommend anyone to join, you are
assured that it is a legit organisation. The bus was late, plenty of space,
only a 20 seater. I was the first on and hoped I would not be the only one.
Eight more got on at various points, a
mixed bunch to say the least, Barbara Cartland down to muck and brass. Got an
informative tour through town, so many areas I shall miss. Drove along part of
the Grand Prix circuit, passed the race course. Takes 3 months to set the G.
Prix up, one month to dismantle. The Adelaide Hills provide a most scenic
route. First stop, Mount Lofty, the highest point. Spectacular views across
Adelaide city. The whole city is massive, with suburbs sprawling each way as
far as the eye can see. There are walks to take through the hills at this point
if you have the time, sadly ours was a short stop. Next to Cleland Wildlife
Park in the conservation area. The guide lied, it said 2 1/2 hrs but we only
had 2 hrs. Saw my first Tasmanian Devil, cute little thing would not keep still
for a photo. Wasted time at the Dingo’s. Now for my treat, the Koalas, they have
a lot here to share around, just had to have my photo taken with one. As one
gets tired of the camera another replaces it. My pleasure was Keegan, a 3 year
old girl koala, I could cuddle her forever, such soft contented animals. Could
be something to do with the eucalyptus leaves being fed. It is a shame that the
camera lights left a shadow, would have been nicer to have some scenery behind
us. This photo is definitely a good
memory. Would really like to see some in the real wild. The animals are fenced
in here but have acres of natural ground to live in. It was wonderful to be able
to walk amongst the geese and other wild fowl, kangaroos, wallabies, emus etc
and feed them from the hand. Rod Hull does justice to his emu, a lovely bird,
but a greedy one, glad to still have a hand. Dear kangaroos, you need glasses,
they cannot focus that well, so the food you feed them has to be right under
their noses. How gently the animals and birds (except emus), eat from your
hand. One kangaroo did not like the choice in my hand, so decided to take a
look in the bag, sorry mate it’s all the same. He turned his nose up a hopped
away. Sadly ran out of time and made it back to the coach with seconds to
spare. Came back through more scenic routes, via Piccadilly Valley and the
orchard areas, some breath-taking views.
Got dropped off outside my hostel, nice man.

Ate out tonight, a rare treat, again Pultney Street, Italian
Linguine Marinara, not bad, very filling with complementary bread – only $3.00.
Would like to walk along the coast tomorrow, I will see how it goes.

Quite boring tonight, no one to talk to, put my contribution
in the visitors’ book, wish I could read Japanese. Some people never look
further than the city centre and night life, they never see any simplistic
beauty in anything. Settled down to
crosswords and Daniel came along, so didn’t get to bed until after 23:00hrs.

Current day thoughts

I now understand the self-centred, self-sufficient nature of
Australia. Apart from Australia growing
as a country and the fact they have the climate and space to produce so much
more for themselves than smaller countries such as the UK, if you rely less on
other countries you prosper and sustain a standard of living.

It may have seemed a crazy idea to travel across Australia
via coach, and it truly was a bean can of a coach, but I feel I saw so much
more than if I had whizzed across on a train and would certainly have missed it
all on a plane. I would still recommend
travelling alone as it encourages you to talk to other people, and you get to
make your own decisions about things. True
freedom. I inspired at least one person to travel alone
to Australia, a colleague who I worked with in a GP surgery in Cornwall, she
said she would never have done anything like that, but hearing my tales gave
her the courage to go. She visited the
Gloucester Tree in Pemberton that I talked about previously,
and she climbed to the top too. If you
can make a positive change to at least one person’s life then it makes life
worthwhile.

****************************************************************

Week 5

20 February – A still, warm day, the city seems quiet.
Decided to go to the beach, have no idea what sort of place I am going to, pot
luck I guess. Adelaide has a slightly different ticket system to Perth.
Getting the ticket from the machine is
the same, but as you get on the train the ticket has to go through a machine to
validate it. Didn’t realise it until half way through the journey, luckily the
inspector didn’t get on. Ended up at the end of the line in a place called
Grange, a quiet seaside town, very select in parts. Found the beach and walked
for a while hoping for the loos, there never are any loos by the beaches, so
downed tools put the cossie on and had a swim in the sea, so clear and calm.
Lots more people on the beaches in this part of Oz, but the beach goes on for
miles so all quite spread out. Laid in
the sun for half an hour, put the lotion on a best as I could. Set off for
another walk along the beach to see if I could reach the harbour. After an hour
I got a bit hot and bothered and it was still nowhere in sight. Had to pop back
in water during that hour for another pee, still no loos. Found some when it was too late. Sat for a
while to take in the view, lots of boats out today, not a cloud in the sky.
Went back to the loos to change, I was almost dry, no doors on the loos or
paper. Took a chance, good job too, I am getting worried about my urination
habits. Must have walked miles, took ages to get back to the train stop. Had no
idea what time it would come along, luckily only 10 minutes to wait. Back in
the city, seems it doesn’t sleep on Sundays, shops open all day, maybe because
of the festival, lots of street shows on. Had the chefs special for lunch,
followed by a hot fudge sundae, Mmmmmmmm!
Found out back at the hostel that I burned in places on my back, will
hold back on the sunning for a while. Quiet evening writing and listening to
music. The regular gang have gone. Got myself ready for tomorrow.

21 February – This has been a long day, had to
give my bed up first thing, so have just been playing for time. Managed to do
all of the important bits in good time, the exchange rate is up slightly, but
still poor. Got the souvenirs thank god. There are a lack of good souvenir
shops in Adelaide.

Walked around the S.A. Museum this afternoon and also the
Art Gallery. The good thing about Australia is the fact that most things are
free, and I could drop my bags at the reception to save lugging them around.
One or two good modern paintings in the gallery, rest were quite boring,
although some very well done. A lot of British/Ozzie artists around. The museum
was not what I expected, more worldwide things, animals, culture and stuff. One
of the better parts was a working bee hive they have set up inside. The bees
have an exit to outside, they looked very busy today, my sun burn is playing
up.

Spent the last part of the afternoon in the Youth Hostel, my
things are safe in storage. Chatted with a couple of women, seems the Grimsby
lass is concerned about going home to no job. She was made redundant a while
ago. I think like me she has come away to muse over her future, as well as
having a good time. The last thing on my mind is what will happen when I get
home. I feel free and more confident about life now. Turns out that she leaves
today, may be on the same coach, one of the guys to. Can’t even imagine how hot
it will be at Alice.

The coach is late leaving. More comfy than the last one,
just. Tried to sleep to Port Augusta as had done the journey before.

22 February – It was a beautiful star lit night, makes me
think of the Aboriginals ‘Dream Time’. I learned a bit more yesterday, how
rocks and river and stars etc became their myths and legends. It is 06:00hrs
now and we are dropping people off at Coober Peedy, looks like I have a seat to
myself now. Glad for the seat to myself now.

Didn’t plan my trip stay in Alice Springs that well, because
it was an overnight trip (17 hours), I would get there on the Tuesday and leave
on the Wednesday, so arranged an extra night in Alice Springs, thus leaving on
the Thursday. However, I decided on the
way up that I just had to go and see Ayres Rock as I was so close (just 6 hours
from Alice). I could not find a tour
that would fit in with my times up there, so left it in the hands of my bus
operators. I had one day left to use on
my Aussie Pass, so after one afternoon/evening in Alice (not that good a
place), I left Alice the following morning for Ayres Rock.

23 February – The afternoon we went to see the Olgas, a
mountain range nearby and in the evening stood and watched the sun go down on
Ayres Rock, however a cloud got in the way so it was not very good. I was just amazed that I was standing there looking
at the rock, it is quite spectacular, more impressive from a distance.

24 February – Spent the night at the Ayres Rock resort and
got up for 7am the next day to climb the rock.
I got so far and lost my bottle, my shoes did not have enough grip and
the surface is quite smooth, so sat with many others to wait for those heroes
to come back down. Takes approximately 1
hour up, 1 hour down. So many have died
from accidents. The climb was followed
by a tour around the base of the rock.
At 2pm the same day I caught my bus back to Adelaide. I am so glad that I saw Ayres Rock, never
forget it as long as I live.

25 February – Did some washing today, so hope it dries in
time for my trip to Melbourne tomorrow (7.30am). Quite enjoying travelling around, you meet
people in one place and catch them up again in another. By the way, I did not have to pay any extra
for the Ayres Rock tour, only overnight accommodation. I have some leaflets and things that I may
send home to save space. The weather up
north was unbearable, it was pointless showering because the sweat would not go
away. Much cooler here today, only 24
centigrade, bliss. Will not bother going
anywhere, I will stay at the hostel and rearrange my rucksack for
tomorrow. Australia is not a bad place,
feel quite at ease here and everyone is very protective of tourists. Am looking forward to Canada more I think. I do not get much time to really relax from
dashing around seeing it all. By the
time I have written up my diary it is bedtime.
Having a good time but do get lonely sometimes and doing a lot of
thinking. Feels like time is flying by
but it is only five weeks.

26
February – Trip to Melbourne approximately 12 hours, so would have arrived in
Melbourne around 7.00pm. Because of time
difference, Melbourne is 30 minutes ahead of Adelaide. Don’t remember a lot about the journey but
was much hillier than other journeys.

Guess
I reached the YHA on Finders Street ok and looked forward to a good night’s sleep.

Current
day thoughts

The
same ticket system on public transport is adopted worldwide now. Coming from the wilds of Wiltshire I can’t
say we were that advanced, but who knows what went on then in the big cities of
the UK. Was Australia ahead ahead of
time. I used the phrase Oz or Ozzie a
lot, suppose it should be Aussie, either way, I don’t really like the term any
more. I think my bladder habits have
improved quite a lot, although the menopausal years have been a challenge. I remember developing a system on the beaches
for when toilets were not available. I
would don a large t-shirt, did a hole in the sand, kneel over it with my
t-shirt covering everything, go and then fill the hole in. Will never learn when it comes to the sun,
but have learnt that a tan is not an essential part of life. I was blown away by the art that I found in
Australia. My trip cured me of buying
souvenirs for other people forever more.
Back then the hostels were really good for storing luggage if you were
going on a trip for a couple of nights.
I’m not sure of the facilities now especially when it comes to security.

Sadly
I lost some of my diaries, covering the period from 22 February to 4 June. I posted a lot of leaflets with the diaries
back to the UK when I was in USA, just to save carrying them around. The envelope I posted them in made it back to
the UK minus the information I had put inside, replaced by some correspondence
addressed to a person in Wales, which I assume the arsehole who destroyed my
material wanted me to pass on. I won’t
go into the details of what the letter contained but it was not nice and I
destroyed it. So, the above entry, from 22 February to 25, as
will be the next few entries, is taken from letters/postcards that I wrote to people whilst I was away.

The
main attraction for Alice Springs is the springs themselves. I walked out to the site around 5pm, as it is
less hot then, by myself, which in hindsight was a really stupid thing to do as
unfortunately a lot of the Aborigines there get very drunk and who knows who is
watching you. I took an off-beat track
out in the wilds. Thankfully I arrived
safely but there was nobody else around.
The springs were very tranquil and beautiful and I was glad to have
gone. I read all the information
available and made my way back before dark.
I signed the book to say I was going, so someone would have known if I
hadn’t come back as you have to sign back in on return.

Backpacking
is fun but you still have chores to do – washing, grocery shopping – it’s not
all play. I still remember washing some
clothes out at Ayres Rock. The soil at
Ayres Rock is red, all red, and the clothes I washed were full of red
dust. They didn’t take long to dry but
as soon as you put them on again the red dust returned – a losing battle. It was very cold at night though. As I
mentioned I didn’t go well prepared, mainly because I didn’t know what to
expect or that I would be going to Ayres Rock.
I didn’t have a sleeping bag and managed to not end up with a sleeping
sack like everyone else, so covered myself with whatever clothing, towels I had
with me whilst in my bunk. It may have
been a massive temperature drop or the air-conditioning that was on but either
way I was freezing all night. I still
loved the experience.

*************************************************************************************

Week 6

27
February – 5 March

Was getting fed up with cities by the time I
got to Melbourne.

Did not like Melbourne much – too crowded and
I had to scrape the smog from my face at the end of each day.

I went to Philip Island on one of the days to
see the Fairy Penguins parade in the evening.
The penguins are only a foot tall and hundreds of them come out of the
sea at night and waddle up across the beach to their burrows.

4 March – Left Melbourne – 12 hours overnight trip.

5 March – Arrived in Sydney. Unfortunately due to a little confusion David
and I missed each other at the coach station, but we eventually met up at the
house. Crows Nest is a nice area to live
and their house is very nice too. They
are renovating right through and hope to finish next year.

Current
day thoughts

I don’t remember disliking Melbourne that
much, I did quite a lot whilst there and had a good time. The city has a tram system which I used on
occasion to get to places. I visited
Philip Island as I mentioned in a letter home above. As well as seeing the penguins, which we had
to wait until dark to see, I saw koalas in the wild just chilling in the trees,
zonked out from all the eucalyptus leaves.
Back on mainland I took a boat along the Yarra River in Melbourne to get
a different perspective of the city and to learn a bit more about it. I always find it peaceful out on the
water. I went on a trip out to the
suburbs to the Dandenong Ranges, driving past the street where Neighbours is
filmed and stopping for a spot of afternoon tea with eucalyptus tea, which the
guide brewed himself, and vegemite on crackers.
I visited the botanical gardens to immerse myself amongst more
nature. Melbourne really wasn’t that
bad. I remember it did rain very hard on
one day, which gave me an excuse to try out my wet weather gear. Think I may have been the only person outside
but my cagoule and waterproof trousers, together with my hiking boots, kept me
dry.

David is married to Bridget, who is Celia and
Ron’s daughter. They moved to Sydney
from Western Australia to pursue their careers.
I don’t remember specifically asking to be picked up from the coach
station, just casually mentioned the time I would arrive, so didn’t expect
there to be someone to be waiting. I
waited for a while and then decided to get a taxi out to their house and then
had to wait on the doorstep until David returned. He did go out the coach station but arrived
too late to see me. Of course we had no
mobile phones then to keep in contact. I
feel a bit bad that he made a wasted journey but he’s a laid back guy and was ok about it.

*****************************************************************************

Week 7

6 to 12 March

7 March – Had a tour of the opera house.

10 March – Went to see an opera, ‘The Pearl Fishers’, was
brilliant so will be making more of an effort to go from now on, it is more
accessible to the common man nowadays.

11 March – Got in contact with a friend I used to work with
as Friends Provident, he works for the same company here and has lived in
Australia for about four years now. We
had lunch to catch up on the gossip.

12 March – Sydney does not seem so crowded, may be because
it is so big. The harbour areas are
really beautiful, especially on a sunny day, I could spend all day just sitting
and watching the boats to by. Weather is
mixed but not stopping me from going anywhere.

Off to the Blue Mountains today, really nice, lots of
waterfalls and stuff. Stopped off at
Wentworth Falls for lunch, travelled onto Katoomba shortly after.

Will hopefully get to Bondi Beach and Botany Bay later in
the week, the weather is supposed to pick up by Tuesday. The clocks went back last Saturday so winter
is now on its way.

It is a shame Bridget and David are working all of the time,
it would be nice to spend more time with them.
They get home late in the evening so we don’t eat until 8.30 most nights,
the day is gone by then. I’m not missing
home too much, I am so busy rushing around everywhere. I do not get to hear much news of what is
happening in the UK. I am meeting all
sorts of people as I go about, very difficult to actually find an Australian
though. Sometimes you can meet up with
people at hostels that you met somewhere else, everyone has their own routes
worked out.

Current day
thoughts

So not much to go on for this week, but I can remember more
and more as I read back on the letters I sent home. The internet is a brilliant tool for jogging
my memory too, so many things I had forgotten I had done and seen.

I loved the first time I travelled across Sydney Harbour
Bridge and I never stopped enjoying trip back and forth each day, it was just
so stunningly beautiful. I would pick an
area to visit each day and endeavour to spend the whole day in that area, getting
as much as I could out of the visit.

Darling Harbour as a hive of activity, so much going on. I walked around the Chinese Garden of
Friendship, a beautiful, peaceful garden which shuts out so much of the
city. I feel sure I took a cruise of the harbour
and would have taken it from Darling Harbour, though may be not on the same day
that I first visited the area.

The Opera House was quite a source of entertainment
throughout my stay in Sydney. I booked
onto a tour of the Opera House, which was very interesting, it is quite a
building. Often there were free
lunchtime concerts by musicians, outside of the building, which I took
advantage of. A nice way to fill an hour
or two. On one evening I booked to see
an opera. I’m not sure if this is still the case, but back then on the final
night of an opera you can queue up early on the morning of the final night and
get ‘standing tickets’ at a knockdown price.
I got mine for $20, which I thought was pretty good. You have to wait until everyone is seated for
the performance and then once the doors are closed you can either stay standing
at the back or sit yourself in any vacant seats you see. I chose a seat, which was a couple of rows
back from where Michael Parkinson and his wife were sitting. He didn’t recognise me though.

The Blue
Mountains provided an opportunity to get out into the wilds for a day. I took the train out. I
don’t remember Wentworth Falls or Katoomba but I do remember going out to Echo Point where we could see the Three Sisters rock
formation.
It was around this are that walked down to the base of the rain forest,
so not for the faint hearted, of course it meant we had to walk back out again,
but I remember how much darker it was in the rain forest with all of the
vegetation blocking out the light. I
didn’t think about any poisonous creatures that I may come across down there but
I guess they must have been around.

An
exciting week really.

*******************************************************************************

Week 8

13 to 19 March

14 March – Lunched with my friend again

15 March – Went to Bondi Beach today and yes my nose did go red, but it has calmed down now.

17 March – I had a walk around the famous King’s Cross area today being informed that it is an ok place to go during the day, (it is the red light district). Don’t you believe I a word of it, I was propositioned from a doorway of a naughty establishment, must have been the stilettos that did it.

Can’t believe I am nearly leaving Australia. One minute I couldn’t wait and now I think I shall miss it a bit. Sydney is a very lively place.

Money is going pretty well, although I have just been very extravagant. I am treating Bridget and David to a meal tomorrow night. They have expensive tastes so shall probably spend a fortune. Will work out how well I have done tonight.

Weather is mixed here, not so warm now as winter has set in. You can’t compare the weather this side to Western Australia, this is an entire continent so regions do vary a lot.

Current day thoughts

Bondi Beach, the only beach in Australia I had ever heard of, so had to go there. It wasn’t as big as I imagined but the sand was very deep, almost as if some had been shipped in to build it up a bit. There were few people on the beach and not much activity around. Was nice to just sit for a while to say I had been there.

Botany Bay was a very peaceful place, with a simple memorial marking the spot where James Cook first landed, surrounded by parkland away from built up areas. A visitor centre provided historical information.

One thing I can say about Australia, back then at least, is that the historical sites away from the hub of town and city are not dressed up. The landmarks speak for themselves, set in beautiful natural surroundings.

There is something quite pacifying in listening to the lap of water against the shore and looking out to sea.

As I only had two days left in Australia and Bridget and David had been brilliant in putting up with me, a relative stranger, for two weeks I wanted to treat them to a meal out. We went to a Thai restaurant and then to a different place for pudding. I got to see the Sydney skyline at night which was beautiful.

Other places I visited in Sydney included The Rocks area near to the harbour bridge, which was a mix of markets and street entertainment. I think it may have been here that I visited The Museum of Contemporary Art, which featured lots of artwork from students in Sydney, a magnificent array of colour and talent, art that I have never seen before, the botanical gardens, as I love to escape to a garden when I get the opportunity and I also caught a ferry across from Sydney Harbour to Manly, which I don’t remember being too interesting. I had lunch and came back quite quickly.

************************************************************************************

Weeks 9 and 10

20 March to 2 April

20 March – Flew to Canada

Vancouver – 20 to 26 March

Had some lovely weather in Vancouver, the cherry blossoms and daffodils were all out and it was very spring like.

26 March – Went up a mountain, ticket was good value, it included a film show and a horse drawn sleigh ride. It was really pretty amongst the snow, plenty of skiing going on too.

27 – 28 March – I came to Vancouver Island, which is as big as England. I will never think twice about travel in Britain again. I would do Scotland in a day and back again no sweat. Stayed in Nanaimo for a couple of nights, small hostel and a s**!t place. One of the guys there, a South African, took me out to a coffee bar one evening, which was fun and made a nice change from staying in. A lot of people I meet think I am Australian. I didn’t think that much of the country rubbed off on me.

29 March – After Nanaimo I went down to Victoria and stayed one night. Victoria is the capital of British Columbia. I dived into a library and read up on how the Indians accepted the Europeans into the country. It is very interesting finding out how different people look towards the natives nowadays, not a lot different to the Aborigines.

30 March – I got a lift up from Victoria to a place called Chemainus from a guy at the hostel. He does relief work at the hostel. He was taking two other girls to a ferry as well. We had a good tour around with him. Chemainus is a beautiful town. Had a chocolate bunnie bought for me for Easter, but had to eat it cause it was melting. Travelling to Banff on Sunday so will buy a huge egg for myself to pig on. From there I caught a bus to Duncan. I phoned my friend Anne from Victoria and stayed at her home in Duncan. I wish I had stayed there the whole time, the area is really nice. They are having a new house built a few miles away, so we went to clamber over the timbers.

31 March – Today I went with Anne to an Indian heritage centre and had a private guided tour, it was very interesting. Unfortunately had to leave for my ferry and she had to go for a hair appointment, but it was nice to see her and to get a good night’s sleep. The ferry is running late due to the Easter weekend, but moving off now, a 1½ hour trip to the mainland. From the ferry we are passing close to islands that are in the States. Saw an orca swimming in the sea. A lot of Canadians travel to Seattle for a holiday.

I think this time travel is starting to catch up with me. I have been so tired this week, rushing to here and there, going to bed later than normal and getting up early. I have been to a lot of places but have done little in the way of touristy things. The weather has also been hot but I am told the further inland I go it will get colder. Have talked to a lot of actual Canadians lately, even been offered a job later in the year. I think Canada will provide a lot of places to simply rest and refuel myself and just look at the scenery. I am told the hostel in Edmonton is not so nice, full of wino’s or something, so may check in for a night to see if I like it and move to a hotel if not. Some of the hostels on route will be closed or have shut down so alternate means will have to be found. Would have loved to have gone whale watching but it is mainly a seasonal thing and you have to travel along way to get to the main areas.

I lost my combination lock somewhere between Sydney and Vancouver, thought I had just not put it on properly but if you look at the zipper bits on the end it looks like somebody has cut them to remove the padlock. There was nothing in there to take but that is not the point. Failing that all I can think is that the rucksack got handled roughly at the airport – (I did have three planes to board).

Being tired like I am now doesn’t make me wish I was home, but I wish I had someone to cuddle for a while. When you have loads of things see you don’t have time to think about things like that.

It is already 1st April in England, few more hours to go for us. I wonder how may jokes will be played at the hostel. I will occupy my time with hot cross buns, had some at Anne’s last night, really yummy.

May be go to Stanley Park tomorrow. Sunday my bus leaves at 6pm so I will leave the rucksack at the hostel and go to a museum close by. It is cheaper to travel by night, you save a night’s accommodation, but you miss all of the scenery. I will get to Banff at 7.30am on Monday, may have to buy some gloves and a scarf there. Hope there is snow.

1 April – Managed to buy some hot cross buns and get an Easter egg.

2 April – Stanley Park

Current day thoughts

Bridget and David took me to the airport on the 20 March to wave me off to Canada. It saddened me that Bridget really didn’t remember me or her time in the UK. She was only 5 when she left I suppose, whereas I remember her and I distinctly remember the day she left for Australia, 24 December 1969 and exchanging Christmas presents and the kiss goodbye. My best friend gone. Somebody did say to me that whilst my life carried on the same, Bridget’s changed significantly, so many new things for her to explore, so perhaps she wouldn’t remember things in the UK so much. A bit like my travelling in a way, so I understand now.

It was a bit odd going from autumn in Australia (still warm) to the spring in Canada. I crossed the International Date Line, leaving Australia at sometime late afternoon on the 20th and arriving in Canada early in the morning on the same day, so effectively I got to do real time travel and live the same day twice.

I got a taxi to my hostel, which was at Jericho Beach. It was a little ways out of town, the air just felt fresh and mountains provide the backdrop. The hostel was a little older than ones I had been used to in Australia but it was comfortable with all the facilities required.

I covered two weeks this time as I was a little short on information for week 9. Thank goodness we have the internet now to remind me of some of the things I got up to, which included:

Gastown, one of the oldest parts of Vancouver and has a steam clock, which I don’t remember steaming at the time.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge, out in the beautiful wilds, which can only be crossed by people and really only safely with one person at a time as it is narrow and wobbles all over the place if too many people at one time.

There were some native Indian totem poles and other exhibits and trails.

Horseshoe Bay is where I caught the ferry to Vancouver Island, but I did spend a bit of time looking around. It really is a beautiful little town in an amazing setting.

Seeing the orca in the wild was truly a sight to see. I know there is wildlife in the UK but it really isn’t as spectacular as Canadian wildlife. Perhaps we just don’t see enough of it or appreciate it. Grouse Mountain is where I had my sleigh ride, the closest I have gotten to Santa so far, and apart from checking downtown Vancouver out for shopping etc I escaped to Stanley Park with its beautiful gardens and nature trails. Whilst on one of my treks downtown I happened upon Leslie Neilsen doing a photo shoot in a shiny red sports car

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Week 11

3 April to 9 April

3 April to 8 April – I moved on to Lake Louise in the Rockies and was up to my neck in snow, which was great fun.

Stayed there for five days and had a nice rest. I do not ski so apart from gong on walks there was little else to do.

Lake Louise village is very small. The lake itself was covered in ice and snow, so I walked part of the way across, some were cross country skiing.

9 April – Went to Banff for three days after Lake Louise,
the scenery in this part of Canada is so beautiful, nice to have some fresh
mountain air in my lungs. The hostel in Banff if about a mile or so out of town so had to lug my backpack up the steep mountain road. Stopped halfway to catch my breath. The accommodation in this area is really
quite luxurious, even the hostels.

Current day thoughts

Don’t know why I put in a letter home that I would be going to Banff after Vancouver. Maybe I changed my mind or something, but I definitely stopped off a Lake Louise before Banff as it followed the more logical route.

On Easter Sunday a kind person went around all of the beds in our hostel room and placed a small chocolate egg on each pillow. A lovely gesture I thought, but nobody was going to get their hands on my big egg, which I reserved for my onward journey.

What a difference travelling from Vancouver to Lake Louise, I went from beautiful spring back to winter in one day. There was thick snow on the ground. It was still ski season in these parts and most of the people staying in the hostel were there for just that, I was the odd one out. I have never fancied the experience of skiing and still don’t.

My hostel was Swiss chalet style with a warm log fire, quite fancy for a hostel really, set amongst fir trees and the mountains, just like the movies. It was nice every so often just to chill for a while as backpacking involves propelling yourself forwards all the time.

Each evening every guest would congregate in the kitchen to cook and so many people asked me how my day had gone on the slopes. It was a conversation stopper to say I wasn’t skiing and I think some thought it odd for me to be there for anything else. It didn’t stop me talking to
people though. I remember having a conversation with one man who had been to the UK and found it amusing how fast people drive cars in the UK. He said, ‘where have they got to get to in such a hurry’, in reference to there only being very short distances between everywhere when compared to distances in Canada.

I rarely ate out and bought provisions to cook each day, it was cheaper that way. I have a vague recollection of the store in Lake Louise being very small with basic provisions.

The lake is the main attraction but, as I said previously, it was iced over. I was a bit apprehensive to walk on the ice, but did it anyway for the experience. The Chateau Lake Louise was the place to stay if you could afford it, looking very impressive from the outside. I did go and have a nosey inside and used the toilets. I don’t think I looked out of place in my casual clothing as people were wearing all sorts of things; they didn’t kick me out anyway. I became quite good at sneaking into posh hotels to use the toilets.

Five days seems quite a long time to have spent at Lake Louise but I must have filled them, as I did most places I went to.

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Week 12

10 – 16 April

Dedicated to the memory of Margaret Spicer

10 – 11 April – Banff

11 April – Had to get to Lethbridge via Calgary, but did not stay long; it just looked like another city to me. Went past the Calgary army base on the coach, so guess that is where Stephen would have stayed. Alberta, (the south anyway) is ranching land, so very flat and full of wheat fields. A
lot of different religious communities in the area, Mormons, Hederites,
Menonites, all kinds.

Most of the things in Margaret’s house are years old, she has some modern equipment but doesn’t bother much about things. If it still works it is good enough. She is retired from work; she was a nursing aide in a psychiatric unit.

Her sister lives nearby and they now have the house in East Knoyle that their brother lived in before he died. The most interesting piece of machinery is the washing machine, which I have to use to do my clothes, must date back to the 1950s.  It is one of those agitator contraptions with the wringing section over the top. I have a photo to prove it. It does the job but I did find it amusing.

We had a women’s luncheon to go to (very religious ladies). I won a prize; the theme of the evening was travel.

12 April – Went golfing with a couple of ladies, I was the caddy. There was a pot luck supper at the club house, every lady bakes a dish and brings it along. We had tons of food.

13 April – Five pin bowling and a tour of the hospital which was interesting.

14 April – Fairly quiet, although we went over to Margaret’s sister’s for supper. Their maiden name was Chubb, the Mayor of Salisbury is related, he is, or was if not mayor now, a Chubb.

15 April – Shopping day. I did manage to get out in the afternoon for a walk to a local lake.

16 April – We went to a flea market and watched some dressage competitions; Margaret used to be a keen horsewoman.

We sat is a shopping mall and sold raffle tickets for the Diabetic Association; Margaret is a diabetic herself.

We watched a local amateur dramatic play, so have not been a tourist yet, more of a community participant.

Current day thoughts

I would have lumped 2x weeks together again as lacking any material for Banff, but I have quite a lot for Lethbridge so decided to just
stick to the week.

Banff was just beautiful in its mountainous setting. Again, they had a luxurious hotel, the Banff Springs Hotel. I just happened to be desperate
for a wee as I was going by so had to pop in to use the facilities. I may have looked a little out of place here but who cares, clearly the desk staff did not.

I remember specifically two places I visited in Banff, one was the library where I went into archive section to read up on the Native American Indian treaties, and the second was a mouth-watering chocolate shop that I visited a few times to stock up on one of their delicious offerings. From my photographs I can see I visited the Banff hot springs themselves and there was a lot of historical information and displays on the Native Canadian Indian tribes of the area.

Another place I visited was the Bow River Falls. Not spectacular in themselves but on showing my photographs to family when I got home, Stephen produced a photograph that he had taken of the Bow Falls a few years before stood in the exact same spot that I had been standing in when I took mine. Must have been a popular tourist spot for photo opportunity.

Who is Margaret I hear you asking. Margaret was a good friend from childhood to the mother of my then boyfriend. She emigrated to Canada; I’m not sure when, and so did her sister, Joan. I had never Margaret before so it was very generous of her to let me stay in her home, and for so long. Sadly Margaret has since passed away. Her ashes were returned to the UK to be scattered at a spot in East Knoyle where she grew up.

Lethbridge was quite a busy town; it has everything as it is so far from the next big city of Calgary, which is about 140 miles away. Not a place a tourist would necessarily visit unless there was something specific to see, so it had a very close community spirit, or it seemed to, may be because Margaret was a part of so much going on, and she immersed me into so much as well.
It made a nice change from my usual routine when visiting a place. Margaret and Joan had put together quite an itinerary for me.

The day of golfing was the windiest day I have experienced, not the best weather for playing golf, but the ladies persevered anyway. I did notice at the pot luck supper that one or two had cheated by buying dishes to bring – KFC being one of them.

The visit to the hospital where Margaret used to work was fascinating. It was a secure psychiatric unit, for people with both physical and mental health disabilities, but Margaret just breezed in with me as easy as anything. I don’t remember being signed in or anything. The patients we stopped off to see were happy to see Margaret. There were quite a mix of disabilities from dementia type illness to those who have suffered brain
trauma and need 24 hour care. I can still see the face of one patient who had tried to take her life but was found before it was too late, however she had been starved of oxygen for too long and now is unable to walk or do anything for herself. She could have limited conversation with people and did recognise Margaret, but I do wonder at what she must have thought of
life then, it certainly wasn’t better for her. I hope she is at peace now.

Escaping from the house to discover more of Lethbridge by myself was a much needed thing to do, I went to places that Margaretwouldn’t have taken me to and was able to gage the town a lot easier. You wouldn’t believe there could be so much to see in this out of the way place and I still had more days to fill.

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Week 13

17 – 23 April

17 April – Been here in Lethbridge for nearly a week now, have one more to go. Will take time this morning to write to Ron and Celia and Bridget and David and anyone else I have stayed with along the way. Only been three months but seems longer.

Have found everything very educational so far, I find all of the cultures interesting. Sometimes I will dive into a library to find out any information I need on a particular subject. I have an address of a magazine, ‘She Travels’, which I shall write to at some stage, they want travellers to contribute to it, however I need a computer as you have to send a disc with everything on.

Being treated to all kinds of different experiences by Margaret. Weather is so mixed here, we have had in the past week, gales, snow and temperatures up in the 20s, so not sure what to put on in the morning. Today and the coming week I have some touristy things to see in the area. Margaret’s sister works in a jail so having a tour of the jail on Tuesday evening, hope they don’t keep me there. Going to a nature reserve this afternoon and to a concert tonight. The group are a young family called, ‘The Rankin Family’, can only imagine they are like Clannad so should be good. Will buy a tape if I like them.

19 April – Local prison in Lethbridge. Had to wander amongst the inmates at some points, it was really quite enlightening. Some of Joan’s co-workers remarked at how calm and collected I was, apparently some people that visit the place are nervous wrecks.

Current day thoughts

With so much to do in and around Lethbridge I am a bit confused as to the chronological order of things in the second week but I have tried to make some order via my photographs, (hopefully soon I can post some of
those for you to see).

There was a nature reserve, which I don’t remember anything about, but it may have contained the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, which is an open plain area where the Native Indians used to drive the buffalo over the cliff, which would kill them, and subsequently they could eat the meat and use the hides.

The bridge, which Lethbridge is named after, is a railway bridge which is the longest and tallest railway bridge of its type in the world. It crosses the Oldman River but I don’t recall whether I saw the river or not, just a really long bridge covering lots of plain.

Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden provided a peaceful sanctuary to wander around, not that Lethbridge is a noisy place; in fact Canadian towns and cities are all quite laid back. Again I have vague memories of it.

We went to Fort Whoop-Up to take in a bit of culture. A once trading post in both legal and illegal goods, (whisky being one of them, buffalo hides another).

Joan took me to the Waterton Lakes National Park close to the Canada/USA border, which was so beautiful and took in the Rocky Mountains.

We had a lovely day walking amongst the deer and goats and taking in the fresh air and scenery. It was just coming into spring and I always think the air is at its freshest in the spring.  It is my favourite season.

Margaret did get me to do some chores though. Apart from helping her to sell raffle tickets in the shopping mall she got me to use a contraption which held week killer, which I had to administer to all, and there were a lot, of the dandelions on the lawn. I guess I had to earn my keep
somehow.

I never did contact ‘She Travels’, but I still have a burning ambition to be a travel writer. Watch this space as they say.

How technology has progressed. Computers were not as common as they are now and floppy discs were the thing back then.

The Rankin Family were really good, more like The Corrs than Clannad and I did indeed purchase a tape of their music, a cassette tape, not a CD. I remember being disappointed that the music on it was not the same as they did at the concert, but I still enjoyed listening to it.

The prison was a great place to visit. It was an open prison so security a bit more relaxed. At one point a prisoner offered for us to go through a door before him, but Joan made him go first and he respected her authority. I can only imagine the danger you can put yourself into if not careful. I wasn’t too happy with all the male attention I got but I guess not too many young ladies happen their way. We sat in a secure office for a while, where the prison officers could observe the prisoners around them in a communal
area. On an upper level there were cubicles but I can’t remember whether they were toilets or showers, either way a prisoner’s feet would always be showing, so not total privacy. The water fountain had a notice attached to
it asking that nobody should spit into fountain. I don’t know why I remember that, but it has stayed with me and I am a bit wary of water fountains now. A female had been detained for disorderly behaviour;
I think she had been drinking. I was allowed to look through a peep hole in the door to the room she was being held and she was giving the prison officers some lip. I was glad not to have been on the other side of the door. Each prison officer was allocated a pepper spray to use when required but before they were allowed to have one the officer had to experience the pepper spray in his or her eyes, so as they know the kind of reaction to
expect from another person.

I think the prison had quite an impact on me as I can remember so much detail of the visit. Not something you get to do every day is it, and it wouldn’t be the last prison I encountered on my journey.

With Margaret and Joan’s help I pretty much squeezed everything out of Lethbridge. And to think I had never heard of the place, so thank you to my ex for suggesting I stay with Margaret.

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Week 14

24 – 30 April

25 April – I will always be thankful to Margaret for the time I spent in Lethbridge, it is such a friendly town, but glad to be on the road again. The days leading up to my departure were really nice and hot but the day I left it snowed. It is a very confusing country weather wise.

Edmonton was six hours away and it was sunny by the time I got there.

Was not impressed with Edmonton to start with but as the days went on I found some nice spots to visit. Because of the severe weather they get in the prairie regions, everything closes down and does not open up again until May, normally the bank holiday weekend at the end of May, so a lot of things that I wanted to see were not possible.

Current day thoughts

So, I didn’t have that much to say about Edmonton in my letters home, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it in the end.

I think it was in Edmonton that I managed to break one of the window panes at the hostel. They had a system of opening and closing windows that I never quite got used to in Canada, anyway I put too much pressure on the glass and it cracked. No injuries sustained.

I remember one morning stepping out for the day, in my newly washed fleece jacket that I dried in the tumble dryer, and my hair just standing up on end like when you put your hands on one of those plasma balls. It was a combination of the atmosphere with the tumble dried synthetic material of my jacket. I did start to wonder about Edmonton after that.

So what did I get up to in Edmonton. Well, the main attraction was the West
Edmonton Mall, which is one of the largest in the world. It had everything in terms of shopping and entertainment. I guess during the winter months, when you can’t do much outside, it provides activities for everyone. They had a miniature golf course, a waterpark with submarines

and replica of a Galleon ship, dolphins performing tricks,

an ice rink, rollercoaster, which of course I went on,

carousel, and of course some shops and eateries. I believe now there is much more to see and do in the mall.

I hiked around for what seemed like miles to get to things around Edmonton. I decided one day to make my way out to a swimming pool, again I am sure it was Edmonton but can’t be certain, anyway it looked pretty close on the map so I donned my hiking boots and set off. May be I didn’t have much concept with regards to distance, but I decided that a mile in Canada was much longer than in the UK. I walked well off the beaten track to get to the pool and it took forever, I didn’t see one bus go by, so it wasn’t a well serviced area for those without cars. I enjoyed the pool though. On another occasion I was keen to see some bison, that had not been under the hands of a taxidermist, and managed to locate an area just out of town. I took the bus out as close as I could and ended up hiking through a housing estate to see them. They were on enclosed farmland
so not really in the wild but they were still beautiful animals to see. They were at a distance and I felt like I was intruding on people’s private property. If anyone saw me they must have wondered who the waif and stray was, wandering around in the neighbourhood. A man did stop in his car and offered me a lift back, but I wasn’t sure of his intentions so declined. I then had to try to find my way back to a bus route to get back into town. I know I stuck out like a sore thumb because people rarely walk anywhere in North America.

I also went to the Muttart Conservatory, the Peace Dove sculpture, neither of which I have memories of despite the photographic evidence.

There was quite a distance as you can imagine in traveling from one place to another in Canada. I used the Greyhound bus service and often listened to music on my Walkman and also to the local radio stations, which had some very interesting talks going on about the political state of the country.
It was by far the best way to get to know about Canada and what was really going on behind the scenes.

I haven’t given any time really to what I think of Canada so far. It’s not as if I haven’t spent time with any Canadians in their homes. Perhaps because we have always seen so much about North American life on the television or because I had been to the USA before and the lifestyle is similar if a little more laid back. Everything seemed so familiar. It may be because the
‘locals’ were not constantly comparing the lifestyle to mine in England. I do know that I wasn’t compelled to express my views, although I did take a lot in. I was simply mesmerised by the beauty of Canada and its people.

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Week 15

1 May to 7 May

I did an amazing thing in Edmonton. I had a pair of knickers go holey on me so I threw them out and bought a new pair.

3 May – Things are picking up now.

Saskatoon is a nice place, friendly and a much slower pace than the bit cities. The hostel accommodation is in a hotel, it is comfortable but not as good as being in a proper hostel. I have a spring loaded toilet seat in my bathroom, can be interesting at times. Also have a nightclub beneath my room, so no getting to sleep before dawn. They do have a TV in the foyer with some good programmes on.

Am doing a lot more reading, nearly finished my third book in 3½ months.

They have a good restaurant attached to the hotel called Kars Kafe, done out like a garage. The food is served in hub caps. They have the closest to fish and chips shop chips that I have found.

Moving onto Winnipeg on Thursday evening, will get there on Friday morning. May be not able to hostel at Thunder Bay but will check it out in a few days. Luckily I have enough cash-in-hand to pay out on some more expensive accommodation if necessary. Come to think of it I have to do the same for Sudbury.

Am trying to keep up with world news. Ayrton Senna was killed. Haven’t heard any British political scandal lately so guess there is not much going on. I am learning a lot about the native culture, finding it very fascinating visiting heritage centres, diving into libraries. Would be good to get back into some sort of education again.

6 May – Did not get much sleep on the coach journey last night to Winnipeg. I really wish I could hire a car, a lot of the national parks and wildlife are hundreds of miles out of town, so I cannot get to them. Not planning on racing about the place whilst here. I have seen enough museums and galleries for the time being. Have some planning to sort out for the next
week or two, a few of the hostels are not open yet. Will be by the Great Lakes come Tuesday.

Current day thoughts

Oh, the knicker reference. I have always been bad at chucking out old
underwear, especially knickers. I wear them to the bitter end and, if holey, usually just at the weekends when I don’t go out much. At the beginning of this year I threw away 17 pairs of knickers, most of which were the wrong size and some that had seen better days. The more you wear a pair the more comfortable they are, perhaps that’s why we keep them so long. In keeping them though I do feel that I am doing my bit for the planet in saving resources.

I so remember the pounding of the music coming from the nightclub below my room in Saskatoon. Lucky I never had to get up in the mornings to go to work. My neighbours nowadays play their music just as loud, sometimes way into the night, without a thought to who they might be disturbing.

I was never a great reader as a child and that never improved into my early adulthood. For some reason I just couldn’t get to grips with them. It wasn’t until I saw a TV adaptation of a book I was then reading, (which took me two years to finish), that things just clicked. I was able to put visual images from the TV to the characters in the book and it was all plain sailing from there. So, to have read that much in such a short space of time was quite something for me. I really enjoy reading now.

Nobody makes proper fish and chip shop chips anymore, not even the fish and chip shops in this country; sadly it’s all about being health conscious these days.

When you are on the road, doing a ‘pay as you go’ kind of thing, as opposed to a package holiday already paid for, you really have to think ahead of the moment you are in, so a little research into wherever you intend to travel is a good idea before travel. I knew where I wanted to go and that I was going to hostel, but didn’t delve deeper into the finer details. I found talking to other travellers and the tourist information places a great resource when the way forward was looking bleak.

I did get back into education again, studying with The Open University and enrolling on other home study courses and evening courses at local colleges. I’m still keen to keep on learning new things to keep the brain ticking over.

Saskatoon was very prairie. Small town with lots of open space, but not without its cultural aspects. The Western Development Museum, which as its name suggests, provided information and exhibits dedicated to the development of Saskatoon, including a mock up town that I can only describe as being like a set that would be used to film a western, but a bit more modern. There was also the Wanuskewin Heritage Park which is dedicated to the history of the Native Indian tribes and bison that used to inhabit the plain. It was very peaceful just standing in the looking out across the open plain, imaging the bison roaming free.

Moving onto Winnipeg I got to see my first Mountie, or Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman, to give him his official title. I think he
may have been planted for a picture opportunity for tourists, but may be that’s the sceptic in me.

Winnipeg was a lot more built up than Saskatoon, but still not a hugely intimidating city. Winnipeg is home to the Manitoba Legislative Building, where all the political stuff of the region goes on. I didn’t go for a tour, I think I had got to the stage where once you’ve seen one historic building you’ve seen them all. Unfortunately visiting the capital cities/towns of a region, they all have the same stuff to see with similar information. St Boniface Cathedral was quite an interesting building to visit though.
Unfortunately throughout its history the cathedral has suffered damage through fire and has had to be rebuilt on more than one occasion because of that. The current building was built in 1972, with the only remaining part of the previous one being that of the façade, which stands before it. The new cathedral is more modern but still very beautiful inside.

My hostel accommodation was much better than the last one; I had company for one thing. It was set out in the suburbs in
an adapted house. No noisy neighbours.

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Week 16

8 May to 14 May

9 May – Thunder Bay is in Ontario and at the start of the
Great Lakes, from the west side it rests on Lake Superior. Ontario is just full of lakes and is the last
province that I shall see whilst in Canada.

10 May – I managed to catch a glimpse of the eclipse of the
sun.

Current day
thoughts

Moving on from
Winnipeg, I was now out of the prairies.

I wasn’t able to
hostel in Thunder Bay. I managed to get
a room in the university there. Most
universities rent rooms out in the holidays.
I don’t remember too much about it, but it was comfortable.

Thunder Bay is most
famous for, apart from Lake Superior, Terry Fox and the Sleeping Giant. Terry Fox was a young man with cancer, who
decided to embark on a run across Canada to raise money for cancer
research. He ran 3,339 miles before
worsening health forced him to stop, close to Thunder Bay. Sadly he passed away not long after that in
1981, aged 22. There is a monument
dedicated to him in Thunder Bay, which overlooks Lake Superior. It is coming across things like that that
inspires you to make the most of life and challenge yourself.

The Sleeping Giant
is a rock formation which resembles a giant lying on its back. I couldn’t see the resemblance from where I
was stood, which was far away, but it has its significance in Native Indian
legend.

Fort William was
also a large attraction. It dates back
to the early 19th century and was set up as a trading post. It is now ‘devoted to re-creating the days of the North West Company and
the Canadian fur trade.’

There is also a pagoda, built in 1909 on the waterfront, which is now a
tourist information booth.

I remember it being sunny most of the time whilst in Thunder Bay, which
made for great escapes into the fresh air and stunning views across Lake
Superior.

I so wish I had my diary to refer to, with such limited information to
hand. Only a few more weeks until things
get back on track.

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Week 17 – 15 – 21 May

15 May to 21 May

16 May – Saulte-Ste-Marie is interesting. Between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, it
hosts part of the St Lawrence Seaway, something we were taught in our geography
lessons at school. You can also see
across to the United States, but unable to cross the link bridge unless in a
motorised vehicle.

17 May – The weather at the moment is sunny, if a little
windy. Still some snow on the ground and
part frozen lakes. Imagine how cold it
must get in winter.

When you see the Lake you could be forgiven for thinking
that is was an ocean in its own right.
Lake Superior has many beaches around it and many enviable properties
dotted along the shores. (Even Lake
Winnipeg has its own beach resort, in the middle of Canada).

19 May – Am staying at the university in Sudbury as there is
no hostel here. Most people at the
university speak French, it is also a catholic run joint, so plenty of crosses
about the place. Not much to do in
Sudbury, I only intended staying for three days but was cheaper to make a
week’s booking at the uni, so spending a couple more days. It is nice to have my own room but can’t wait
to get back to the hostels.

I was glad to get here so that I can catch up on my laundry,
I am running out of stuff to wear.

20 May – The further east I go the more laid back it
gets.

I have a cross hung above my bed. Feel I should be going to confession every
day.

Today is really hot, so taking it easy. Have a huge amount of tourist info to plough
through. Surrounded by drunks in the
park here, sleeping it off. I am
sticking to mineral water

21 Saturday – Went to the Science North Centre, a brilliant
place. Spent five hours messing around
with the experiments and technology.
They have one of those huge floor pianos which was great fun. Also got to touch a live python.

Current day
thoughts

So, I left Thunder
Bay feeling enlightened and moved onto the next town of Sault-Ste-Marie, which,
although it was quite small, did hold some interesting things. My
geography lessons came rushing back to me when I discovered the St Lawrence
Seaway link. I guess something must have
sunk in at school, so not all wasted. Across
the bridge in USA is also Saulte Ste Marie, which used to make up the same town
as on the Canadian side, but the introduction of the USA border eventually
separated them. I’m sure I must have
read that somewhere in the history
museum in Saulte Ste Marie, but had forgotten, (thank you Google). In fact the St Lawrence Seaway was on the USA
side of the water and not the Canadian side.
It was great walking alongside the canals and Soo locks and diving into
the visitors centre and museums to learn all about it.

I also wandered
around some beautiful parks which overlook the water and visited the Ermatinger Clergue National Historic
Site, home to Charles Oakes Ermatinger who was a businessman and trader in the
area. Another interesting place was the
Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, exhibiting a lot of bushplanes through the
ages, which were used to drop water on any bushfires in the area. The tour guide was quite persuasive in
getting a donation out of me for the cause, gaining me a bushplane pin badge
which I still have today.

The size of each Great Lake is quite daunting when you compare them to
the lakes here in the UK. It really is
hard to see them as lakes and not seas or oceans.

Such a nice little
town. I left part of my heart in Saulte
Ste Marie.

Next came Sudbury,
and what can I say about Sudbury. Well
most of it I would rather put behind me but I guess all that we experience in
life shapes us as people and can make us a little wiser. The science centre was fun and there was a
nice walk out to a nature reserve, but that’s about it. The priest at the uni was a nice man who
looked after us all and gave me some of the food he was taking on a camping
trip when the shops were shut. Not quite
sure how I managed to survive 5 days in Sudbury but I did.

It isn’t until you
start to explore a country that you realise just how diverse each place is and
that is what makes the World tick the way it does. Not always a good thing but wisdom allows you
to select in which environment you want to surround yourself, and what to look
out for in those you don’t.

*************************************************************

Week 18 – 22 – 28 May

23 May – It has been a bank holiday weekend here, Victoria
Day today, and the weather has been beautiful over the past few days, brought the
people out in hoards. Most tourist
attractions across Canada open fully now, the winter season is over for the
time being.

The porter in my residence is also a Jesuit priest and today
is a special day in his religious calendar, so he invited myself and two other
girls for lunch in one of the buildings here, saved me having to buy any.

Have had a few problems with my feet of late. My heels have developed some nasty blisters,
they keep appearing one on top of the other.
I think it is a combination of the shoes rubbing and the heat. I am hoping I can control them without
medical assistance. They seem to be on the mend quite well now. Aside from that no other problems.

So many famous people have died lately; John Smith, Jackie
Onassis, John Candy, can’t keep up with it all.
Can get the BBC World News on one of the TV channels, also on the radio,
so staying in tune with it all.

Guess the UK bracing itself for the start of the World
Cup. I may get to see some but they all
watch ice hockey here, so doubt I shall get a look in.

My hair is starting to get quite long now, doesn’t look too
bad either. I may have something done to
it soon.

Less than a month left in Canada, it’s going by so
quickly.

24 May – Glad to get to Ottawa, the capital of Canada. You can see most things in one day,
everything is situated in the city centre close to the parliament
buildings.

The hostel is spooky, it used to be a jail up until 1972
when it was closed due to the unsanitary conditions. The floor that holds death row is not rented
out to travellers anymore because it is haunted.

Current day
thoughts

I suffered a lot with my feet and blisters. I think a lot them happened where the seams
on the insides of my socks pressed against the skin. The boots I wore were quite comfortable. So much walking did take its toll on my feet,
more of which I shall talk about at a later date.

I have never been a girly girl, fussing with my appearance
all the time. I am a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of girl, and I was too
busy with more interesting things anyway, so I never really noticed that my
appearance was changing. It never
crossed my mind to get a haircut at any point, I just got up every day put a
comb through my hair and that was that.
It wasn’t until I got to Ottawa that I realised just how long my hair
had grown, and it was bleached blonde by the sun beating down on it most
days. I was never allowed to keep long
hair when I was young, was always told it looked like rats tails, and I thought
it was too fine to grow long, so never bothered. How wrong could I be. I first had my hair permed when I was 15, it
was the thing to do, and had it permed regularly for the 15 years
following. I have not had it permed
since and now embrace the natural straightness of my hair, how it is meant to
be.

So Ottawa was a very refreshing change to Sudbury. Being the capital of Canada it is a much
busier, more happening place, as you would imagine. The parliament buildings look very similar to
ours in London. I went up one of the
towers to capture the beautiful views across Ottawa. If you walked across one of the many bridges
over the Ottawa River, which I did, you were in Quebec. I went into a town called Hull, just for a
peek. Quite a pretty place with nice
canals and locks to see. Again it was the water that drew a lot of
attention for me and the Rideau Falls proved no exception. However, not wanting to neglect the pursuit
of cultural education, the National Gallery of Canada was on my agenda, which
doesn’t stand out in my memory as having anything that spectacular. Australia is winning in that respect so far.

As I said in my letter home, the hostel was a prison. I had always been rumoured that conditions in
the prison were not good, so a journalist got himself arrested on purpose, not
sure what for, so he would be sent to jail and could then see for himself what
it was like. The rumours were true and
he wrote up quite a piece about his experience inside. Following this the prison was closed after a
new modern one had been built. The
hostelling old prison was turned into a hostel.
Guests stay in the cells, from memory I think two to a cell, which were
quite cosy. Shower facilities were quite
open, just as the prisoners used, no private cubicles and no being shy. If you were feeling brave you could stay on
death row in the cell used by the last person in Canada to be executed. The experience was just for one night and you
could only take a sleeping bag in with you, no other personal effects. If you managed to last the night you didn’t
have to pay for the night. I didn’t try
it, but did go inside the cell, which was really small and dark. I went on a tour of the prison and got to see
the gallows where execution took place.
The guide demonstrated how it all worked, with the trap doors opening
and a noose falling through. I can still
remember the snapping of the noose as it fell.

I had to seek out the emergency room of a hospital to check
out a swelling I developed. It was a
French speaking hospital but managed to cope ok. Thankfully I only had an infection, which was
dealt with by antibiotics. I had my
insurance to cover it – never forget insurance because you never know.

Although I am not a religious person I did go visit a lot of
churches as most of them have great architecture and artefacts to see. The Notre Dame Basilica was lovely and very
peaceful inside. I needed some
reflection time so just sat for a while, filling me with a sense of calm. It is important to stop every so often to
take stock of things.

**********************************************************

Week 19 – 29 May
to 4 June

30 May – Orillia,
absolutely nothing to do but good to be able to relax for a few days.

4 June – Had an
exhausting day, but it was enjoyable. Mr Frenchman went this morning, cannot
remember his name, felt a bit piggish eating my huge breakfast whilst he ate
cookies.

Nice day again. To hire a bike if $15,
a little steep so I walked to my destination, they said only an hour. I left
Orillia centre just after 10:00hrs and got to the Rama Reserve at 13:00hrs.
Must have been 7 or 8 miles to get there, my feet will tell you how far.
However, the scenery was wonderful and the sun was shining so it was a nice
stroll, wish I had worn my boots though. A pleasantly low residential area
exists on the Rama road, so nice to see a place that is a proper village.
Everything was lush green and peaceful, aside from the busy traffic. Should
have hired the bike though, I got a little sunburned from walking. I drank on a
regular basis but it went straight through me, so by the time I got anywhere I
was desperate for a piss. Thankfully the lady in the Rama Moccasin and Craft
Shop let me use her loo. I would have been stuck otherwise.

I bought me a dream catcher, dreams are
an important thing to hold on to, they can give your life a purpose or serve as
an escapism. I daydream more than at night. I have in the past and do now. They say if you dream about a person dying it’s
because you want them out of your life. Psychologically it could be said that
these people have become so close to you that you are afraid of their rejection
or that one day they will leave you all alone. Feelings brought on by past
experiences embedded in the subconscious.
Lately I have thought about my own passing on. Maybe I am still trying
to rid the old me, which is evidently still present, and become somebody new. I
certainly am not ready to go yet. I am passing through an uncertain time of my
life, I need redemption.

(There has been talk lately about the
wearing of turbans in the Royal Canadian Legion. Much argument to ban and lots
for. Those for it make reference to the freedom fought for in the wars and the
abolition of future wars. One man, an East Indian himself, was against it, he
made an important statement, ‘When in Rome’.)

Once I had gotten back to town, well
knackered, I decided to sit back and rest at the cinema, ‘The Flinstones’ was
showing. Very well put together, so like the cartoon. Wilma is excellent as is
Fred. The effects could have been tacky but these were well researched and
studied. A big thumbs up to a pleasant 1½ hours escapism. Never been so pleased
to get to a cool house, the heat is awful. The fire has finally gone out. Think
I will sleep well tonight.

Current day
thoughts

From 4 June I am able to get back to entries from my diary,
which is a relief. Glad to have had my
letters home to refer to though in the interim and photos to remind me of all
the great things I have seen and done.
The photos – these will appear by the end of June when I have access to
a scanner.

Ottawa was a nice user friendly city but it was nice to get
to the peace and quiet of Orillia, which isn’t on any of the Great Lakes, but
between the smaller Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe. I wasn’t sure what I would find to do,
however found some interesting sites. hostels
are generally situated in or near places of interest.

The hostel itself was disappointing
to say the least and I sincerely hope it has been closed down by now under the
health and safety act. In fact I cannot
see it listed anywhere on the internet now.
The accommodation was in a basement flat of a small block. It was dingy and damp and I don’t think
anyone came to clean it and I certainly wasn’t going to. The only things to sleep on were mattresses,
literally just the mattress, no bedding or pillows. There were cooking facilities but not good
ones and from memory I recall an open fireplace. Thankfully it was summer so no need to burn
the place down. It was an all-in affair,
no separate rooms. There were other
people staying at the same time as me and only for a short time. I could have been murdered down there and
nobody would know, it was a horrid unsafe place.

In contrast, Orillia itself
was quite pleasant. One little gem is
the Stephen Leacock Museum. Stephen
Leacock was a writer who had the house built in 1928 and, as was his intention,
it is has a feel of England about it, both in style and the garden. It was a beautiful place and I really
enjoyed have a look around.

My walk out to the Indian Rama Reserve was quite a day. It was a long trek and was a bit of a
disappointment at the end. Not sure what
I really expected to be honest. I bought
a dream catcher from the gift shop, which I still have today. As for the rest of it all I could see were
some wooden shack type houses being lived in, surrounded by fields with
something growing in them, not sure what but could have been corn as the plants
were quite high. It was quite an open
area that didn’t appear to go anywhere.
One of the residents spotted me and I felt conspicuous and
vulnerable. I didn’t know if I was
trespassing or not so turned around and headed back to Orillia.

I was desperate for a pee on the way back too and luckily
held on until I reached a gas station.
By the time I got back to town my feet were done in. I don’t know if you would call them blisters
but the base of my heels were filled with liquid and very sore.

Not sure why I put a reference to the wearing of turbans in,
must have heard it on the radio whilst walking along. However, I believe nowadays it is permissible
for turbans to be worn on religious ground.
There are always arguments for and against with most things and I think
the gentleman who said, ‘When in Rome’, has his point, but globalisation is the
norm now and if we want peace and harmony we have to allow different cultural
practices to exist alongside each other.
As long as nobody gets hurt where is the harm. The globalisation of commerce though needs
to be addressed if we are to save our own industries and economy.

*******************************************************

Week 20 – 5 June
to 11 June

5 June – A much
more relaxing day. I was not aching this morning as I imagined I would be. No
definite plans so no rush to get out of the house. I only know that I do not
want too much sun today.

Took my book with me down to Couchching
Park. Sounds like something going on and
there was, a charity fun run or something to that effect. A local radio station
was there. T-shirts for sale, much picnicking and jovialities. The water looked
so inviting, however, dogs were swimming as well and I hate that. I have
developed an aversion to the sea and lakes over the years. This is the place
where all the dudes hang out and the well-off drift in their boats or show off
on jet skis. Sat for a while in the shade, reading. As well as very informative, the book is entertaining. Got tired of reading and
went for a walk down the Main Street of town. Blew my last $4 on food, not good
food either, chocolate and Danish pastry. Came back home via the park again for
my pig-out, felt sick so I didn’t finish it all.

Read some more before being interrupted
by company. Two people, girl and guy, I can never remember people’s names. She
is English , he Australian. Definite drifters searching for a corner of the
world, at least he is, she does not talk much. They went out to discover
Orillia, so I went back out too. The
weather was much cooler, went to the park again, was easier to find a shady
seat. Sat and read for an hour and continued along the boardwalk. People sat
enjoying a drink on their boats. Sat for yet another hour in the now overcast
sky, before coming home.

I settled down to an evening of music,
reading and writing. It is more like waffle today just to fill a page. Funny
how lack of a TV can make you find things to do. I was asked how I could bear
to spend five days here. I need places like this to wind down, can you imagine
a whole year spent rushing around cities as a tourist, would wear me out in no
time. I need to feel the comparison of life in a small town so as to have an
objective opinion. I am more inspired to thought in a quiet place.

6 June – Rain this
morning, typical. Had an interesting two hour journey to Toronto. An old guy,
86yrs old, attached himself to me. Likes to think he is still in with the young
scene, is too chivalrous for that one. Claims he is engaged to be married to a
twenty nine year old, sounds like a weird set up to me, if it is true. I let
him do all the talking whilst I looked out of the window pretending to listen.
Haven’t spoken to such an awful person in a long time.

Was thankfully dry in Toronto, if a
little warm. The hostel was close to the bus station, however had to wind my
way through a variety of persons to get there. Bodies lying in the street being
ignored by everyone, weirdo’s staring, hoards of workers and road work men. Not
such a good area again, but nice hostel. Lockers are pay again, so nowhere to
put clothing and stuff without paying out. Looks like a lot of attractions are
out of town, think I will have to adopt my USA budget for Canada and vice
versa, will still be over budget, must check on the balance of account.

Went to the nearest mall for a bite to
eat, managed to get souvenirs and cards in one place. Spent rest of afternoon
writing cards, reading information and sorting out my G.S.T refund.

Have a few mean bites on my leg, must
be the sleeping bag.

Half go out, half stay in, so will have
a choice each night I guess.

7 June – An
overcast but humid day, set off to check the city out. Walked down to the
harbour and was fairly disappointed, should maybe hang left next time and see
what is along there. The ferries are only $3 to the islands so will take
advantage of that. Followed the boardwalk past a marina, theatre and
entertainment centre, not very exciting. Toronto is a shit city and smoggy, not
too keen on the hostellers either. They are a bunch of dossers, many looking
for work and they all want to go out and get pissed. Spongers too, my milk was
all but gone this morning. Drop outs and beggars on the streets, I crave the
slow lane away from it all.

One of the Ozzie girls in our dorm,
thinks she’s something special, told me there is nothing to do in Niagara. She
was definitely not inspired by the falls, sad person.

The C.N. Tower and Skydome were close
by, so off I went. There are tours of the Dome so will choose either a tour or
a game, depending on my finances, I think I know which one it will be. The C.N.
Tower also offers a combination of entertainment, is $12, I could get in for
$6.00, but have decided it is only a tower after all and I will simply have
extensive views of a city, maybe into the States also. Will think on it. Next
thing to check out was the Casa Loma, only took an hour to walk it. Passed
through China town along Spandia Avenue. Could have been in China, the streets
were crowded with vehicles and side-walks with people and stalls. Music drowned
every other sound out. Suddenly I was out of the crowds and in the clear. Took
a few wrong turns but got to the castle eventually. My bite has quadrupled in
size and is giving me hassle in the humidity. Was desperate for a pee, but
begrudged having to spend $8.00 to get in. The inside is as decorative as the
outer, however, well restored and in the process of, the rooms lacked the
original stuff, most of them anyway. This was due to the selling off of items
in the 1920’s because of financial ruin of Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, owner. The tours are self-guiding with audio tapes
and headphones. Loved the conservatory and Sir Henry’s suite. Strolled in the gardens and generally spent a
pleasant couple of hours there. Do get the impression that Toronto is a rip-off
city. Finally went down into the basement, wine cellar, swimming pool and the
stables. To get to the stables, which appear to be the other side of the street
and further, you have to go via a tunnel. The tunnel is narrow, creepy and very
long and, after seeing the stables and garage you have to come back along the
tunnel again. Walking back was quicker but the heat not so. Bought my tea and
the rest is history.

The Ozzies and I put washing in
together to save money. The attitude one has gone out to get drunk, she leaves
tomorrow to work at a summer camp in the States, poor kids. Will try to get a
free breakfast in the morning.

8 June – Much
cooler today but still warm. No real plans of what to do, however, I do want to
get out of the down town area. I started to walk Queen Street East towards the
eastern beaches. The first part went through some very undesirable areas,
crossed the road at one point as I could see eyes staring on the opposite
corner. Gave in eventually and took the bus, $2.00, the most expensive yet for a
one way journey.

The Woodbine Park Beach was
surprisingly larger and cleaner than I expected. Spent a leisurely three hours
strolling along the boardwalk, or sat watching the lake, keep wanting to call
it the ocean. Quite a lengthy walk if you go to the farthest most point of the
area. A popular area for mothers and babies, some push chairs being trolleyed
along by roller-bladed women. Made sure I took the bus back into town, could not
face that road again.

Have had a shit day from the diet point
of view, will try to put it back on the right tracks soon. My bite is a lot
better today. One of the girls I met in Ottawa is back here in Toronto for a
couple of days, so nice to see a friendly face and have a chat.

Am very tempted to test the theory of
some of the jet setters I have come across. Instead of sticking to a small
corner of the U.S., depending on bus routes/flights and costs, I may get a pass
and race around various parts of the country, taking in some major sights but
only staying for a couple of days at a time, whilst making sure I still get to
see Maine, Vermont etc and I will stay out of the cities as best I can, so as
to avoid the trouble. Would love to see the Grand Canyon and go to Disneyland.

Have discovered some of the baseball
tickets are fairly cheap, cheaper than a tour (the tour does not sound so
wonderful), so maybe check it out tomorrow. Left a message on the answerphone
in connection with the writers’ workshop, so if she does not get back to me
here I shall have to forget it.

Am learning the value of taking
transport too and from places in these cities.
Apart from having to walk miles to get anywhere I could have gotten into
trouble at times. However, showing your fear is often worse than simply putting
your head down and walking confidently through an area. Fortunately I have
developed a quick pace so do not look as though I am asking for trouble.

9 June
– Really did not do anything today, it was nonetheless a thought provoking day
in the worst sense. The workshop lady did ring back yesterday, I was here so
have no idea why I was not located. Does not appear to be a tannoy system in
operation. Have tried ringing today, but get the answer machine. Jenny has gone
today, she starts work in San Diego on Saturday at summer camp.

I went to the Skydome to check out the
ticket situation for Saturday and Sunday, sold out, so they say. Can turn up on
the day to see what is available, if anything. Plenty of touts outside selling
though, prices higher than the normal. If I cannot get a ticket I will go
Monday for a grand tour. Found the Metro Library on Yonge Street, massive
place, five storeys high and very modern. Had nothing else to do so I filled my
brain with knowledge, satisfied a few nagging questions.

A lot of things I read recently are so
current to me, they make me realise all that it is I have been, the way I am
seen. I hate it all. This is a time when I should not be worrying about things,
it should be only joyous. It has not only been a visual growth and mental
growth experience but also of personal growth. Maybe I am tired of Canada, I
hope the USA will stir the excitement up.

10 June – Giving
up on workshop tomorrow, will keep trying though. Feeling a lot better today,
had something to do to occupy my mind.

Went over to the islands just ten
minutes off of the mainland. Was sunny but cool with the breeze from the lake.
The centre island is the main focal point. Fun park, gardens, beach, bicycle
hire, stuff like that. The main activity of the day, which most people enjoyed,
was how to get passed the jets of water, wetting the grass. The general
opinion, old or young, was too hell with it, let’s get wet. A free tram ride
was available to the furthest point west of the island, Hanlans point, so took
advantage, could have gotten off along the way but I did the round trip. Not so
much to see but could have made a pleasant walk along the shore, the island is
only about 5km from end to end. Decided to walk to the east side, glad I did,
it was the better. Houseboats, marina
and the cutest little village you ever saw. The streets just a couple of
strides wide, a cluster of pretty little houses in one corner of the island.
Country gardens, all protected in a leafy glade. No cars evident, no need. A perfect retirement haven. On the way back I
crossed a bridge by the marina and was on a smaller island, Algonquin. Again,
another group of houses, larger but on a similar basis. No way off except boat
or bridge. Have the best views of the city skyline from the islands,
through the haze. Strolled back to
Centreville and sat for a while, not so much to do on the island, nice to laze
on the beach type of place. We all piled on to the next ferry, no head count,
just a surge all at once.

Was hungry when I got back to the city
so went for a bite and came back to the hostel. At least I can say I have been
across to the island, this is such a dull place unless you have money to throw
away. Jenny said she was glad to be starting work, she was bored and needed to
be doing something. I only get bored of some places I am in, not of being away
or not working. I feel as though I am working, from all of the things I learn.
I like to think being away from distraction helps. Sometimes I do let my
imagination get out of hand, I can understand how some people can drive
themselves mad through blind panic, worry, diminished responsibility. There is
a maniac in all of us waiting to come out, we just have to learn how to control
it, not always to advantage. I am doing the self psycho bit at the moment. I know all of the problems within me and I
can say that I am fairly sure of how and why, however, I do not know how to
deal with them effectively so as not to let them rule me.

11 June – Forget
the workshop, $95, can’t afford that much, shame really, but I can manage to
wait until I am home.

So, to the Skydome. Went prepared for snow. They said it may rain
later. The queue was small so could be in with a chance. The guy in front was
not so lucky, no more room wheelchairs. Took a $13 ticket, with partially obstructed
view, turned out to be not a bad spot, despite being right at the back. Two
kids kept edging their way along my row as ticket holders claimed their seats,
not sure they were officially allowed in. Eventually they disappeared never to
return. The crowd drifted in, some halfway through the game, most sped out
before the end when it was evident the Blue Jays were not going to win, the
decider game is tomorrow, will probably be more exciting as well. Not that I
really understand much about the game, but not a lot of outstanding play. I did
concentrate more on this game than the one in Shea Stadium, so can say that I do know a little
more on the run of play. The crowd just eat and drink the whole time and make a
hell of a mess, without any conscience. The atmosphere is good though and all
of the commentary, no waves got going today. The game is a bit long and can get
boring if not exciting enough. Over 3
hrs I was there, glad I took the lotion with me. Was quick in getting out, the
crowd just milled along, would have been a different story if the Jays had won.
Will try to get a glimpse from the tower tomorrow, if I go up. Watching the
roof go back was interesting, it all folds neatly into a bunch at one end, very
clever mechanism. Was tired by the end of it all, thankfully stayed dry until I
was almost back.

Had an evening of chatting to a girl
from South Africa, she told me her name but I can’t remember. Sounds like she
has the same ideas as me on the USA and on life in general, could travel around
the US with her if we could meet somewhere. Have a really dry throat today.

Current day
thoughts

I have edited quite a lot out of my diary for this
week. You never know who’s reading and I
don’t want to give too much of myself away.
A diary can be quite a good place to let off steam and get inner
thoughts out, but not always good if other people get to read them. If I had shared everything I wrote with you,
you might want to have me locked away for my own protection. Guess that’s just me but I don’t have to work
on it anymore, so let’s move on.

When I wrote, ‘I have developed an aversion to the sea and
lakes over the years’, I was referring to swimming in them as I really do love
to sit an look out across water or sail in a boat. May
be I have watched too many movies, I just don’t enjoy being in water as much as
I used to.

I really ripped into Toronto. The area the hostel was situated in was not
the best area, it really showed the downside of how those less fortunate than
us get to live. The hostel was clearly
open to anyone who could afford to stay there, so there was quite a mix between
tourists and others who just wanted a roof over their head. It’s the same the world over. I guess I will never understand why some
people give up and stop trying to improve their situation. I hope I never get to that stage. I am a
lot more sympathetic now than back then, perhaps due to more awareness in
society. I grew up in a nice cosy
situation, not exposed to that sort of thing.
I knew about tramps but the word carried a different meaning to today We
don’t call even use it anymore. We were
taught to stay away from tramps, they were not nice people, so I guess I was a
little frightened being smack bang in the middle of so many. Being in London I see homelessness every day
and I still feel vulnerable. The rest
of Toronto was not so bad really, it had the usual stuff to see and I was able
to escape the city on occasion. Tourists
the world over are ripped off, so nothing new.

I went on a bit about the workshop. I have no recollection of what that was
about. Again, so many things I got my
teeth stuck into but cannot remember doing.
And the people I met, forget it.

I went to a baseball game in New York’s Shea Stadium in
1985. I never concentrated on the game,
it was the atmosphere that grabbed me and it was the same in Toronto. I have just learned that Shea Stadium was demolished
in 2009.

How could I ever get tired of Canada.

**************************************************

Week 21 – 12 June
to 18 June

12 June –
Apparently the game was not so good today, but the Blue Jays won.

The library was closed so had to shelve
that idea, so hot again.

My armpits have come out in some kind
of rash so really freaking out at the moment, could not say that the glands are
swollen though, throat still dry.

Hung around the C.N. Tower until after
the game had started. Finally homed in on a group who did not want to pay the
full $12 fee, one of them came up with me on the 2 for 1 coupon. Was a waste of
time really, the weather was busy so the views were limited; Toronto is not an
exciting city to look at, all buildings and cars. Could not even catch a look
at the game, the dome was over the pitch. My new friends are all Irish and work
in Boston, been over in the States for a year now. Neither of us were impressed
so we did not stay out that long but at least we can say we have done it.

Came back to the hostel, even hotter
inside, rain outside. Had a chat with an English couple from Preston, they are
brother and sister. He went to the ball game today. They travel together but
seem to do their own thing. He has
travelled extensively, wants to be a geography teacher, she a social worker,
but does not want to have to get a job yet. Nice pair of people. Stupid film on
tonight but we are all stuck in front of the box. Glad to be leaving tomorrow.

13 June – No
breakfast this morning, had to actually buy some, made a change to see people
walk about with blank expressions instead of muffins and pastries. Got caught
by Larry so decided to leave early, on the 12 o’clock bus.

Got to Niagara at 14:30 hrs, not a very
scenic route. Hard to believe you are about to embark upon one of the Seven
Wonders of the World. The hostel was easy to find, but could not check in until
19:00 hrs, so walked off to the Falls, took about 20/30 mins or so, was
disappointed with amount of buildings and stuff close by. They say it is nicer
on the USA side, will find out sooner or later. Have to do the ‘Maid of the
Mist’ tour, got my plastic mac. Bumped into Cath and her brother, we chatted
for ages, he went off; don’t think he likes hanging around people. Walked back
to the bus station with her, glad I did cause it pissed down with rain shortly after, will take a longer
hike tomorrow and really take the Falls in, don’t know how they can say that
one day is enough here.

Had a bit of hassle in the grocers, but
soon sorted, had to use my last traveller’s cheque up in the process. The rooms
etc. in the hostel are really nice, using a sheet tonight to see if I cope
better with the heat. Good crowd here tonight, most moving out tomorrow, quite
a mixed bunch of nationalities. Think we may have all gone out if it had not
been raining outside. It is nicer with a small bunch of people, everyone gets
to know each other, even the girl that works here joins in. There was a guy
from Stevenage here as well, out here for a month.

14 June – Have a
guitar serenade whilst writing this, a Japanese guy is strumming away, pretty
good too.

Had a good look at the Falls today,
tried to imagine the area as it would have been before the builders took over,
just natural vegetation. Would be so much more amazing I think. They should
have declared the area a national park conservation spot and built the towns,
on both sides, about half a mile away. A few pathways for people to walk or
cycle down, no cars. Wouldn’t kill people to have to walk. They could still run
the boat trips and stuff, only on a more tasteful basis. First thing I did was
to get in line for the ‘Maid of the Mist’ boat trip. Should have waited for the
next one and got a better spot. They just pile loads on, some people just get
wet without seeing anything. A standard issue blue plastic raincoat in handed
out before embarking, sufficient to serve its purpose but not worth keeping,
more worthwhile to re-cycle. It is a wonder the boats mange to stay afloat,
they take you right in to the Horseshoe Falls and the swell of the water is
terrific. Looking up at the water surging over the top, it doesn’t look real,
it is just a totally unreal experience. Luckily I managed to get some piccies.
Continued to walk along to the Horseshoes and got a view of the water from the
top down, could almost stand on top of them. The Niagara river quite a ways
back is rapidy, no chance once you get caught up in them. Nice parkland if you
follow the road along. Went around Dufferin Islands, think this is where I may
have gotten my next mega bite. Just standing and looking at the Falls was
enough for me for the remainder of the afternoon. I want the memory forever,
still can’t take them in. Got some pressies and headed back home. Went back
down to see them in the dark. Tinsel
town was ablaze. All they do to light the Falls up is to shine different
coloured lights on to them to get an effect on the 170 ft drop of water. Just
another gimmick really. So hot again tonight, my legs look like a battle
ground.

15 June – Lounged
around until just after 12 o’clock, it was closer to 13:00 hrs. Wrote my
letters and tried to stay cool, difficult. Not looking forward to my trek
across the bridge. Tried to stick to the shade where I could and took a couple
of breaks, not that I sat for long, did not take as long as I imagined. Was 25
cents to go across, flaming cheek. The guy that was at the immigration was
friendly and did not give me any hassle, just wanted to get the back pack off,
absolutely sweltering underneath it. Took a little walk to get to the hostel
through, which is apparently, not a desirable part of town. Looks like most of
the town is the same. Surprised there was anything left of me, my clothes were
dripping wet with sweat. Had to wait a couple of hours to get in, was so glad
to have a shower. Hostel is better this side than on the other, very strict,
but well fun.

Phoned the Trek-America number, gave
them a few places I wanted to go and, hey presto a brilliant schedule came to
light, very cheap as well. So all I have to do is sort out how to get to L.A.
and we are all square.

Heike gave me some tablets and gel for
my bite, they zonk you out so, despite the heat, I was out like a light. Hated
having anything on, was so sticky out. Two girls from South Africa were telling
me of the trip they are doing, so many places, so I assumed they were away for
ages. Two weeks that’s all, they must be knackered.

16 June – Will not
be doing much today, its sooo hot. The 09:30 hrs chuck out in the morning is a
bit much, 6½ hrs before we can get back in. My bite is going now as are my
other ills, so feeling a lot better about myself, not so frantic, my mind is
clearing.

Popped into the Greyhound Station, the
woman was so matter of fact, not so helpful. You have to know exactly where you
are going as no schedules available to view. Anyways, I have to check my hostel
book out before I decide, the trip goes off in 16 days, so have a while to sort
it out.

Went down to the Falls to see them from
this side, too hot to stay out of the shade for long. Not really that
interested in the Falls today so found a shady spot to sit under for an hour, spent
the rest of the time diving in and out of air conditioned places. I think the
pill I took today made me drowsy, could not concentrate on anything.

Eventually got into the hostel and had
a wonderful shower, was not long before I needed another.

Worked out a hostel route to L.A. not
many accessible ones in the upper States, will still only cost me $179. Phoned
the Trek America again booked my place, will be able to fill out a booking form
in Chicago and sort everything out, pretty good stuff. Looking forward to it, so much more that I
would like to see, however, I figure I am going to see more than I was
intending to, plus I get to go to Disney.

Was nice sitting by the water today,
could have fallen asleep, was mesmerising. The rushing water so cleansing
rushing through me, makes you feel good. Could be hectic for a few days but
have to click in, wake up and go with the flow.

Not so much to write about today, too
hot to think.

17 June – Just
knew today was not going to go as smooth as a baby’s bum. Left the hostel at
09:30 hrs with Heike and went to the station. Only 89 degrees today compared to
102 yesterday. Was still good to be in an air conditioned place. I laid my
plans down, my ticket was drawn out, I paid my $179 to L.A. with stopovers.
Caught the early bus to Buffalo, said my goodbye to Heike, everything was hunky
dory. I went to the ticket place to reserve a space on the bus and this is
where my problems started. She re-did my ticket by computer, however, and I am
glad I checked it, I now had a direct route, continuous, to L.A. no stopovers.
Queried it, told them had made a mistake, was ushered to the customer services
office, really mad by now. I would have to purchase tickets separately if I
wanted to stopover, would cost double $179 plus. No way I am doing that. So we
worked out various routes and they still came out expensive. If I cancelled my
original ticket in favour of a new one I would lose 15% against it, all because
the Greyhound company made an error. I would be penalised. Settled for just
Salt Lake City and L.A., only another $52 dollars on top. However, and I was
fed up with arguing by now, what they did was to issue another ticket to Salt
Lake City and I have to purchase another to L.A. when there, $72, so I lose out
totally. Maybe somebody at the hostel there is going to L.A., I can share
petrol, I refuse to give Greyhound any more if I can help it. They have
obviously never heard of the ‘taken in faith’ policy or the ‘customer is always
right’. I hope they sack the Niagara lady, don’t need no more shit. Got through
Oz and Canada, no hassle, been here less than a week and I get this. Now going,
Buffalo, Chicago, Salt Lake City, L.A. Cannot cancel my reservation in Detroit
so guess they will just let the room go, lucky no deposit paid. I will wait
until I get to Salt Lake City in the morning to book there, maybe too late. I
also have to phone Trek America to re-sort my booking, hope they have a fax at
the hostel, such a pain in the butt.

In Ohio now, looks like they had rain,
cleared the air a bit. A low mist all around the countryside. Not impressed
with USA yet. Just hope my pack is on the coach, what are my chances based on
today. Had some company up to Cleveland, an 18 year old girl from Croydon.
Doing west and east Canada, going to Calgary Stampede, being met by friends in
Cleveland to stay a few days. Wish I was her right now. Seems more expensive
here than Canada. If I had known what I was going to do in USA I would have
bought a bus pass at home. I think it may have expired by now though, at least
I can warn others back home with my new found wisdom. (Now writing this 3 days
later due to horrendous journey). Reached Chicago in good time.

18 June – Today
was just the icing on the cake. No driver to take us to Cheyenne, actually it
was Omaha first. So 1½ hrs late leaving. The bus was calm at this stage. Tried
to sleep, but hardly did. So we get to Des Moines and, surprise, surprise,
delayed again. So hot and muggy. Can’t even remember if I am writing this
correctly, so much hassle. To Omaha now, new driver. Moved seats due to
families getting on board. Not much of a journey to comment on, a few stops to
refresh, hate trips like this, don’t eat or drink properly and have to keep the
same clothes on for days. The time differences do not help. Got to Omaha early
evening, no driver to carry us off, all banging our heads against each other as
well as the wall, reckon we are about 2¼ hrs late, nobody tells us anything
though, we just get left to wait. Those who have connecting buses in Salt Lake
City are never going to get them. Had a little better night’s sleep, Rajiv and
I used each other as pillows, we thought we knew each other well enough by now.
The few stops interrupted the sleep so was annoying. Morning was quick in coming,
breakfast was shit. Much farming land, however, a little more picturesque than
Canada’s prairies, some quite cute farms dotted around. Maybe we will have
better luck in Cheyenne. We have the cutest baby on board, she hardly cries, so
happy and content, everybody wants to hold her for a while and she loves it. Cheyenne
was no better, the bus: actually Cheyenne happened before morning, you see I am
so confused about it all: well the bus was taken away for a wash and brush up
and the driver, what driver, they had no driver for us, we didn’t expect one.
Once all was sorted we had an express bus all the way to Salt Lake City.

Current day
thoughts

‘the weather was busy’ – It must have been a mixed day with
sunshine and showers or something, lots of weather going on.

It was a shock to get to Niagara in Canada and find the town
so tacky, blame us tourists I guess.
The USA side was much nicer around the Falls, with park land, much more
tasteful. I can still remember the
roaring sound of the water, from both the Falls and from the river running down
towards them at such a terrific speed.
There didn’t appear to be any secure barriers to prevent anyone from
either jumping into the river or going over the Falls, very open. Bit scary to be honest.

I am a bit of a magnet for mosquitos and midges but have
never suffered just raging bites as the ones I got in Niagara. Thankfully my friend Heike was there to offer
advice. Heike was a German lady and we
got on well, in fact we corresponded for many years after I returned home and
then just stopped. Anyway, it was great
to find some greenery to walk amongst on the Canadian side.

Once I was across the border into the USA, the walk to the
hostel was interesting. I took the most
direct route according to the map; it was literally as the crow flies. The route was in a rundown part of town,
through a residential area. I got a
little way along the route and some people acknowledged me from their veranda,
and a little further along a guy on a bicycle (looked like a chopper from the
70s) circled twice around me and then rode off.
I didn’t stop or flinch, but kept walking. I realised then that I was not in a good part
of town and perhaps he served as a warning to stay away or get out as soon as I
could. When I checked in at the hostel I
was given a map of the area and was told which the safest places were, suffice
to say the route I took was not on that list.

There are so many travellers out there who cram a lot of
places into a small amount of time. I am
so glad to have had a much more leisurely trip.

I really wanted to get to Detroit to see the Motown Museum. I remember the lady at the Greyhound station
asking why I wanted to go to Detroit, she seemed quite concerned that I should
want to, so maybe it was a good thing I missed it. I don’t have the craving to visit
anymore. I was really hacked of at
having my scheduled plans disrupted though.

Two days cramped onto a bus, seemed like forever. Thankfully everyone was nice. I feel that going Greyhound you get to
experience the real America. So much
more to come.

***********************************************************

Week 22 – 19 June
to 25 June

19 June – Never
made up the time though. Came through the Rockies, the scenery was so pretty,
still a little snow on the mountain tops. Salt Lake City sucked up to everyone,
they could not have been more apologetic. Coffee, sarnies laid on, those who
missed their buses would have had to wait at the depot for 10 hrs until the
next one, so hotel rooms were laid on as well. Managed to get one too, I would
get a free night’s accommodation. Chauffeur driven to the Ramada Inn, we all
settled in for a shower and sleep. Salt Lake City has some beautiful scenery
round about it, no sign of the Lake yet. The city is huge, but the actual
buildings not so built up, the roads are huge. I like towns like this, they
have character, very quiet on the streets, too hot I guess. Went out for a meal
at the Olive Garden, an Italian joint. Due to the past few days my appetite has
been suppressed so never ate very much except salad, took some home for
breakfast tomorrow, yeuky! Still very hot sun late in the evening. So knackered
just want to sleep tonight, nice bed, air conditioning, shower, television.

20 June – Still
tired this morning, don’t have to be out until noon. Got the hotel van to the
Greyhound station, have to sort my ticket out. It seems that I should only have
been charged $68 dollars for the trip so a refund was offered of $111. However
I told them that all I wanted was a ticket to L.A., so I got a complementary
one to use when I like. I am happy now, the Buffalo crowd are going to be
sorted out.

Walked a ways in the heat to the hostel,
not so far out of the town. Walked to the post office and got the stamps n
stuff. There was nearly a brawl in the queue, some people, no patience.

The Trek America have an agent in the
city which is good. Made the long, long walk to reach it, would have taken a
bus if I had known. So many poor people in the city. Now I really do not know
what I am doing over here, not impressed with USA at all. The 6 week trip is
$1780 plus, knew it was too good to be true. What to do now, simply cannot
afford that amount of money. To think I could be in Buffalo with Bob now.
Filtered through the brochure, but could not find anything better, came away
very dissatisfied and with the brochure.

Got some groceries and came back to the
hostel. I do not feel like eating but have to, the heat is awful and I have a
rash on my legs from it. Just spent tonight thinking about what I do now, I do
not want to waste my time here in the USA. Think I can do it cheaper on my own.
See a few things this side and go straight back across to New York City and do
something over there. If they have trips out to the Canyon I will get on one,
do Disneyland and make that do. What a bastard.

21 June – Wanted
to get an early start, however, our sweetie manager was late getting is act
together, so had to hang around a while. Got me a seat on a tour out to the
Salt Lake tomorrow at 14:00 hrs and sent my package back to UK. Those little
jobs done I was ready for my day, it was much cooler as well. Hunted the malls
for my souvenirs and then went to the Temple Square.

Today was one of those thought
provoking times, when conscience stirs. Tours of the square got going every 10
minutes, they are conducted by missionaries. I now have an understanding of
what it is Christian Stoker is doing. The girl was very knowledgeable and, I
think, would make a perfect match for Christian. The guys go on a mission,
anywhere in the world, for 2 years and the girls for 18 months. Everything in
the square is very compacted, so difficult to take any decent photos. We had a
brief history of the Temple, seems that only members of the faith can get in,
very strict on that one. The Mormons are actually of the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter Day Saints, the Old Testament. Then you walk through the Tabernacle
where the famous Tabernacle Choir perform, hopefully I can get to see them on
Thursday night before I leave. It also holds a magnificent organ, tried to
think of a better way to put it, just my mind working overtime. It is the 7th
largest in the world, and has over 1500
pipes, quite spectacular. Our tour ends in the North Visitors Centre. A statue
of Jesus Christ is on the top floor and the walls and domed ceiling are all painted
with the sky and clouds and stars and planets, very beautiful. We sat for a
while and listened to a teaching of Jesus. They say that the room is a very
peaceful place, but I never got anything from it. I can sit in a church and
feel the calm, but not here. Down stairs we had a short video presentation of
the meaning of life, kind of makes you think. They have touch screen videos to
answer any questions you have on religion or life. I tried one on families but
the voice over is very loud, so everyone knows what it is you are listening to.
I guess being open is one of the things they teach you. I was the only one of
our group to fill out a visitor card, the rest were just tourists looking
around, not really interested in a contribution. You have the opportunity to
have the book of Mormons sent to you, but I declined and they are cool about
that. It would be interesting to read but I have learned enough for the moment.
I think if every person were to learn just a little of other religions, then
they could understand and respect and not be afraid of something different and
then the wars would cease. The church is the main instigator of war, funny,
seeing as how god teaches us peace and understanding. I was given a ticket to
see a movie, ‘Legacy’, in another building, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.
Joseph Smith was the original prophet of the Mormons. Had a little while to
kill before the showing, so had a snack and watched a world cup game in a mall.
The film was good, just told the story of the Mormon struggle to find their
land in the USA, not too spectacular. All the things I did today are free, the
Mormons love to share. Everything I saw today was very plush, I think the
inside of the Temple is as well. Also
sat through a selection of organ recitals, the acoustics are said to be
magnificent. Had a horrible supper, meat pit and chilli and spent the evening
writing up on this epic. The summer solstice today.

22 June – A few
hours to kill before the tour out to the Lake. Got up late and ate breakfast late.
Just moseyed around the town in the heat, the Disney store got me stirred for
L.A. the Lion King is being plugged at the moment. Wandered back to the Temple
Square to see inside the Assembly Hall, yet another organ. Sat for a while
outside soaking up the atmosphere, was bugged again for a book of the Mormons.
There is actually one here at the hostel, looks very time consuming.

Got to the Shils Inn fairly early so as
not to be all hot and bothered for the trip. Only six of us so good number, we
got away on time as well. Bit of a clever bus driver, can communicate in a few
languages, even Japanese. First went to the Kennecott open pit copper mine,
made sure we stopped at the souvenir shop first. The mine is the largest man
made excavation and only produces 15% of USA copper. I viewed the centre of the
mine through binoculars, just amazing how big the whole thing is. Reminded me
of the Flinstones. Good to see the lorries, loaded from the centre, travel
around and up to the crushing system, where it comes out as powder to be piped
to the process area. We were given a sample of the copper ore. The area is set
in the Bingham Canyon, I think it could be said, part of the tail end of the
Rocky Mountains. We only had 20 minutes there, so not nearly enough time. On to
the great Salt Lake, we stopped off at the Saltair resort, which has taken
three attempts to establish. Spoils it a lot, very tacky with amusements, camel
rides and the pavilion is not much good either. The smell in the air is
dreadful but you get used to it. Again hard to believe it is a lake. Could have
spent a whole day here just gazing out on to the horizon, it was so beautiful.
Just touched the water, would have gone for a swim if we had longer. Hundreds
of millions of tiny flies swarmed at the lake edge, apparently they only eat
the shrimp so no worries. Hated leaving, I was captured by the view. Another
world famous I have seen. Another girl from the hostel was in our group so we
got chatting, as did one of the guys, from Louisiana. He gave each of us his
address should we be in that area. He wanted to take us for a cool drink after,
think he fancied his chances. We politely declined and came back home via the
supermarket. The tour ended an hour short, a real rip off when you think about
it.

There are credit card phones in Salt
Lake City somewhere according to the operator, so that is one of my tasks
tomorrow.

23 June – This has
probably been one of the longest days so far. I managed to make my time at the
hostel stretch until 10:00 hrs. Over a huge breakfast I met Don, Don is a mine
of information when it came to travelling, he likes to help young people out
whenever he can. I came away with some useful information and someone to carry
one of my bags to the Greyhound station. My stomach was playing up first thing,
probably what I had yesterday and my left armpit is giving me cause for
concern. Been sneezing all day too, so hope I am not going through a bad stage
again. So I have twelve hours to kill before my departure.

Managed to find a payphone that would
charge to my Mastercard, at a discount, so was able to make my reservation for
L.A. Was hoping that it would take longer than this to sort out. I never
planned on drinking much or buying food today, I had a huge breakfast after all
and some sarnies packed away. However, when you are bored it is surprising how
much you buy in order to while away the hours and to make yourself look not so
vacant and bewildered.

Hit the shopping malls for a while,
becoming quite a regular, the workers must have wondered at the amount of times
they saw me today. Braved the heat and walked up the hill to the Capitol Building,
plays the most beautiful 12 o’clock chimes I have ever heard. Not sure of whether you could go in or not so
sat in the gardens for a rest. Found a shady tree to sit under for lunch. I
wasn’t even hungry, but now it is gone. The Pioneer Memorial Museum was just
next door so decided to kill a couple of hours there, it was free. It is run by
daughters of the first pioneers and contains artefacts from families dating
right back to 1800’s. Nothing too
interesting to look at, except for the doll collection, handmade of all nations
and some of the wagons and carriages. The most amazing thing was the huge
number of photographs everywhere, 2000 or more I should say, everywhere. Back
into town again, only seven hours to go. Sat in the shade, wandered the malls
again, eventually had something to eat, crazy person. The thing I like about
the city is the number of drinks fountains everywhere, never need to buy a
drink. The fountain in the office building square is the perfect setting for
wedding photos, some going on today.

Waiting now in Temple Square for the
start of the choir practice.

So I have now seen the Mormon
Tabernacle Choir, they sang so beautifully. So many people coming and going
through, it was sometimes difficult to hear. The lower area was packed out,
glad I started to queue when I did.

Had to leave at 21:00 hrs for the bus
depot, doesn’t look like many people here for the L.A. run, maybe get a whole
seat to myself. Surprise! The bus was an hour late going out.

24 June – Not a
brilliant night, but not bad. Didn’t even bother getting out for the 30 minutes
stop. Got to Las Vegas around 06:30 hrs, pretty warm, lots of people up working
already to beat the heat. Glad I am not staying here, looks really trashy, not
quite what I expected. Supposed to be cheap to stay though.

The scenery in the Nevada Desert is
brilliant. Just sand and hills relatively untouched landscape. It oozes
tranquillity. A little further along the road and more than once, we come
across small complexes. Couple of hotels and gas station, they look like toy
town palaces stuck in the middle of nowhere. All with casinos of course. Will
reach L.A. around 14:30 hrs. A scenic journey, but too tired to take it all in,
had a creep sitting next to me at one stage.
I have never come across a company so rude and unhelpful, get the
feeling I am not the only one. The information man lacked it and the customer
services not there. Have visions of being here all night. Managed after a long
wait to get a ticket to Long Beach, hopefully there is a bus to take me the
rest of the way. Very bitty area. There are a lot of nice house settings
amongst the hills, but the freeways and factories spoil it. Could barely see
the mountains in the near distance due to smog, just covers an immense area,
face masks out. I will work out tonight my next move and get tickets from Long
Beach.

Took a long time, but finally managed
to make it to the hostel, escorted by a bevy of local girls going my way. This
is definitely a young person’s hostel, not me at all. Seems like they all get
pissed or stoned every day, think I will hang out for one week only. Can’t
stand the pace, showers are very open, no door, loos are nearly as bad with no
curtains. Sharing with a couple of New
Zealand girls, twins, have one week to spend with them, bad news. May check
into another listed hostel after this.

25 June – Got up
early so as to catch the shower, can’t imagine anyone else rising before 10:00
hrs. First move was the Greyhound station in Long Beach, buses were fairly
swift so not much hanging around, had time for a lovely breakfast from Taco Line.
The guy behind the counter was a bit vague, so only booked my tickets to San
Diego and then to Flagstaff in a week and two respectively. Should kill some
time before heading east, can go directly to Lake George. Will prepare better
for the 3 night trip.

Once finished in Long Beach I came back
here, managed to get the grocery shop done in between. Not much activity at the
hostel, those around seemed dead, probably preparing for the night life. Only
one person, so far, who seems human. Not
sure if he is sure about this place either, he is just hanging around until he
starts work as an au pair. The money is not going too badly, managing to cope.
Going to Disneyland on Monday, early. Hit the beach tomorrow.

Walked down main street, felt very old
and frumpy. Full of young healthy men and women in short shorts and bikini
tops. This must be the only street in Huntington. Had an amazing ice cream, thickest chocolate
covered in nuts, resisted the chocolate covered bananas with nuts all over it.
The pier makes a nice refreshing walk in to the sea breeze. Did not look like
much surf rising itself for the surfers. Gazing out on to the ocean blue and
the golden beach you see the surf, boats, palm trees, bronzed bodies, oil rigs
and smog, the horizon completely disappears, can imagine I am walking through
it constantly. On the way back along the pier a guy went by with his pet python
around his neck, such an outrageous place.

Dinner was a little hot, too much
seasoning, have to get used to it though for India. Stephanie was telling me I
should go up to the Hollywood area and look around, would be good to have
someone to go with. The beaches are supposed to be good, but there is a lot of
pollution around. Glad I didn’t go to Venice Beach, not such a good hostel or
area, good advice there. Feel a lot more organised today. Will hang around
tonight and see what is going down.

Current day
thoughts

I finally made it to one of the places I promised myself I
would go to when I was a child, Salt Lake City. I was first made aware of Salt Lake City
through The Osmonds back in the 70s.
Like most young girls I was a fan and learned as much as I could about
them. My mum bought me The Osmonds
magazine every month. They came from
nearby Salt Lake City and were Mormons, so I was very excited to be there and
take it all in. The family I stayed with
on Vancouver Island, Canada, are Mormons and their son Christian was away,
can’t remember where, on his mission to spread the word about his faith. Pretty much everything in the centre of Salt
Lake City is Mormon related and I loved every second of everything I witnessed,
however, despite always being happy to learn about other faiths, I have no
intention of taking one up. I ditched
the faith I was baptised into as a child by my parents and that is where I
leave it.

The post office is where I sent my package back home
containing my diaries. I waited ages in
the queue, behind a man who had about a thousand letters to send. He stood at the counter putting things in
envelopes. Nobody was impressed, but he
became quite aggressive towards a man who complained, so we all let him get on
with it.

The salt lake was magnificent as I mentioned. I suppose in order to get as many people to
visit such an attraction there has to be something else to entertain, but does
it always have to be so tacky. Saltair
Resort just didn’t look right in such a beautiful setting.

Moving from Salt Lake City towards LA proved no exception in
the form of Las Vegas. Surrounded by the
desert, it is like a blot on the landscape.
I only made it into the toilets at the Greyhound station and that was
enough. What a disgusting place.

I misread the details of the Trek America trip, which was
disappointing as it took in a lot of great places, which I can’t remember
now. I quickly forgot about it and made
new plans, which would still ensure I got to see a lot of places, even if for a
brief moment passing through on the bus.

The Huntington Beach hostel was very much a laid back place
but well run despite everything. I
remember sitting on the loo for a pee and someone was sitting directly outside
the window, thankfully with their back to me, hopefully not peeking. When you gotta go you gotta go, no time for
shyness. It was nice to be amongst friendly people
happy to accept you into the crowd. One
thing I can say about hostels is that everyone has something to share. I felt very hip.

The town was very much like you would see in the movies, I
was near to Hollywood after all, with the feeling of a rich kid’s
paradise. More of the town to come next
time……

It is interesting to go from the intenseness of a big city
to the relaxed atmosphere of a small seaside town and see how different people
can be.

****************************************************************

Week 23 – 26 June to 2 July

26 June – Will get some post cards tomorrow when I go to Disneyland. Yeah! I’m going to Disneyland.

A very hot, lazy day so not a great deal to report. Feeling a bit more comfortable around the guys hanging out here and the gals, some of them anyway. Had my back well plastered with lotion and hit the beach, pretty early so not crowded. Did a half hour each side and walked around for another. Fascinating watching the surfers, rather them than me, the water did not look healthy. Would love to drive up to Maxwell’s down by the beach, they have valet parking. Some real old grannies turning up who think they still have it. Thousands of bronzed bodies down main street, I strolled by in cossie and shorts so felt well cool.

Nobody doing much at the hostel, just hanging. The whole area is such a wild place, the atmosphere is alive, hard to believe that just up the road is L.A. city.

Went out for another walk to check out the bus stop for tomorrow, too hot to sit and read so came back. Still hoards of people heading for the beach. The USA lost their game in the world cup, but they do get through to the next round, flook, big flook. Could have stayed on the beach for longer but didn’t want to frazzle. Been reading a book about Michael Landon, only two days and nearly finished it. Do not like the format of the literature but it makes interesting reading, he really had a shit life.

Watched a movie tonight and that was Sunday. Did not know anybody’s name in the crowd but felt good to be in the bunch. Nothing to do here but veg, unless you can travel out. Seem to be a lot of amusement parks about, and Hollywood, would like to visit there just to say I did it.

27 June – (writing this on the 28th) – Well, what can I say about the day, a dream come true. Was up at the crack of dawn to catch the 07:20 hrs bus. After a little disorientation I was on the monorail, day passport in hand, for the journey into Disneyland. Would loved to have been able to purchase a three day pass, could easily go back, so hope I win the 40th anniversary celebration invitation for next year. A complimentary guidebook enabled me to plan the day successfully. The drop off point was ‘Tomorrowland’ . Got straight into an already long queue to ‘ Space Mountain’, had no idea what to expect. The heat was increasing. Launched into outer-space I was glad not to be able to see the inner construction of the ride. The interwoven track was amazing, zig zagging us through the stars at exhilarating speed. Quite a mind blowing start to the day. I still have some bottle left. The Autopia car drive was unexciting, driving around a circuit to nowhere. Decided a couple of attractions at each site would enable me to get around it all. Purchased a much needed sun visor, my hat was inappropriate. Took the sky ride through the Matterhorn Bob Sleigh ride into ‘Fantasy Land’, one of my favourite spots. Here you meet, Snow White, Pinnochio, Alice in Wonderland, Dumbo, all magical things. Flew with Dumbo and spun on the tea cups. Turrets and castles framed the area. At this point I was hungry and hot so dived into the pizza place for lunch. Glad for the many water fountains available around the park. Everything consumable was so expensive, but the Americans just shovel it in like there is no tomorrow. Will visit to Fantasy Land later on as well. Made it to Toon Town at 12:45 hrs according to the, ‘It’s a Small, Small World’, ornamental clock. Toon Town was probably my favourite place of all, so wacky. The Jolly Trolley wobbled along the streets flagged by the cartoon houses. A colourful, fun image town. Joined the Queue to the latest Disney attraction, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin. Once inside these attractions and out of the heat, the queue is always so long as it was outside. A brilliant ride all the way from the queue to the end. You walk through a Roger Rabbit set with voice overs and eventually hop into a car. The car spins around the set, especially in spin street. A zany ride with excellent effects, I just laughed the whole time as things flashed before my eyes, right out of the exit hole, (a clever invention). The Disney characters were out in force in their home town, Goofey (being goofey), Pluto, Roger, Chip and Dale, Donald. So sweet to see some of the tiny tots reactions as they came face to face. The characters are all fun loving, hugs and kisses. Would hate to wear all of that in this heat. Minnie was not in so went next door to Mickey’s house. Such a big place he has got, very tidy too. All objects are so animated it makes you feel like you are in a cartoon strip. He was out the back in his filming studio dressing room. A small group at a time are ushered in to meet him, so silly, you become partially dumbstruck at being in the presence of Mickey Mouse. You really have to believe that it is real and not make believe. The only way to have fun here is to join in with the rest of them, be a big kid. Hung around for a while for Minnie’s arrival, I was in the queue by then. She greeted her guests in the front room, just time for a photo call, just for Amy. Things to play around with in this house, not as big as Mickey’s. Walked past Daisy’s Diner, Goofey’s house, back through Fantasy to Frontier Land, Pioneer Days, ranches and rafting. Sailed around the Rivers of America on Mark Twain’s paddle steamer, which takes you through various aspects of early American life and wildlife. Catch the bear scratching itself against a tree. The port overlooks New Orleans Square, a totally different world. Beautiful houses and unique stores and exclusive restaurants, my kind of place. The shade in this area is much needed. Would love to have had the cash to buy a decent souvenir, settled for my thimble and patch and my memories. Headed back to the Runaway Train, nearly lost my hat here. Such speed through the hills and caves. So many of these high speed coaster rides, you get tired of them after a while. ‘Critter Land’ next, hillbilly bears. They have the log ride here, but have decided I don’t like these anymore. Saw a theatre presentation of the bears that live here. Loved the talking trophy heads on the wall. Adventure land was not so interesting to me, bazaars and tree houses. Sadly the Indiana Jones ride is not open until next year. Had a snack and a rest, decided to hang around for the parade and fireworks. You forget how much that Disney has done, I would have been happy to stay with the better known characters all day; that is Disney to me. Bought my healthy chocolate bar supper and found a good spot for the parade eventually. But not before I have travelled through Pinnochio’s world and rode through Toon Town on the Jolly Trolley. Did not want to risk having to queue for anything else. Had a prime spot for the parade, on the floor but at least I was in the front. At 21:00 hrs the extravaganza began, amazingly I was still alert after twelve hours. A half hour parade of glittering lights of character, plus Mickey and the gang too amongst them. Alice in Wonderland, Snow White, Pete’s Dragon, the cutest little bugs. A magical display, you have to be there to get the atmosphere. Running out of time I wondered whether I would get to see the fireworks. Thankfully I saw most of them, to the tune of ‘When you wish upon a star’, behind the Sleeping Beauty castle. Camera film finished I made the dash to the monorail, still with the music all around me, quite dramatic. Made each bus just in time and got home earlier than expected, got in without hassle. Will never, ever forget the day. I spent the whole time with a smile on my face, laughing openly, loving every minute of the magical land. One of my best days to date. Please let the photos come out.

28 June – (Now to today) – Not much to do today, Had a lie in until 08:30 hrs. Sat outside and wrote the postcards, would love to see my brother’s face when he gets it, should have phoned him yesterday. Wandered to the post office to get them off, the cards that is, and went to the pier to finish reading my book; Was not in the mood for sand everywhere. Whilst enjoying the sun a couple of girls came up with a questionnaire, so I invited them to question me. We started off with sport, soccer to be exact. How the conversation got on to religion I will never know, but this is what they were about. A crusading sect from Colorado, very cunning approach. Don’t know what it is about me, but I always attract these people. I am beginning to think that my trip has been a crusade of my own, to convert me into a born again Christian. They wanted me to sit and say a prayer with them to let god in to my life or rather Jesus. I declined and came away with a booklet instead. If I want religion I will do it in my own time not by pressurisation on the spot. Read some more and came back before I burned too much. I am finding that I tend to come out in a rash from the heat at the moment. Finished the book, very touching, very sad. Should have had lotion on today. Lazy evening, think a lot of people are going to an opening of some bar, can’t afford it though, after yesterday. They will only get rat arsed anyway. Should read the bible tonight.

29 June – One of my lets walk and get nowhere fast days. Decided on Newport, glad I took the bus, long walk otherwise in the heat. Sunburn is playing up. Got off at Fashion Island, an extravagant, quite exclusive shopping complex. The Hard Rock Café is in the area, somehow managed to miss it on the way back. Indulged in a slice of chocolate cake and fresh juice, a contrasting lunch. Wanted to find the beach so walked, the wrong way. After winding my way down through some very nice houses I happened upon Balboa Island, wasted more time than I intended. Still I did mean to go there. Mainly a marina on the north side, very pretty houses and holiday homes, reminds me of Devon or Cornwall. All of this stretch south of L.A. is resortish and flash, no poor people evident here. Took the ferry over to Balboa, again quite quaint little place. What greets you is a promenade of amusements and cruises, whilst the south side is all beach. Weather was overcast so able to have a pleasant half hour sitting and watching the world go by. Not a very eventful day but I felt happy and free, must be the sea air.

People seem to be having their navels pierced around the hostel, would annoy me no end. Another T.V. night no doubt. Apparently there was a demonstration of dog owners on the beach yesterday, complaining that they are banned from walking their dogs on the beach. So they all did their business, sad people, what do they expect. How would they like it if I went and crapped on their front lawns. What I would do is designate a patch of beach and let them run wild with the dogs and not bother to have the sand cleaned at all, the crap would pile sky high and the owners would soon understand. San Diego looks nice.

30 June – What was the point of today. I walked north on main to see what was abound. Came across a small shopping centre, not a nice place, so had a doughnut and brought a Muffin for tomorrow’s breakfast and came back. Really would have loved to have seen Hollywood, but too risky on the buses. Still overcast first thing. Went back to the hostel, mooched around and went out again. This time purchased a book, a classic, ‘Emma’, by Jane Austin. Sat on the pier reading until the sun came out, my shoulders are still too painful to sit out.

Very weary from the heat, so took a half hour rest. Our room looks empty now that Stephanie is gone. Read some more, sorted my gear for tomorrow, ate tea and packed my bags. The book is so written that it is fairly hard to take it all in. Will be glad to get going tomorrow, so boring here unless you surf or are able to sit in the sun. Martina is in to the final, surprise, surprise. Put away my other book this morning, my passion is not so great. I was thinking today that Kevin will be mad at me for going to India, but I fear that he will never have the courage to go away for any length of time to dash around a country, let alone afford to. I want this for myself, selfish maybe, but I have the energy to do it now, I may be too busy with my career in the future. Now is most important to me at present, hmmm. Think about that one.

1 July – Left Huntington without incident. Somebody puked last night down our landing to the bog, wonderful stench to greet me. Linda, if it was her in the bunk below, kept me awake with her constant snoring, I really get mad when I want to sleep and can’t. Buses got me to the Greyhound Station early so had to stick around, no comforts there to depend upon. Journey was uneventful. Some nice hilly areas coming in to San Diego, gets much more Mexican like the further down you go.

San Diego itself looks ok, nothing special in the bus depot area. Walked the wrong way so had double the journey necessary. I was almost up to the door of the hostel when this guy jumped me. I imagined he was touting for business for the Y.M.C.A., not knowing at that time the hostel was in the same building. However, turns out he was on the bus from L.A. but did not talk to me because I looked tired. Do I look tired? He was just gushing and gushing, planning my next few hours and being a total jerk. I kept walking, think he got the message, some people like to catch you unawares. Forgot to do the Flagstaff ticket.

First thing I did was to get all of my washing out of the way. The laundry is part of the complex of the building and fairly cheap. The lobby here is very nice, reception desks for the Y.M.C.A. and hostel, barbers shop, café. Hostel is ok, mattresses a different story, at least we have our own showers and loo. A key operates the elevator to our floor, very security conscious. The Y.M.C.A. looks very military, however, we are well situated. I am tired tonight so may be an early night. ‘Emma’ is coming along nicely. Only problem in the kitchen, no hobs, microwave is the best they could come up with.

2 July – Had a wonderful time at the Greyhound Station this morning, the ticket queue was already out of the door when I got there so resisted taking my purse out of my bag until I was inside. Don’t know why, there is just as much chance of crime inside as out. Once inside the entertainment began. One coloured guy grabbed another, from behind, around the neck, in what seemed to be a playful banter. However, the victim was soon knocked to the ground and the attacker was joined by another, whence they proceeded to kick the shit out of the victim. The crowd remained calm, apart from a stupid Mexican in front of me, after all the fight had nothing to do with us. A security guard turned up minutes later to break the brawl and that was it, exciting stuff. Tempers were now beginning to rise is the queue, there only appeared to be one window open, very Greyhound America. Eventually got to the window, my ticket, I thought, was not as urgent as some but I refused to get out of line. Looks like 20 days advance was not enough. Right up until 27/7 the buses from Flagstaff, east, are booked solid on the cheap deals. No way was I paying another $179 to go back. So I have a wonderful 2½ weeks to kill in Flagstaff. Think I will take advantage of the work for my board deal.

Stopped off at the hostel and headed for the water’s edge. Strolled pass the ‘Star of India’ tall ship, now a museum, the harbour cruise booths and ended up on the boardwalk. This is a very naval based area. Stopped off for a snack, not necessary really, and stumbled into Sea port Village. Glad I did, such a nice place, full of atmosphere with live music. Reminded me of Disneyland, so quaint with exclusive shops and eateries. Quite a Covent Garden with the street entertainers. On the way down to the Enbarcadero Marina Park I was distracted by a guy getting a crowd together for this magic show. Craig Stone was his name and he was such a funny guy, even before his show started. Quick witted and very visual, eat your heart out Paul Daniels, this guy deserves the big time. There was yet more to the village, so after visiting some rather sad toilets I wandered around the rest and sat to read for a while. The hostel does not appear to be doing anything for 4th July, so really stuck now, not bothered about the daytime, just the evening. A bit better evening than last. Have learned that it doesn’t take much to spark tempers around this city, have heard a lot of mouthing off today. Martina did not win Wimbledon, but I guess she must have gone out on a high. I feel on a high at the moment despite my travel problems, the sun does us all good.

Current day thoughts

So I felt frumpy in the town of Huntington Beach but hip in the hostel. It was like two worlds colliding. I clearly remedied that by wearing my swimming costume into the town so as not to stick out like a sore thumb. I’m sure nobody noticed me anyway. With the exception of Disney I had little choice but to chill most of the time. My brain was very active which can make chilling difficult because you just want to be out doing something and not just sitting around. The sunny weather got me out and about, but there is only so much sun a person can take. My skin was tanning (burning) and my hair was bleached out by the sun. I was glad to have caught the reading bug, I never did so much reading in my life. I am not really much of a shopper, I buy if I need and that is that, not really a materialistic person, but it was nice to look around, and there was so much to look around, and see what could be if I were wealthy. Note: The wealth of a person in not measured by how much money they have.

Disneyland – can’t really say much more than I did already. Loved it, loved it, loved it. A tick off the bucket list.

I didn’t appear to be eating a very healthy diet – doughnuts and muffins for breakfast! Was I becoming too American and letting my standards drop? Whatever, I still had pulling power, even if some of the guys were not up to my standard. Perhaps all that sugar was making me look tired.

I got to witness my first every fist fight, and in the wonderful setting of a Greyhound bus station too. I remember the poor victim already had some kind of bandage on, so was obviously a glutton for punishment. I also still hear the Mexican woman shouting her mouth off at them for fighting. The rest of us just watched and did nothing, perhaps out of fear. I’m not sure what I could have done anyway, except for run away and I wasn’t about to lose my place in the line.

San Diego was starting to look like a better place than the Greyhound station might have suggested. You just can’t say Y.M.C.A without singing it, can you, and with actions too.

Craig Stone still seems to be going strong and good for him.

I was living in the present, which is a good thing, but I still look to things in the future, always have a goal to aim for, something to live for. It is not selfish to want to experience life, we are here for such a short time and should squeeze as much out as we can. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way.

***********************************************************

Week 24: 3 July to
9 July

3 July – Got the
hair up out of the way, did not realise how long it has gotten.

Managed to get to Balboa Park, via Jack
In The Box, after I had watched Pete Sampras win Wimbledon, easily. Not quite
how I expected the park to be. Museums adorn the south west corner, not the type
to lure me, aviation and motor. It is
not a park with grassy areas, but more of pathways to wander and buildings to
happen upon. Found the Spreckels Organ, a quintet were playing a spot
there, not such a good place in the
heat, all open unless you can get to sit
around the edge. Will come back later when the organ recital is on. The house
of hospitality provided shady cloisters
to walk, alongside a courtyard. From my map looks like a fair bit of the
park I missed. Not really in the mood for going into museums, prefer the
visual/outdoor side to touristing at the moment. Down the pedestrian mall, past
street acts and, I noticed, palm readings and tarots, very tempting. Lots of
palm trees and botanicals to make a tropical atmosphere and a photogenic one.
Just across the road, over a bridge were the formal (and only noticeable)
gardens. Beautiful roses at one end and a cactus desert at the other.

I had so many things I wanted to do in
a short space of time, but I gave in and went to the tarot lady, haggled her
down to $5, she fancied her talents to be worth more. She was very accurate; or
rather I was in card selection. I was predicted as new job, new move, home
building, marriage soon, good health. (the most encouraging part though did not
push it), she said to go ahead with a check-up. Food for thought – no meat,
bump up on vitamins and B’s. There is also a back stabber in the midst, not
sure who, could be back home, but it is they who will have the last laugh. My knight is helping me to proceed, for us
both I think. Good omens good decision.

The zoo was on a cheapy $6 from 3 to
11pm. Got me a big drink and went to the Spreckels Organ. Not forgetting the
Spanish village art centre and cool jazz band. Had to dive in to the shade for
the final ½ hour. A few jolly tunes that’s all, nothing special. Couldn’t bring
myself to stand for the Star Spangled Banner, no reason to.

Walked back, not so far. The scroungers
about town these days have a new technique in their objective to obtain money.
They try to strike up conversation and get you to like them, to make you feel
good about giving cash, however, I nipped him in the bud and he walked on. I
have to spend my money on replacement milk. My dorm mate was cream cheeseless
also this morning.

It is Tom Cruise’s birthday today,
celebrated by Tom Cruise movies on T.V. You just have to see these adverts, so
funny, especially the one on plastic. Struck me that I haven’t been writing
anything too deep and meaningful of late, must get back into that instead of
just plain facts.

4 July – Just like
a bank holiday at home, except there will be fireworks tonight. Had a later
start than anticipated, due to our strange Australian psychologist messing
around, as usual. She gave me a book to read, Byron, Shelley and a host of
other poets, should read more poetry but preferring straight literature at the
moment.

Wore a short sleeved blouse, big
mistake, and headed for Sea Port Village. Got bored very quickly as nothing
going on until afternoon, so, decided to stroll along to the Old Town part of
San Diego. Surprise, surprise, I took the wrong road and ended up walking miles
along the harbour-side, past the airport to Harbour Island. All I wanted to do
was find a café to have a drink but all there seemed to be were hotels, posh
restaurants and nothing else. Eventually
came to a dead end, this isn’t how it was supposed to be today. I was going to
sit and listen to music and read my book. Took another road, which I thought
would go back in to town, fortunately there was a café along here, however,
another dead end. So had to walk all the way back again, a waste of time and my
arms were burned up again, I am so stupid at times. T shirts from now on until
I am certain it has cleared up, who cares about a tan, I think I will try to
preserve my good complexion instead. Tired from walking I still continued back
to the village, but got bored again, besides my arms were hurting. They have a left
handed shop here, which basically takes the piss out of us, I hate people who
are ignorant of a good thing. It also annoys me that people make such a big
deal of it all, what the hell would right handed people know about it.

Came back to nurse my wounds, the sun
burn that is, and change before going out tonight. Was very chilly tonight, may
have had something to do with my sunburn. Got some French fries and took a
place along the water’s edge, pretty big crowd about. As coincidence would have
it a girl, Lorraine, from the hostel was alongside me so had a
conversationalist whilst waiting. She is very intelligent on political issues,
bit of an activist if you ask me. The fireworks were ok, nothing spectacular,
source of a major disappointment of the whole day for me. I imagined everywhere
in America to be all street parades, flags and ticker tape. They do have that
in some places, but San Diego not. I was really looking forward to today as
well. There were a second lot of explosions, which were better, but by then had
moved from the water’s edge so missed some of them. We went to the Upstart Crow
for a coffee, at least I had one. Makes a change to have somebody intelligent
to talk to, even if I cannot return it in the same capacity. We are going down
to Mexico on Wednesday, so should be good fun. Not so sleepy tonight, not sure
of what to do tomorrow, must write to Kevin.

5 July – Not much
of a day. Got some cream for my sunburn, has come out in blisters today. Ouch!
Spent most part of the morning wandering the Horton Plaza mall, quite nicely
planned out. Had a mega lunch, cheap too and wrote to Kevin to let him know
what was going on. Trying desperately to keep out of the sun, hope I do not get
paranoid about it. Could have taken in a movie, maybe later in the week, so
many to choose from. The day was young so I opened my map and thought I would
go to the Old Town, walking, naturally. Got to a point on the map and was
totally confused, can’t be that far away. Stopped off at a garage and was told
it was another five miles away, so shelved the idea until another day.

Came back to the hostel and stayed
here, had the tiny tots jumping all over me, not good for the arms, so bailed
out quick. Lots of us gathered for a movie downstairs, The fugitive, so took up
most of the evening. Full dorm today, hope our sleepless friend stays put, she
is a real pain, feel sorry for Zoe. Not sure about tomorrow, a little
apprehensive, am sure we will be Ok. No
deep thoughts.

6 July – A mega, more interesting day. Caught the trolley
down to Mexico with Lorraine. Weather cool and not too many people
around. Had no hassle getting in to Mexico, nobody there to check us in. Have
no idea why the city of Tijuana is the most visited in the world, it is hardly
an-interesting place to see, just shops and restaurants and men trying to get
you in to their taxis and street vendors showing their wares up your nose.
Walked the length of the main shopping street, stopping to do the window
shopping. Found a bar for a drink, Lorraine was on the Margaritas, whilst I
stuck to juice. She paid as well, said it was her treat for me going with
he. I was coming down anyway. Discovered
she is 42 years old, has 2 kids, one 20 years old, one 14 years old, I thought
she was only in her 20’s herself, well shocked. We went for a little walk to
the tourist centre and got a better map, even if it was in Spanish. Across the
road was about the only attraction in Tijuana, no parks or anything, a wax
museum, few statues and sports arenas. The cultural centre held some
interesting pictures and artefacts which take you through the history leading
to Mexican independence. After that we were hungry so wandered back to the Hard
Rock Café, my first, Lorraine’s many timeth. Had burger and fries and to my
embarrassment, was Lorraine’s treat again, she has some money to burn. A guy
there told us of a place to see not far away, called the Mexitlan, so off we
went. Not sure of what to expect we went in and up to the roof, looks more like
an entertainment centre. However, it was like a model village, only the
exhibits were of significant buildings in various parts of Mexico. Some
beautiful architecture too of Aztec right through to modern day. Makes you want
to take off and see the country. My favourite was of the World Cup Soccer
Stadium, brilliant stuff. We spent nearly two hours walking around, it was very
interesting. Time to go after that, walking back across to the border was a
different case this time, the beggars were out in force, tiny kids with plastic
cups expecting money from the rich tourists. I gave once, it was all I could
afford. However, Lorraine came armed with change, she gave to almost everyone,
very generous lady, very wised up on things. The only problem with giving in to
them is that they grow up with the impression that they have to beg for things
and does not encourage improvement in their lives. The parents exploit their
children so much they can have no hope for their future. Very sad.

Moved in to Lorraine’s room tonight,
will be able to get some sleep and not suffer interruptions throughout the
night from the psychologist.

7 July – Got going by midday, just. We
went to La Jolla on the bus. Doubt I shall spend any more time than today in Lorraine’s
company. She is a nice lady but our attitudes clash sometimes, so not sure that
we could get on long term, maybe moving in was a mistake. La Jolla is a very
exclusive beach resort, but the beaches are more secluded and the water clear
as crystal, lots of snorkelling going on. The pelicans are strange here, if in
fact they are pelicans, they are brownish in colour with much smaller heads and
bills. Some seals basking on the rocks, quite a change of scenery. We looked
around some very nice shops and Lorraine spent a lot of money, mainly on other
people. We ate lunch in the Hard Rock Café again, not so good as the food
yesterday, but had desert today. Was very tired by the end of the afternoon so
glad to get on the bus home. Will just slouch as usual tonight. My shoulders
are improving, the blistering has dried up and looks good underneath.

8
July – Got my act together early this morning. Decided on the zoo, but wanted
to wait until 17:00 hrs to get in on the cheap rate.
However, took the bus to Balboa Park by noon, so had a few hours to kill. The
weather was not so hot and it was fairly overcast making it pleasant. I read a
few chapters of my book in various parts of the park, looked at buildings I had
not seen previously and ate lunch very slowly so as to kill time. Surprisingly
it went quickly and in no time I was at the Zoo.

I guess the zoo is well laid out and, in
some cases, they have done good things with the endangered species, but I could
not help but look at the sad faces of the animals and birds and feel sorry for
them. Nothing to do except loll about all day, in confined space. They all
looked tired and drawn and meaningless. The brown bear did a brain washed
dance, up and down his pen, the polar bear must surely be too hot. The only
ones who it does not matter so much to are the koalas, they do nothing anyway.
The older ones of each species had that captivated look about them, whereas the
babies brought happiness, they know no different, if only they could be freed. They would not survive on their own because
they do not know how to feed themselves. There are some animals that you like
to see up close because you will probably never see them in the wild, but you
cannot get the true benefit from seeing them caged up like this. It is not how
the animals really are; their behaviour is adapted and not natural. I did not
spend long looking at each animal. I could not, it was too depressing. Do not
know why I went, I do not like zoos anymore, I find them uninteresting. It is
said that the zoo is world famous, I had not heard of it before, perhaps the
treatment and research on animals is one of the reasons. Spent nearly three
hours walking around, that was enough for me, did not see it all. Wanted to get
back before dark. Must phone the motel tomorrow, will want to pack in the
morning. Long live wild life, in the wild.

9
July – My last day in San Diego, left my luggage in the room so no hassles
there. One of my
main objectives today was to get my thimble. Had a rummage through those at the
Holiday Inn, again, but they were not very good quality. Glad I did leave them
because I found a nice one in the nautical gift shop at Seaport Village. This
is where I spent most of the day, not such a warm one as it has been of late. I
packed my lunch, prepared over breakfast in the kitchen, hounded by a much
nauseating English lady, who likes travelling Greyhound. Was glad when she
finally adopted our Australian friend, you could sense his despair, most
amusing. My arms are peeling quite rapidly now, however, still very sore.

Lots of side shows on at the village, the
most charming being at the bandstand. Whilst the jazz tones of Sweet Georgia
Brown filled the air, a group of tasselled Charleston ladies danced along. An
elderly group, however, charmingly elegant in their attire, with parasols. I
felt it necessary to treat myself to ice cream after that.

Hanging around for 22:00 hrs was a bit of
a chore, especially as Lorraine went out at 17:00 hrs for a couple of hours.
Brazil v Holland was on, in Spanish. Brazil won. This followed by endless mind
boggling drivel was my entertainment. Finally at 20:30 hrs I walked to the
station and the bus was ½ hour off schedule, it broke down, so we off loaded to
another. I had to make sure that I beat my horrible co passenger, Tom, to the
window seat, I hope he has a really bad night.

There is something about the sea that
draws. You can sit and ponder, or do just about anything whilst by the water’s
edge and feel the tranquillity. Nobody wonders about you when looking out to
sea, it is one of those acceptable pastimes.

Current day
thoughts

I know I said that there would be photos soon, but my plan
went a bit pear shaped. No scanners
available to do the job. Soon though,
promise.

Jack In The Box is a fast food chain. I really can’t have had a care in the world.

I do like to have my cards or my palm read every so often
just to make sure everything is tickety-boo.
She was good value at $5.

I do enjoy a good advert, sometimes more than the
programmes, although these days I find the advertisers can spoil a song
forever. It is a good advertising ploy.
Have you ever listened to a popular song on the radio but find you can no
longer concentrate on the song because it has appeared in an advert and you now
only think about the product being advertised.

I had great expectations for the 4th July, which
never came to fruition, very low key to what I imagined. I did however get to meet a nice fellow
hosteller, and got to stay in a better room for no extra cost. It was great to have someone to visit places
with.

I cannot begin to tell you how bad the sunburn was on my
shoulders, blisters coming out on top of blisters bad, probably second
degree. I went to the pharmacy and asked
the chap for something for my sunburn and couldn’t quite believe it when he saw
how bad it was. He sold me a cooling gel
that had an anaesthetic element to it to help with the pain. Great stuff that I have never seen
since. I had to dress my burns every day
and whilst it was a painful experience I just got on with things and they did
heal well. I have to say though that
nowadays these are the spots that always gets burned up the quickest and I have
never learned my lesson in this respect.
I need to keep telling myself that it just isn’t worth it for a
tan.

I am left handed and if anyone has a problem with that, tough.

It was nice on the occasions when everyone in the hostels
got together to do something, even if only to watch a movie, it created a bond
and a belonging.

I went to Mexico, just for the day, which is a bit sad
because I really would like to see more of Mexico, and it was so easy to get
across the border. I understand it is
less easy going from Mexico back into the USA, but I never experienced any of
it. An American tourist obviously
doesn’t attract as much attention as a desperate Mexican trying to get into the
USA. It was fun but I can’t say I felt like I was
in Mexico, perhaps because Tijuana is so close to the border it has built up
quickly and looks like an ordinary town.
I don’t know how it should feel to be in Mexico. I watch too many movies and have a romantic
image of how I want it to be.

A different type of poverty experienced here, so easy for me
to judge and I shouldn’t, because I don’t know what it is like to be in their
shoes or what is going on in their country.
I tend to hold back a bit with regards to overseas charity giving
because of this.

I don’t remember La Jolla at all; I think my memories
intermingle with those in Tijuana so I haven’t got the full picture.

I appreciate that the larger zoos do a lot in terms of conservation
work and sometimes are able to release animals born in captivity back to the
wild, but I am still not a fan.

So that was San Diego, quite a jolly city with plenty of
entertainment. I appeared to have lost
my map reading skills in San Diego right from the start. I did at least strengthen my legs from all
the walking.

Tom was a creepy man who wanted to sit by the window on the
bus. I was by the window and I wasn’t
moving. I met a lot of weird people on
the Greyhound buses.

******************************************************

Week 25: 10 July to
16 July

10 July – In Phoenix now awaiting my next bus, have spotted
the English lady across the way so must avoid her. The rest rooms are
disgusting, so typical of Greyhound. Had an uncomfortable night, not now
looking forward to my 3 night haul across country, could do with some pills to
knock me out. Had a horrid breakfast, full of additives, yeuk!

Was still tired
on the next bus, but was in one of those continual drowsy states only, did miss
some good scenery. When I came to we were in the wilderness, but it was so lovely,
I knew I must be near the Canyon. Flat shrubbed desert that suddenly
disappeared from under your nose, undulating hills o’er miles and miles of
endless horizon. I did notice the difference in the heat though, but Arizona
does look like a good state to live in. Very laid back, beautiful and friendly.
So amazing how a part of the country can change from that just a few hours
away, in such a vast way too. I think some of these large countries should
create countries within in preference to calling them states or provinces. Just
like staring out to sea, the desert type areas mesmerise me into a state of
peace and enlightenment.

We reached
Flagstaff soon enough and actually found a good clean depot, from which I was
collected by a guy from the hostel. The Motel Dubeau is a typical hostel type
place, seems to be full of English or rather British persons, either running or
staying. Had a well needed shower before hitting the town, but not before I had
met each female in our dorm, Niki, Fiona and now Mary, all really nice people
and all from U.K. We all seem to be going on the Canyon tour tomorrow, no 2/3
day ones however. I may go up to Lake Powell for a while, the area takes in
other National Parks. No problem with me working here if I want to.

Did a round trip
of Flagstaff, through the university grounds to the mall and back to Safeway
for some goodies. Had dinner from the café, was too tired to cook, no room
anyway. This hostel seems so much better than Huntington, more normal types of
all ages, I really like it and get on with everyone. Will like vegging out here
for a while, a good recommendation. Watching some slides on the Canyon later.

11 July – Some were bothered with the trains last night, but
I had a pretty good sleep, all ready for our trek today.

What can I say
about today, it was pretty amazing. We had a small group and we all got on well
and really enjoyed ourselves. These tours all include stop offs at souvenir
stores, but we mainly needed food supplies. I bought a hat to look touristy. I
did not want to get stuck in a sun trap anywhere unprepared. Our first stop was
at the visitor centre to see a slide show, it was basically an advertising
campaign for tourists, our slide show last night was better. The Canyon is in a
national park so have fees to pay to get in. It seems that in early 1800’s the
wonderful pioneers and explorers tried to excavate the minerals etc that they
discovered, however, because of the sheer depth and severity of the Canyon,
nearly one mile deep, they had to abandon any such ideas. Thankfully so,
because now all is protected to its natural state and only trails intrude. The
human activity in the Canyon itself provides minimal concern, but I would say
that only self-respecting human beings attempt to go down very far. The Canyon
is 270 odd miles long and we only touched the tip of the ice berg along the
south rim. In fact most of what we saw was the same thing only at different
angles. Could and would keep going back, if I had a car I would travel further
along to see other parts. They say that out of the 4/5 million visitors each
year the average person only stays twenty minutes, crazy unimpressive people. I
was pleased with the lack of touristiness about the area, I guess further along
would be less so than at this access point. You do not need to hype up this 1/7
wonder of the world. I wish we had taken our group photo at the beginning, we
were all dumb struck at our first sighting of the Canyon, mouths open. You
cannot describe what it is you are witnessing, it is like looking at a backdrop
or a painting, it just isn’t real. Awesome is a good word to describe it. I
have seen a lot of great things and it would be unfair to pick out one as the
best because everything is beautiful in its own way, however, the Grand Canyon
is just gobsmacking. You can spend hours staring at different bits, and making
things out of them. One view is like an ancient city of stone, turrets,
pyramids, caves, step like structures, simply brilliant. One thing I noticed
were the layers of rock, so perfectly evident, it was like looking into the
centre of the earth and seeing every age of the earth unfurled to its present
day, rather like counting the rings on a tree. Sandstone, shale and limestone
form the basis today, so very soft flaky rocks, pretty scary too. Very wary,
hairy, scary, in fact. We stood in awe looking out but were advised not to take
a lot of piccies at this stage as better views were to come in better lighting.
I think we must have been at Yaki point or very close. Next was the lunch stop,
we hit a trail down to about 2 tenths of a mile to a secluded rock under a tree
and munched on our picnic, hounded by bugs. So, so peaceful, nobody around
except us. You do not need to talk, the Canyon speaks for itself, you just sit
and look out and think your own private thoughts. I kept having recurring
thoughts of jumping off the edge, just like my dream of a few years back. I
know if I got too close to the edge for a photo, I would topple over. I was a
little scared to be honest, our trail down was a bit hairy in parts, the loose
rocks underfoot could take you at any time. My thigh muscles ached so by the
time we had descended, was told I needed water. Did not help tremendously. We
lunched for nearly an hour so a good rest. The legs did not hurt on the way
back up, but the altitude got both myself and Miriam. We both had to stop on
several occasions to rest, she was worse than me with dizzy spells. I would
dearly love to go right to the bottom but I would never get out again
successfully and I certainly would not go on one of those mule trips down, too
risky. I will send Frank the brochures and he can make up his own mind. It
really can knock you for six, even fit people who hike a lot. Miriam wants to
white water raft for three days, she must have some money to spend. It would be
such a shame to think that today may be the only day I get to see the Canyon.
After making sure we were all fit we drove along to the Tusayan Ruins and
museum, site of an ancient Indian Camp, little known about the civilisation so
most facts are speculation. The Navajo
also dwelt in this area. And so to the
furthest point, our guide’s favourite spot, away from the masses, think it was
a desert view because we could see the Cedar Mountain. The sun was going down by now and gave a
different perception on the Canyon and some brilliant views, this was our main
photo opportunity. Went closer to the
edge this time. Just incredible how the Canyon meanders along the Colorado River
route. Miles and miles of turrets, red
close up and black as they fade in to the distance. The photos could never do the area
justice. We stayed here for about an
hour absorbing the atmosphere, looking, chatting, admiring, none of us could
take it in. We stopped off at a few
points on the way back, a lot of what we saw was the same just from a different
angle, so did get a bit tiresome after a while.
It is just the vastness of the whole thing that captures you.

Had a good meal
back at the hostel. I had to get out of
the smoky atmosphere after a while, was going back but got trapped in my diary,
was midnight before I knew it.

12 July – Writing this on the 13th, I desperately
need a rest day. My legs feel awful from
the hike yesterday and we hardly did any.
I think the tension from walking so close to the edge did not help.

We had a small
group again today for Sedona. Peter, a
German, was our tour guide. A very quiet
guy and not so informative as Jody yesterday.
When this guy says hike, you hike, and he does not hang around. Had the usual food supply stop before driving
to Oak Creek view point. The area was
hotter than at the Canyon, we went south today and they say it is always hotter
further down. The view was nice, a
canyon covered with pine trees and mountain oak and cactus, with a little windy
road running through it, very pretty but not worthy of a picture. We had a brief resume of the area and what to
expect, but I cannot remember too much.
Next was a view looking down over Sedona, the place where a lot of stars
live, very exclusive town out here in rattle snake country. Some spectacular views of part
canyon/mountain type structures, all red rock.
Sugar Loaf Mountain was most prominent and many other mountains that
have been turned into various objects.
Elephant, coffee pot, snoopy.
Lunch, a nice spot, in the blazing heat, so hard to find any desperately
needed shade. We plonked ourselves,
Miriram, Nicki and I, under a small tree, forgetting the warning of snakes and
scorpions. I would hope I was immune
from scorpions due to our connection. We
desperately needed our swim, so off we hiked into Oak Creek to slide rock. I am sure there must have been an easier way
down, but Peter insisted on us rock climbing and dirtying our clothes and
bodies. They should issue a health
warning with the trip, or at least life insurance cover. We couldn’t get our clothes off fast
enough. Some were straight in but I did
a bit of basking first. The rocks in the
river are covered in algae and so provide a perfect slide, just like a water slide
at a pool. You lie back and let the
current take you, it took me a little too quick and I turned over and I went
sailing, legs and arms flagging every which way, until I corrected myself and I
glided swiftly down to the creek, where Peter was waiting to give me a hand
up. Good fun. I did it once, some two or three and some
none. Quite happy to lounge around after
that and just lie in a side stream. On
the way back we stopped at another point for a swim. To get there we had a shorter hike, but was
still horrendous. More shady at the
water. I could not be fagged to get wet
again for the sake of 10 minutes. Miriam
slipped up on the way back, not hurt, but I think it made Peter sit up and take
notice that not all are like him.

I was so knackered
by the time I got back, ate at Macey’s with Miriam. Yesterday’s guide, Jody, was there, so he and
his lady joined us. In the evening,
Nicki, Miriam and I went up to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. They give a little talk about the current
planet of interest, tonight it was Jupiter and the M5 Cluster. Too above me to all sink in. However, did learn something about shooting
stars, they are only the size of a thumb-nail and are fragments of stars that
have reached the earth’s atmosphere. The
light given off is the disintegration of them, how you get that much light
beats me, but there you go. Our next
treat was to take a look through the 24 inch Clark Refracting Telescope, 98
years old, so I guess we were honoured.
We just missed getting to see Jupiter, the girl spent ages readjusting
the 7 ton telescope to the M5 Cluster, wish she had left it, the Cluster was so
small it was hardly worth it. Something
different anyway and a first. Flagstaff
does look good at night.

13 July – Miriam and I set off with good intentions of doing
a round trip. Walnut Canyon, Jerome,
Montazeuma’s Castle and Wupatki. Walnut
Canyon was only a few miles away. The
Sinagna tribes inhabited this canyon, they lived in caves formed in the canyon
side and eventually developed them in to walled houses. How they managed to successfully ascend and
descend beats me, maybe the paths were more defined then, AD600, or people were
not so wimpish. Average age 20 to 30
years of life, I would be an old lady now.
Not such a trawl, but very hot so equally exhausting. My legs are still killing me. I need to take a rest, I look like shit, the
past few days have been a rush in my itinerary, should have eased myself in to
it gently. The Oak Creek runs dry now so
guess that is why they moved on. The
trail around was 185 down, paved, stepped and railed. Could walk around the house, or rather stoop
around them, some were being repaired.
Interesting little area, I think Arizona must have some of the most
extensive historical sites of pre-pioneer times in the whole of America. Saw a beautiful Humming Bird, my first of the
wild. I admire anyone who can take a decent photo of one in flight, they are so
swift, if you blink you miss them. The
Park Rangers advised us on how long it would take to do the round trip so it
seemed then that it would be unlikely we could do it all. So we selected Jerome, because it would be
good to see a ghost town. Getting there
was horrendous, it was so hot you would not believe, all we had was window air
conditioning. Miriam is not the best of
drivers and she drives fast so I was sweating even more. Miles and miles of open desert land took its
toll on the car and it overheated on the upward hill, we were only ten miles
away. A guy stopped to check all was ok
and gave his manly advice. The remainder
of the trip was downhill so soon cooled the car down. The road in to Jerome is very windy, but
provides the most brilliant views, would not have missed this. We got there near closing time and no trace
of a ghost town. Nice exclusive shops
and very quiet peaceful town, where everyone knows everyone else. An artist’s dwelling area. Most of the houses have been restored and are
lived in now, some buildings left alone and deserted, but was
disappointing. Gave the impression
though of not being a hustle bustle place.
There is a tour of the mine, which they indicate has a ghost town area,
but we never got on it. Everyone really
hippy here and very laid back. We walked
up to the church, a Catholic one by the look of things. A little OTT ornate wise, gaudy colours and
too many Virgin Mary and Christ statues.
Paper flowers and wax-work priests.
A once thriving copper mining town was wiped out when fires swept the
mines and the land shifted, bringing houses down. It was pretty deserted until 20 years ago, is
now a national historic landmark. The
journey home was less traumatic, we were tired so quiet, well I was anyway,
daydreaming.

Did not do much
this evening. Fairly good day, if a
little hectic and tiring. Will start
work tomorrow and veg out for a few days to get the sparkle back.

14 July – A semi-quiet day. Started work at 11am, got the room cleaning
job with Ruth and Ben. I did the
bathrooms, nice one. My new room is a
pit, not sure it is a good move, still an hour and a quarter‘s work for free
breakfast and board is worth it I suppose.

Wandered in to
town, bought my postcards and had a drink, so hot. Even a short walk has tired me out, legs are
better today. Sorted the toga out after
helping blow up the balloons for the party.
Was 7pm before I knew it and Miriam was here. We went to Perkins, a nice non-fast-food
place. Our waitress was very apologetic
at keeping us waiting, she gave us our dessert for free, nice of her, but not
really necessary. Wish I had stayed out
longer talking with Miriam, or at least invited her in to the party. I did not enjoy as much as I wanted. I couldn’t stand the smoke, so I
retired. Some people in our room, so
talked to them for a while and they disappeared. Mary was nowhere to be seen. Will do my work and potter around here and
there instead of hanging around all day.
Everyone is nice, but to know people sober is one thing, drunk is
another. Tried to write to people about
the Canyon today, but how do you describe the indescribable. A strange day, feel as though I made a back-slide
in my social progress. Decided I like my
own people to party with or at least those on a similar level as me.

Miriam went to
Montazeuma today and to Sedona, would have been nice to go. Work was over so soon, but too late to
venture anywhere. Not certain how I will
get on from now on.

15 July – A lot of heavy heads this morning and gossip in
our room, I ignored it, but did amuse me.
Had a wander around the old town before work at 11am. Got a shit job today, a full three hours’
worth. I had to do a good spring clean
job in the T.V. room, both common bathrooms and the laundry room. Gave me a blister so must be out of practice,
was glad to have finished by 2pm.

To my surprise,
Miriam was still around. About 2 miles
out she had car trouble so came back.
Some trouble, $600’s worth, made her literally cry. So after work we sat through her laundry and
then set off in a mended car to Wupatki, it was too late for her to drive to
Salt Lake. Wupatki is in the wilderness
and consists of a series of ruins on Pueblo Indians, around 12th
Century. Saw Nalakihu, Citadel, Lonaki
and Wupatki. Wupatki being the largest
complex. Each building seemed to be set
in prominent places, plenty of farming land around them. The brickwork was very neat, some houses two
storey with many rooms. Whole families
stuck together so many houses grew out.
They looked so good against the setting sun. Brilliant red brick against shadow and the
green shrubbery. Had a good view of the
painted desert in the background, quite stunning as the sun disappeared behind
the hills. Greens and reds turned to
purple and blues, very pretty. We went
at a good time of day. However, it gets
dark quickly out here so wanted to get back on the main road before then. Just made it.
Got supper and hit the decks once back.

Randall was not
around so I had nothing to stay up for.
We were the only ones out at Wupatki today, eerie in a way but so very
peaceful and beautiful.

16 July – Another shit day work wise, however, in
a good mood. Wandered the old town and
bought some nick-nacks and some feathers, in case I go tonight. Continued to the shopping centre for an ice
cream and to check out the cinema.

Seems that there
will be a better bunch at the cowboy party, so will go. Glad I did, was a rave, although not as much
as the toga’s. John Wayne was here, an
amazing look-alike, facial as well as build.
He models his life on him too.
Sad but a good gag. He was keen
to have his photo taken with most people, squaws in particular, and dishing out
Bourbon from his large bottle. Met some
good people tonight, more my sort and had a good dance most of the time. Everyone was so much more mellow, which was
probably why I had a better time. Was
wary of Peter ‘I can’t keep my hands to myself’ tour guide. Was talking most of the night to a guy from
Melbourne, very interesting, doesn’t drink due to medical reasons. Bit of a dare devil. Swam with piranhas, been stalked by cobra
type snakes – wild man. Was nice to be able to have a decent conversation for a
change. By about 1am most people were
dead, I turned in at 1.30am. Looking
forward to the cleaning tomorrow!

Current day thoughts

I think this section really highlights social interaction
and how I see others and how I see me. I
find social interaction very difficult, most people do if they are honest with themselves.
I worry about how I come across to others and whether or not I will fit in. I said I like ‘those on a similar level as
me’ and was referring to the mind-set of a person. I like to think now that I can hold myself in
any situation and get on with a diverse range of people and opinions, however I
do like to suss people out first before I throw myself into the ring. A big
downfall for me, especially at parties, has always been alcohol. I am not a big drinker (yeah right I hear some
of you say) but when I do drink I tend to have more than I can cope with if you
know what I mean, but not as much nowadays as back in the day. I realise that
getting older has its downfalls in this respect. I am a cheap date now with one drink being
enough for the evening. Anyway, once the
mouth gets going there can be no stopping and often gives the wrong impression.
I spend hours, days sometimes analysing
what or why I said certain things. I believe
it comes down to nerves, especially when in the company of strangers. I referred to ‘more normal types’, when
perhaps I should just have said, more my type.
Normal is whatever is right for you.
In hostels the crowds change daily, so you may get on with people one
day and then find yourself amongst very different people the next. We are all different and on the whole I was
able to mix in well. I just stay away
from situations I don’t feel comfortable in.

Working for my keep at The Motel Dubeau was great for a
while, saved me a bit. Not nice to clean
the rooms though, especially in an independently run hostel with lower
standards than say the YHA. I did get
moved into the main building though with better accommodation because of
it.

I cannot recommend more a trip to see the Grand Canyon, it
is phenominal. Put it on your bucket
lists. The area has so much to offer in
terms of historical sites. Just make
sure if you drive around you have decent transport and go out prepared because it
really is a desert out there. Glad to
have had Miriam to tag along with as I wouldn’t have seen half as much as I
did, and it was cheaper than a guided tour.

The railroad runs through the centre of Flagstaff with the
Santa Fe Southern Railway passing through regularly and they do sound their
horn loudly to warn people they are coming.

The John Wayne look alike was a great addition to the cowboys
and Indians party and he loved the attention, I guess that was what he was
there for.

Two weeks is a long time to spend in one place when you are
a backpacker on the move. So much more
of Flagstaff to come

********************************************************

Week 26 – 17 July to
23 July
17 July – World Cup final today, good luck Brazil! Going for a hike with Randall today after the
chores. Only an hour and a bit so not
bad. A lot of the workers are heading to
Vegas for a couple of days so hopefully will not be too demanding on those of us
remaining.
After
a very long hot drive we ended up at the west clear water creek, just south of
Sedona. Started out on the trail and boy
what a trail it was too. Not such a
steep canyon but steep enough and narrow, some pretty views. Got a bit hairy after a while and we
basically came to a dead end so we had a rest for half an hour or so, chatting
and enjoying the atmosphere. Found
another route down to the creek. We knew
it was down there because we could hear voices.
The guys down there were skinny dipping so we discretely made our
presence known before getting too far down.
This was the signal to end their day out. Was nice to get into the water, not so deep
to swim in. Lazed around for a while
drying off and tried to find an alternative route back. Walked along the creek for a lot of the way
rock-hopping but the trail ran out so we waded back across the river to a much
more civilised and the correct route to take.
Not sure I like hiking like this so much, heat, cacti prickles stuck in
me, bush scratches, prefer a straighter route with better views. The solitude is nice, but would not do
something like this on my own. Randall
was well equipped for the outdoors so felt confident about the whole thing. The drive back was quicker and I was
starving.
Nice atmosphere
again this evening. I have to move again
tomorrow, in to the house now, must have made it. The scenery is becoming very much samey now
so need a change. Brazil won on a
penalty shoot-out. My prickles were up
this morning from my Ozzie friend and another Ozzie Sheila, picking holes in
everyone else and full of praise for everything Australian. Don’t know why she came away to work if the
place means so much to her.
Forgot to mention
the other skinny dipper on route, a popular sport in the lesser populated
areas. Cute asses!
18 July – No an interesting day today. Had help from Aisha cleaning the
bathrooms. Moved my stuff into a
smaller, better room, bathroom not so good.
Had a wander to
find some bits and pieces, nice trek through the fast food areas, never got
where I wanted to but found what I needed just the same. It actually rained this afternoon, nice and
refreshing. Most workers gone to Vegas
today so pretty quiet back at the ranch.
Got to the cinema too late, could not be bothered to hang around and the Riordan
mansion did not appeal, so came back here and read some literature.
Sharing with
another Carol, only spelt Karole, she is very new age and very nice, she bakes
good brownies. Finding today much more
of a let’s talk day, some more interesting people in, John Wayne is still
hanging around. I find people are now
asking my advice on things, which is good, makes me feel like a seasoned
traveller. Thought a bit more about
what else to do whilst here. Phoned
Page, they do not do trips to Bryce or Zion, only North rim, Lake Powell and
Sedona, so will do a day trip up to Lake Powell and hitch up to the Canyon and
take another tour there to the west rim.
Will do the Gump tomorrow. Makes
the days complete when you have conversation that is compelling between
strangers.
19 July – A very disturbing night, no pillow or cover, loud
residents and a suspected prowler, hardly slept a wink, it showed too. Had a lot of work to do but did it fairly
swiftly. Rain midday but again nice and
refreshing. Hung around for a while
before going to the flicks.
Forest Gump is
just brilliant, I cried the whole way through.
Very touching moments, hit a few nerves in me, I really felt for the
character. He was a bit of a simpleton
who made one hell of a success of his life without trying and people still took
the piss out of him. His talent was to
run, he saw life as one long run trying to find your own truth, but you spend
your whole life running. He loved one
woman the whole of his life, eventually married her, after discovering she had
had his child, of whom he was very proud.
She was slowly dying and then he was left alone again. The son was there, but despite his wealth, which
nobody would believe he had, he had lost everything. The sort of film that gives you the
determination to do something positive and not listen to others’
criticism. Barely a dry eye in the
house. Had a huge pizza after and wish I
had not, pains in the stomach.
Saw some good photos
of Lima in South America. My two
friends, John and Robbie flew over the Canyon today, each as a co-pilot, say it
was really good, but I could not afford to do that. They go tomorrow, will be sad to see them leave,
good characters.
20 July – What to do today?
Had the help of the perfect Tony, Jason and the horrid Michael, with
cleaning rooms, what a nightmare. John
and Robbie left this morning, feel like a lost soul now. Mooched around rest of the day, I read, ate
ice cream and went for a walk. May go to
the swimming pool down at the university at some time to get some much needed
exercise. Bumped into Michael, he was
wandering too
before leaving later. I ended up going
to the Lowell Observatory, took in a bit more this time but did not bother to
see the telescope. God this is a shit
entry today. Was quite lovely going
along the observatory road amongst the pine trees, however, not as lovely as
the night time view of Flagstaff. Was
interesting to see the place by day.
Felt free for a while away from everything. The Vegas crew came back, penniless,
everyone says it is a fun place, but still not for me.
21 July – A day off of work, joined the crew to the Canyon,
free of charge. Decided on doing my own
thing and go along the west rim. Walked
a short distance to the point where the shuttle picks up. Some sad Americans, typical I think, along
route. To get to the rim is less than half
a mile. The guy was concerned that he
and his family had to walk that far and suggested taking the car along the
route to better view points. Anyways,
they ended up walking and as they met some people coming back along the trail
the wife asked, ‘is it worth it’, as if to imply that the extensive hike might
have nothing at the end of it worth seeing.
I just laughed. Continued my walk
along to shuttle barely looking out over the rim, although it was more
evidently there, somehow looked very different.
Dropped off at Pima Point. From
here you can section the strata’s back to 2 billion years. Amazing to think that I was standing on top of
all that, it really is some sort of privilege to be given life and be a part of
the Earth’s journey. Could see rafts
bobbing through the rapids below, does not seem so far away as before, would
love to know what it is like looking back up.
The old hermits camp was a dot on the plateau, he must have hated being
near people, so hot and desolate down there.
Stayed for about ¾ hour and made the trek to Hermits Rest a mile away. The trail is unmaintained and so I did not
know what to expect. I started off
concerned but soon forgot my fears and the drop below. I had conquered and now simply enjoyed the
hike and the beautiful views. The rest
came soon enough and welcome food break.
For most the souvenirs and snack bar, for it could not be classed as
food, was sufficient for viewing.
However, I trekked along further and found the most tranquil spot you
could ask for. The widest areas of the
Canyon stop at the west rim and it tapers down slightly along the remainder of
the 200 mile route. Only covered bits
and pieces of a 32 mile stretch. I
wonder what the rest is like, the park only wants to expose the fancy part.
The silence
emanates its greatness, I think that here lie the secrets of the universe, deep
within its folds. I can see you today, I
accept you now, though none can compare to the first alluring trance. Your depth is in me, far beyond that what man
has painted for my eyes. I wait for your
wisdom and you speak to me through the whisper of the wind, the winging bird,
the rapid waters flow. You are at peace
with the world, safe from the eyes that pry.
I wonder of the other. Swallowed
in this peace, I rest. The silence
breaks, cracks the sky and peril all who stumble midst your veins. A shadow cloaks and the secrets safe once
more. Whistling wind defies the eerie
air and begs my leave. No more to shine
today. My eyes are stung, my mind is
numb, still ever mystified.
The storm followed
us home and we stopped for a camera shot, saw some elk too watching us from the
distance.
I had a letter waiting when I got back, had a
picture of the fucking cat. Binned. I should write but I do not want to, I will
be back soon.
22 July – Quite a good day.
Had two new girls helping, we did a pretty good job. Rain come sunshine, nice to cool down. Quiet around the place, Mike and Dan gone
off, Aisha out for the day. Had to do
the washing so that was exciting, made an excursion to Macey’s to pass the time
of day. Realised after the wash that my
clothes are shrinking so will have to cut out the midday fatty foods. Will hopefully make it to the pool later, discovered
that it shuts at 2.30pm and opens 5pm to 7pm.
Nobody was surprised at the American way yesterday at the Canyon. Karole made a suggestion that somebody should
collect comments from the point as people walk by and made a book out of
them. An interesting idea. John came back from Page early, blister
ridden, got a ride offer so took it, can’t say as I blame him. I would like to go this weekend but doubt
I’ll risk it. The lawn was laid today
and boy was Fraser proud, it was an honour to be among the first to walk upon
it.
Got to the pool
not knowing how I would go, it is an Olympic sized pool. Was cold water but a quick length will soon
warm me up. One length and I was
knackered, realised it had been eight months since I had a proper swim for
exercise. Managed a painful 10 lengths
and retired, this little kid got in my lane and showed me up.
Dinner did not go
down too well tonight. Rested up for an
hour before returning to the masses.
Will actually hate leaving this place.

23 July – Boy did it rain cats and dogs this morning, just as we were doing work; felt like a contestant in the ‘Miss wet T-Shirt’ competition. Funny how people just stand and stare at the rain, nobody could go out and do anything, really put the dampers (excuse the pun) on any plans that one may have had.

Too late for a swim so tried Macey’s instead. Did not feel too bad today in any case. Finished my chores and hung around to try and catch a train. Luckily nobody asked me about it, would have had to admit to being a train spotter. Gave up after a while, fed up from waiting. Uneventful day really. Gary gave me one more job, did not do it as well as I would have liked. I had to phone up Fraser and pretend to be some sexy bird coming to stay. Got him going for a while, but blew it. Maybe next time, he should have given me more preparation time.

Had an entertaining evening with the belchy Oz guy, nearly got the peuk. I hit the decks early but the party rolled on until 5am. The music and trains are well implanted, at least I got some sleep, don’t know how some of them manage to go on the next day.

Current day thoughts

Now I remember who Randall is. Bit risky going off into the wilderness with
a stranger, despite the skinny dippers we happened upon, ?even more danger. No, we didn’t join in. Oh, the recklessness of youth.
I looked up the Riordan Mansion to remind myself of what it
was like. I can’t say as I remember it and judging by the pictures I am glad I didn’t go as it reminds me of the type of house they would use in a horror movie.

I do enjoy talking with new people, generally you never have
to see them again, so who cares what you say. It is good to remember the good times that never got to turn sour.

The hostel was quite good at giving slide shows on the surrounding fauna and flora and other areas of interest around the world. It provided entertainment for the evenings and brought everyone together.

I still have no interest in going to Vegas.

Please excuse the foul language following my poetic outburst. I like cats but I had issues with this particular cat. I know as an adult human being that one should have more rational thoughts with regards to an animal but there are clearly always exceptions. I did edit a lot of this section out.

I had a very love/hate relationship with the Motel Du
Beau. I was starting to feel like part of the furniture, which isn’t a bad thing, but I had to move on like the seasoned traveller I was becoming. There did seem to be a lot of parties going on.

I gathered together a lot of ideas for my book writing, but
have never acted on any. Note to self: must be more disciplined. I could be a wealthy woman by now. I could have gone up to the Canyon every day and each day would have been different. Must go again one day.

****************************************************

Week 27 – 24 July to 30 July

24 July – Today is the day the trains get caught. A lazy, lazy Sunday, spent a fair time stood by the tracks, John was around so I did not feel quite so stupid. Every time I gave in and came back, numerous trains would go by, bit like waiting for a bus in London. More frequent in the evenings, so hung around chatting all afternoon waiting for my chance. Fortunately, a guy was there with his cine camera so had someone to talk to, however, a freight train was pulling out. Mile after mile passed before me and, as luck would have it, another in the opposite direction, two for the price of one.

A chitty, chatty day, quite nice really, dinner was wonderful, what will the night bring. Had a panic on, mislaid my bag, luckily handed in and nothing taken, will staple it to my side from now on. An extremely non-event, no music, no alcohol, just dead, but perfect sleep.

25 July – Full of good intention but the humid atmosphere crashed me out. Work as usual not so bad.

Made a move to the shopping centre to collect my pictures, ended up with new shoes as well. My nice new cheap ones got a bit trashed in the rain on the way. The photos all came out, but not really so interesting; fireworks, beach and parrots basically. At least I know the camera is working. Paid, probably, my last visit to the Coffee Bean for a cake and juice. The guy actually remembers me from before so we had a nice chat, kind of nice when you get that attention. Flagstaff is like that I have found. Like the lady in the teddy bear shop.

Had to sleep in the afternoon, so tired from the heat. Managed to get the card and Stephen’s birthday card off, so got that out of the way. John goes tonight as do Jackie and her mate (from Hull), or ‘Ull’ as they say it. Had some South Africans in yesterday, they joined the gang at dinner. Glad John came back when he did, I would have been lost otherwise.

Now that I realise how small Britain is I think that maybe I will bump into some of the Brits I have met. Some look so familiar, perhaps I already have. Jackie and her friend were in San Diego when I was there, weird huh.

Only two days to go, sad, sad, sad. If things never worked out back home, for whatever reason, I would come back here to live. The tarots could be stirring something up, this could be the place in the west.

Looks like a livelier evening, but still quiet in comparison. Swim tomorrow I think.

26 July – Could have been a good sunbather today, but it rained, Gary said it would. He is a strange one to get to know. Tak is getting more friendly, just at the last minute.

Would have gone down to the university after work but the rain stopped me, the umbrella is gone and I do not want to trash another pair of shoes, so went into Macey’s instead and had the most disgusting piece of pie, wish I had had a pizza with milk.

Everyone keeps mentioning about my last day, wish they would shut up. Walked around with a long face all day thinking about leaving. Did the packing today so that I can have a full day out and about tomorrow, not sure of what to do at the moment. Do I go up to the canyon and sit in the tranquillity or do I stick to Flagstaff?

Wandered to the Riordan Mansion to check out the situation there and then back to the swimming pool. Did 12 lengths today in a fairly quick time, so really pleased with myself and felt very fit.

Came back to a huge dinner and had to walk the block to let it go down, taking in some ice cream en route, which did not help. Came across a begging Indian lady, an elderly one at that, but alas alack no money to give her. I think, as I always have, that the Governments of countries are mostly to blame for a lot of poverty, so I am going to concentrate on charity causes in my own country before doling out to others. Sounds mean, but charity begins at home. Wild life matters are a different concern. Had a companion for part of my journey, an Indian, a traveller of sorts himself, think he is more of a drifter though.

I have decided that, despite the convenience of official association hostels, I prefer the independent ones. They are more relaxed and often offer better facilities. Today’s entry is going better than I had hoped, more thoughts coming to mind. Not a good atmosphere tonight, not my kind anyway, so retiring early. New headphones are on my list, I only have a left side.

27 July – A sad day. Just eaten my crumbled cookie that Karole gave me for the journey. Have to admit I cried at the thought of going, but fortunately not in front of anyone. Have this feeling I will be back someday.

Didn’t hang around this morning to see if any work was needed, I guessed they wouldn’t. Bought a ‘Trolley’ ticket for the day and went up to the museum of Northern Arizona. Not as big as I thought it would be. The journey up was quite interesting. Flagstaff got its name after some Mormon travellers pitched up for the night on their way to California. The following day they realised that it was Independence Day and hoisted a flag. A settler came upon it and marked the town on his map as Flagstaff. Made a comment about the Californians moving in and discovered our driver was from there originally.

The museum was interesting, good to see how the Indian is still very much alive in USA, the Navajos being the most populated. The further south you go the more tribal the Indians seem, like the tribes of South America. Dress is very frightening, almost voodooistic. The jewellery is certainly very ornate, silver and turquoise. Pots and basket wear, all very modern like. I love reading the wisdom of the words written by some people, very beautiful how they attribute all things to nature. Toys were most evident; wooden dolls in particular. Spent an hour and a half looking around, quite different from the culture I have seen in recent weeks. I have not been in a museum for some time so was not bored at all. The women were the workers, they spent all of their time making food preparation and the single ladies paraded themselves with a butterfly hairstyle in the hope of getting hitched.

A terrific thunder storm had worked itself up by midday, couldn’t really walk under the trees outside because of the lightening. Shame, it looked really nice and I wanted a good picture of the San-Francisco peaks. Re-booked the trolley to the Riordan Mansion area. Too wet to go there and too wet to venture to the Coffee Bean. Considered the flicks but ditched that idea as well. Wandered the stores until the next trolley came by and rode back to the Nava-Hopi depot. The trains always cause hassle when it rains. I wonder why?

Still a few hours to kill, drank tea, read, talked, didn’t want the time to come, but come it did. Everyone seemed to be around so no escaping the goodbyes, even got a hug from Mike the chef. Denise was designated to give me a ride to the station. A few tears there whilst waiting and a few on the bus, I really believe Flagstaff is for me. However, like all nice places, the more people who move there the bigger and badder it gets.

28 July – Had a fairly good night, a seat to myself so could make something of a sleeping position. The journey was pretty dull, breakfast was shit. Travelled to Albuquerque, then to Amarillo, ‘on route 66’, maybe not but it felt cool to think so. Joined an already loaded bus, so shared seat. Texas is fairly flat, not much to see. The only interesting thing was the herds of cattle on a ranch, never seen so many in one place, felt like a movie. Day dreaming over sad songs. The toilets on this route must surely be the best to date in USA, very clean and accessible, 9/10. Supper was cereal and hot tea, not really so hungry at 9:30pm, the two-hour time changes have not helped, still one to go. Oklahoma City is oh so pretty, may have been when the song was written, but it is just a city. The state is pretty though, lots of woodland and open space, the film is a bit misleading. Tulsa is an hour stop for food and refuelling, time to write this. Heard the guy who was sat next to me say that he was from Connecticut, should have asked where, may have come from Wilton. He gave me a few hints on where to go in the area. Should be a shuttle from Boston to JFK, which would be excellent. Have an unwelcome body in the seat now, by the window too, think he imagined he was getting a seat to himself – tough shit guy.

29 July – Seems like I have been on this bus forever, some interesting
characters come and go, can’t even remember half of it. Changed buses in St Louis this morning. I managed to sneak in and out, due to some taxi drivers, found a McDonalds for a breakfast, much to everyone else’s disgust; there was nothing in the station to purchase. The next food stop was lunch time. Not much scenery to talk of, rained a lot of the time. Sat next to David this time around, a coloured guy from Washington DC, shame I am not going there. Did a lot of sleeping up to Columbus, a little chatting too. Not sure that Syracuse is such a hot place so will get out as soon as possible. David game me his number just in case I get into any problems, nice of him I thought. This is such a shit diary entry, bit like some of the rap music I was subjected to earlier on. Columbus was a bus change, seats to ourselves, hope they last all night. No stimulating thoughts today. Not sure where we are now, Wayne Country I think, have come across the first Hutterite type community people here at the Greyhound. Could possibly be Amish. Awful having people stare all the time, but they must know that they look slightly different. Must be such a nice lifestyle. Cleveland came, a two hour stop, time for food despite not being hungry. The minutes tick by quite quickly, thankfully. However, my brain is ticking slowly whilst stuck on a bus. Discovered that a lot of people do not even know where certain landmarks are in their own country. Guess I am a bit like that with the UK, a case of taking your own for granted and not being too interested. Started the last leg, late of course, could have hung back and got in less crowded bus. Only a smidge into the journey and a woman smashed into the back of us, so that put us out by an hour or so. No chance of sleep tonight, such an uncomfortable journey.

30 July – Somehow made up a bit of time so may be can get to the hostel
before morning chuck out. First thing I noticed, apart from looking like a
zombie, was my sleeping bag missing. Chances are it simply got squeezed
out but I was not the only one with things gone so I wonder. Put a claim in
way OTT price wise so expect I will be knocked down. Did not make a fuss
over it. I doubt I need it anymore now. Couldn’t handle the walk so grabbed
a cab, only $3 so who cares. Was very tempted to book a room in a hotel
owing to my lack of sleep, irritable mood. Had half an hour before being
locked out for the day, nice hostel, so had a brief lesson on the town and then dashed for a wash a brush up. Would love to have had a sleep, seemed
more awake now.

Walked into town, doesn’t look like a bad place despite what have been told. Got breakfast and milled around the centre for a while, trying to track down an information place. A guy rode alongside on his bike and made polite conversation, then rode off and wished me a nice day. Not sure what he was about, a warning I think. Quiet for a Saturday. Caught the bus out to the carousel shopping centre, bit livelier here. A hairy journey there and back again. The mall holds a lovely 1909 carousel made by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. Seems that the beautiful hand carved and painted horses were shunted around a bit, until being placed in its current position in 1909, much restored. Did a lot of shopping today.

One man who stays here is an American who actually walks places and knows of others too. Amazing stuff and interesting too. Had to move cause of a group of kids coming in, hope they are not too noisy. May send a card to the Du Beau. Dead tired now so skipping some points, not in the mood tonight.

Current day thoughts

You may have noticed some pictures starting to appear from the beginning of my journey, yes actual photographs – finally. Bit by bit I will catch up with myself.

One minute I can’t wait to get going and the next I am moving to America into the Du Beau – can’t work out where my mind was back then. I have never been back to the Du Beau and currently have no plans to, in fact I have rarely thought about the place since I left it. Out of sight, out of mind. The tarot lady had said I would end up living in the west. When I came back to England, I ended up living in Cornwall, was that the west I was destined for.

I wasn’t becoming a trains spotter, just keen to get a photograph of the trains as they came through Flagstaff as a reminder of their presence in the town. It was the sound of the horn I really wanted, but of course no video to capture it. It was a case of waiting for one to come along.

I did in fact bump into someone again further along in my journey, you will have to keep reading each week to find out when.

The trolley bus was a bit like a hop on hop off tour bus around Flagstaff. The Riordan Mansion really didn’t want me to visit.

My reference to Wilton in Connecticut is because I stayed there with a family when the Wilton and District Youth Band did an ex-change tour with the pipe and drum band based there in 1985.

Changing buses all the time on such a long journey is always going to be a hit and miss affair, and nobody knows how long you have to wait for the next one. We were not supposed to leave the bus depot at St Louis, though I managed to. Not sure what role the taxi drivers played in my achieving that. The lovely David, I remember him so well. We had such a laugh on that bus. I turned down some great offers on my journey, all because I had a schedule to follow. Who knows where I would be now if I had just been a bit braver. I actually like some rap music, it just happens that the only word I could remember from the song I listened to was the S word, so my entry was simply a relevant reminder of that.

I made it back across to the east side of America to Syracuse. I remember it being very quiet with not many people around and the guy on the bicycle was warning me to not go too far in the direction I was headed. I guess it was one of the bad areas. Perhaps that is why it was quiet, I stood out like a sore thumb. Thank you to him for looking out for me. I think the information bureau was closed. Of course, I was going to find people in the shopping mall, that’s where they all hang out. The bus drivers, and I am talking about regular town buses not the Greyhound type, seemed to be running late all the time, they drove so fast and dangerously at times. One of the passengers had to ask the driver to slow down at one point because his child was scared. On the whole though the drivers were good and were helpful to passengers.

The carousel is the main attraction in Syracuse, that’s why a YHA hostel is situated there, sometimes I did wonder why hostels were is such places but I guess they spring up close to points of interest. Good for a short stop-over and for school trips. I naturally had a ride on the carousel as I was there.

Shopping malls are great places to hang out when you’re bored, giving the exact opposite impression.

**************************************************

Week 28: 31 July to 6 August
31 July – Must have been out like a light. Apparently there was a lot of explosive noise around 10.30pm, never felt a thing. Alarm call at 8.00am to make sure we are all up, fed, watered and out by 9.30am. I strung it out until the last minute. Just got my bed booked again, otherwise would have had a $1 late registration fee. Very strict here in the States, typical of the regimented feel of America.

Forgot to mention those brave young rookies, on the army garrison near St Louis, out running at around 4.30am. Reminded me of the film with Richard Gere in, can’t remember it now. More like torture than anything else.
Caught the buses, no hassle, to the Burnett Park Zoo. Am learning a lot more about zoos. Used to think they were a cruel thing, I still do to a certain extent. Some of the conditions are so cramped and you can tell that the animal is not happy. However, some creatures are becoming extinct and the zoos try to breed those animals in captivity and introduce them in the wild again, so can be good sometimes. Although there must be a reason for extinction, not all is human induced, so could be mother nature waving her wand. Quite a cute zoo, very easy to follow, one path covers all areas. More of a demonstration zoo than anything – elephants, sheep dog, pony rides. Most animals asleep in the heat of the day so not so interesting. Not a gimmicky place, just animals, one eating house, one gift shop, no food out the entrance area.

Had some extra time to kill so decided to hunt down the swimming pool. However, was side-tracked by my lack of sunglasses; was too much to think that somebody may have handed them in. Doing really well here in Syracuse. Only a short walk to the pool, and it was an open air one. A cool chill ran through me at the thought. No charge to get in either. You change and take your stuff out to the pool with you. A lot of horsing around so only did a few lengths and sunbathed for a while.

Met an interesting lady at the bus stop, she was of Russian origin. Firstly, she put me right on Syracuse being a bad place, it used to be but now ok, as I imagined. Then she told me about a Russian lady who managed to get out of Russian in recent years. She has to marry soon before her visa runs out and is scared stiff of going back. She is 38 with one child. Apparently there is still a lot of shit going down with the KGB and mafia. Protection money is required from businesses and the KGB are continually watching you, especially if you apply to leave. Starvation continues. If she went back she would either be branded (hot ironed) or killed. Did not think that still went on. Enlightening.

A sparsely populated hotel tonight. A lady who seems to be quite scared of travelling on her own despite being an extremely well-read person. She is running from a failed relationship; think she may have had some bad times in her life. She doesn’t think OJ did it either. A different kind of bunch over here. A lot of Americans use this hostel, not so friendly as us other internationals.

1 August – Up bright and early. Walked to the station, not so far, but boy was it sticky. A boring journey to Lake George, travelled on a subsidiary company of Greyhound, so not always 100% sure of what I was doing. The bus depot is a gas station, however able to leave my luggage for an hour as could not check in until 5pm. A very nice little town, a little designed on the touristy resort type style but looks fun. The lake is on tap with boating, swimming, etc. Beautiful Adirondack scenery all around. Basically covered the town in the 1½ hours I had to wait. All situated on one long main street, mainly tacky souvenir shops. Did all of my purchases. The hostel is very basic and a little cool and damp. Should survive a couple of nights. The guy, James, is ok, talks too much though. Finding the accents a lot stronger now, very gangster like. I asked for a tuna (as in tune-a) sandwich and got a toon-a instead. Wouldn’t want to argue with them, bit scary. The eateries here are very nice, very upper class, polite service. More of the American type joints you would expect. Stocking up on fresh fruit for this duration, figure I need a little variation every now and then. No common room at the hostel so headed back out for a while. Sat down by the lake and enjoyed the atmosphere whilst writing my cards. I fancy a hike tomorrow. The paddle steamers were out on the water, seem out of place here. Should be unique to the southern states. Did start to get a little damp in the air and slightly chilly so came back. Was getting dark too. Although this is not the sort of place you need to run from in the dark.

Same as Syracuse, the inmates are not so friendly. Had to laugh at an English couple. They are away for about 5-6 weeks and seemed quite put out at James’ suggestion that they had only just started their journey, thinking that they’d actually done a lot of travelling. Could probably have spent all of the 2 months in this area as I planned, but would never have seen all that I have or met the people I have. Have I covered this subject before? Will stay a couple of days and leave on the 4th, no need to rush.

2 August – A wet day basically, in more ways than one. Got myself together early for my trek up Mount Prospect. Nice muggy day. Decided to check out the first trail instead of walking to the start of Vets Memorial Highway. Glad I did, because, as it stated on the map, there was the trail. I was knackered before I got there. A very rough and ready trail, but a well-trodden one. Only trouble is, it goes up instead of along. Was a bit dubious to start, was a bit spooky. Made sure I signed in, in case anything happened. Funny how every rustle sounds like a threat, was only chipmunks running around. Not so much to look at, trees ‘n’ stuff. I was concentrating on my foot work anyway. I imagine the path is worked on the course of an old riverbed, too good to be true otherwise. The trail was not so difficult as much as strenuous. Had to stop and catch my breath more than once or twice. A definite uphill struggle. The sweat was just running off of me, even out of my belly button. After about an hour and a quarter, on one of my breaks, a woman came trundling up the trail. I was apparently near the top. Heaven knows what time she set off, got here pretty quickly, does the trail often as an exercise tester. Made me feel very unfit. I was pleased with the time span taken but did think it would be a longer trail and take longer too. My clothes were soaked from sweat, so the breeze at the top was most welcome. Amazingly enough only water on tap available, very environmentally concerned toilets and picnic tables. Bet that confuses a lot of tourists. What! No Pepsi machine, no souvenirs, just nature. What is life without a Pepsi machine. Unfortunately the sky was hazy so the view obscured, could only just see the lake below. One route off of the summit trail was quite beautiful. Not many people veer off here so had a few peaceful moments sat on a rock reading my book. The last little bit to the top I found quite tiring, but I had an excuse, the lazy car drivers had none, but they puffed more than me. I did feel very much with nature today, so much so I kicked the boots off and whipped my t-shirt off, sitting in my bra-top, quite unashamedly. Anyone who disturbed my private spot was more embarrassed. Could quite easily have stripped off and ran around naked, I felt so high, I got myself off on a mountain top. A couple of spots of rain so collected myself together and set back down the road, did not fancy a wet trail to slide down. And then the rain came down and down and down, lucky I brought the rain coat, not that it did so much good. I tried to find shelter under the trees, but to little avail, so I emerged in the sunshine a drowned rat, my feet soaked. I stopped part way and tried to dry my socks, one of the rangers offered a lift to the walking trail. I was happy to sit for a while on the rock whilst the steam rose all around. Stopped for another pee behind a rock; getting used to this squatting anywhere lark. Ended up coming back down the last part of the trail, did not take long. Can just imagine what I must have looked like when I rolled into town.

Found out that I need to go back down to Albany to get connecting buses into Vermont, Vermont Transit, which goes through St Johnsbury. Made my reservation there so can now go ahead and get the bus ticket. A load off my mind. Decided James is a bit of a sap. The band were playing in the park so had a listen, quite pleasant. Brad and Laura have been chatty tonight, they are archaeologists on a dig nearby.

3 August – Happy 33rd birthday Stephen. Got up very late today. Heard Laura go so knew it was around 7am, however it is so dark down in the basement you cannot tell what time of day it is. Didn’t wake up again until 8.40am. Have to be out by 9.30am so you can imagine my hasty rushing around to organise myself.

Started my walk around the lake, did not get so far, it is so hot. Sat by the lake to write a letter, had a little stroll in the park but did not seem to get anywhere. Was nice walking under the shady trees. The cruises looked reasonably priced, so booked on to the ‘Horicon’ at 1pm for 2½ hours on the lake. Whilst waiting I bought a stamp for the letter. Unfortunately it had ‘LOVE’ over the top with a red rose heart with dove underneath, not good. Funny thing was that I got to thinking it may be Valentine’s day soon, goes to show how disorientated I am.

The cruise was pleasant, we sailed out 16 miles, half the distance of the lake’s length, covering many small islands on the way. Some were let out for campers, some just for bathers and a lot had private accommodations on, a perfect existence, cut off from the rest of the world. Just miles and miles of tree covered mountains. I figured this was a good way to see some of the surrounding area, would have been nice to do a round trip by car to catch the contrast. Much of shore is bedecked with housing, owned by people with far too much money. Rained on the way back, one half of the lake sunny, one half stormy. The rain draws itself to the mountains (these are the foothills so not so big).

Ate out for dinner, Pizza Hut, these food chains are all stingy in servings, best to go to an exclusive for more food. Kept waiting so, sorry, no tip today. A band, World Beat, are playing in the part tonight. Correction, Zeek Hull, or something like that, from Montreal. Songs are all African based, very loud, very rhythmical, but giving me brain ache. We actually have somebody at the hostel, two in fact, who came from Las Vegas.

4 August – Left Lake George on time, knew in my heart that we would not get to Albany by 9.30am. Turns out would have too late any ways, the bus leaves at 9.10am. Looks like an expensive accommodation night. The Ramada was closest, but $70 so hunted down the nice local bus drivers. Seems the cheapest motel is ‘Coco’s’. Sounds divine eh. There is however a YWCA in town, so paid my 75 cents fare and we were away. I kept watching for the motel area and waiting for the driver to announce my stop, but we kept going. Motels did look cheap, some cheap and nasty. A guy got on in a wheelchair and the driver made him comfortable, then he told me to make myself comfy because I still had another 45 minutes before my stop. Where am I heading for, we were just on one street so who knows. Ended up in a place called Schenectady, 20 miles away, not bad for 75 cents. Had company for part of my short walk to the YWCA, a man and his son. Turns out the son had a pen-pal in England, Jackie Edwards. Wanted to know if I knew her!!! The ‘Y’ is only $20 a night, have a clean, but non-functional room though. No light, window does not open, no bin. So hot in there I can hardly  breathe. Even lying naked is no good.

Sorted out the hostel in St Johnsbury. Nobody has heard of phone cards in this town. Could go swimming but feel so tired from the heat I doubt I would have the energy to do lap swims. Settled for a Burger King Big Fish Combo instead. Have to be up early so will not be doing much tonight. There is a TV room to veg out in and it is air-conditioned. The YWCA is full of friendly women, however, there is a difference to the hostels – these are real life people. Some I imagine have been battered, some homeless, they do a lot for women here. I think the rooms are rented out for up to 2 years in some cases. Swim classes, keep fit, gym, all sorts of programmes to help women back into society. Some tough old birds though. Am told I have a beautiful accent. Managed to wrangle a plastic cup for some tea, my only possession for refreshment, the lady in the kitchen must have had pity on me, a poor little waif and stray. Should survive one night and morning on water, have an apple too for breakfast. Not such a nice area so will be glad to be gone tomorrow.

5 August – A little damp first thing but glad of the cool. Caught the express into Albany so made good time, enough for a good breakfast at least. Vermont has some of the prettiest countryside and quaintest towns. I don’t think any of them are built up. Burlington, Rutland, Manchester, all wonderful liveable places. I imagine very well healed people live in Vermont and retired persons. So many trees everywhere, can just picture the Fall, must look fantastic. Rained most of the day and has become quite cold. Got to White River Junction and had a 3½ hour wait, only 1½ hours to go, stupid really. Nothing much to do, few shops, one to be honest, the rest were eating places.

Was picked up in St Johnsbury by Richard, house parent, not a communicative chappy, has an injured leg and I doubt he was happy at being dragged out. The house is a mile out of town, we passed it nearly on the way in, I knew I would. I can’t imagine they have had the house long; some improvements being done. I don’t know why people have garages, they never put cars into them. He is a teacher, Pamela a housewife and two adorably horrid children. This is one of those middle working-class type families where the children are brought up on very strange disciplinary measures, probably from a book. Two Aussies are in, from Sydney, middle aged, away for 2 months nearly. They are not sure about this place, but it should do them for one night. The guy reminds me of Alan from Toodjay. Have to go do a chore now before bed.

6 August – A leisurely start. I waited for the ozzies to go before rising. Had a nice chat with Pamela through breakfast. Richard managed a good morning. They were going out in the afternoon so I had the privilege of a door key.

Headed into town and found the tourist booth, helpful to a point. Seems I can’t do much wilderness walking without transportation to get me there. The buildings on main street are of historic significance and there is a self-guided tour, but gave it a miss. Headed into the Athanaeum, the library, very beautiful inside. Same style as the Ottawa Government one, only smaller. They have an art gallery at the end with some impressive exhibits, no names I could recall. Only takes a few minutes to walk around, but a pleasant interlude. Wanted a picture of the library, but the camera conked out. Needs new batteries. The Fairbanks museum was close by, told it has a wonderful planetarium. If I had known what was in the museum before I paid $4 to get in, I would have only gone to the Planetarium at 1.30pm for $1.50. Downstairs they have a weather centre and, I think, must do live broadcasts every day, plus a few scientific experiments. The main floor is stacked with stuffed animals and birds, quite horrible, most or probably all were killed for pleasure. Some disgusting ‘bug’ pictures too. Upstairs were things from other countries, of old, dolls and rocks. Some memory triggers here, but not that interesting. Hated the place overall. Had time to nip out for a sandwich before the Planetarium show. This was a treat, taught in a simple way I learned more here than I have before on these types of talks. One of the main constellations he talked on was Scorpio, by coincidence. Look for the big ‘S’ in the south, spring and summer. Has a red heart, which concerns me a little. It is gradually dying down over the next few billion years, could die out and that would be a significant change to all Scorpios. The sun is expanding and will be closest to the earth, so much more heat. I think the end is coming nearer. Spent an hour in there in all, very interesting.

Now the hunt for my souvenirs. A definite lack of things with St Johnsbury on them, everything is categorised as Vermont, like it is one huge town. Walked miles to find this out, but a pretty walk it turned out to be. The maple museum has gifts, but just the same as the rest, so will get them tomorrow.

Quite a full house it seems tonight. No sooner than I had gotten onto the doorstep a woman came up. She seemed to think I should know something about a pageant going on, she left in a hurry, annoyed that no one was here to greet her. We have Dan and two other couples. I had to move rooms. My roommate snored all night, I had to wake her up to stop. Oh the peace afterwards. Interesting hostelling tales too and food before bed.

Current day thoughts
When there is little to do in a town it is easy to head towards anything that is going just to fill the time. I ended up at a zoo again after saying I no longer liked them, however I feel I become a little more educated through the experience in Syracuse.

I lost my sunglasses, the best ones I have ever had, got me a pretty penny too. Think I left them in the ladies toilets at the zoo, never to be seen again. I would be devastated to lose my sunglasses now as they are prescription ones, so I keep them on a chain around my neck whenever I am out and about in the sunshine.

I had some of the best conversations whilst waiting for buses to come along, the Russian lady was no exception. Do I believe all that she said about Russia, not sure, although I believed what she said about Syracuse. Was the lady she talked about in fact herself? I have never been to Russia but would love to go. We hear all sorts of awful things about other countries and find the experience there is very different, so I will reserve my judgement. I guess we all live in different worlds though, so experiences will differ.
OJ was found not guilty.

My Greyhound journeys between town/cities on the east side of the USA were much shorter so no more overnight journeys to take.

The hostel in Lake George was in the basement of a building linked to a church – it wasn’t the crypt though. Having said that it would have been hard to tell as the lighting was so dim you could barely see your hand in front of your face. It was damp down there too. I think the hostel manager never maintained the accommodation even with a bit of simple cleaning and the lighting was purposefully designed so we wouldn’t see how bad it really was. I remember him being a friendly guy, just not there in the mornings when you need to speak to him and not really into the whole managing role generally. I survived yet again.

I did feel fit and free on top of Mount Prospect and I didn’t care. Confidence in myself was starting to shine through.

It is easy to forget that large countries, such as the USA, will have quite diverse regions, so of course the natives will want to travel around to check it all out, and, unlike the UK, it can take days to get anywhere if travelling by road. Going from west to east and vice versa is like going abroad in the US. On the subject of travel. Being away for a long duration, and my 10 months away was by no means long compared to some, it is easy to assume a superiority with travelling. I met so many people who were away for their 2 week summer vacation who I laughed at, forgetting that I was so lucky and privileged to be in the position I was. New found confidence can leave you feeling elated and quite cocky. I wasn’t exactly in the real world at the time, something I would discover once I moved on from Lake George.

I remember the room so well at the YWCA in Albany, fine for one night, but it was so small and hot didn’t come close. I laid naked on the bed with a wet flannel on me to try and cool down. There were no curtains so who knows if anyone saw me. The ladies staying there were so kind. They didn’t know anything about me or ask my story and to be honest I’m not sure I would have felt comfortable telling them what a lovey life I was living. There was a togetherness about everyone, looking out for each other and that is what they were doing for me. I am not sure if the YWCA was the hostel featured in my guide book or not and I wonder what the bus driver was thinking about my situation to have taken me there. Questions I will never have the answers to.

The hostel accommodation in St Johnsbury was a first for me in terms of it being somebody’s home. One never quite knows how one fits in. I got the impression that this was a venture the lady of the house, Pamela, was more into than her husband. Still, it was pleasant enough despite having to do a chore as part of my keep. It was a big house considering all the guests who stayed there. There is a sense of comradeship when sharing travelling tales.
For a small town, St Johnsbury held some interesting places. It was definitely maple syrup country. I was so glad to have gone to the planetarium and learned so much about my birth sign, Scorpio. I often look up to the sky on a starry night in search of my star. We talk a lot about global warming and saving the planet today, but the talking has been going on for decades and, although I try to do my bit, I feel that nature is forging its own destined path and the little we do will have not be able to stop it. Nothing is forever.

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Week 29: 7 August to 13 August
7 August – The bathroom went well this morning, manged to get in at a reasonable time and wash my hair with the aid of a coffee mug. Hot out again today so travelling light.
Took a leisurely stroll to the maple museum, not as far as I thought and not as big as I had hoped. The factory was one side and is sadly closed on weekends. The gift store on the other and the wee shack sugar house squeezed in the middle. The sugar house is where they actually used to make the syrup, so a history, with artefacts, of the making is depicted all the way round. Amazing how a small tap driven into the maple trunk can produce such a product. The tree has to be a certain age before being tapped. Sad to see how some people abuse things by using them as trash cans. The evaporator was being repaired, but you could get the basic idea, it is roughly a process of burning the syrup to perfection. Different gradings can be made according to the colour at the end. Had a few tastings in the gift shop and rather over indulged in the sweet things, candies, syrup and fudge. Quite a pleasant place to stop at.
So, the day was still young and still hot, time to check out the swimming pool. Took the long route there, but it is not so far from home. Raced back and got my cossie. The pool is run by the Kiwanis and is free, not bad and not crowded either. Mainly kids but who cares. Think some of the lads tried to subtlety get my head soaked, but I resisted and ignored them. Did a few widths and dried off in the sun. Was just what I needed as I am feeling like a blimp at the moment.
A little but of decorating going on at home, poor Richard can’t get away with it even with a bad leg. The house has 17 rooms, must have 18 now as the room being decorated is a renovated shed. Just a huge place. A good investment and a lifetime project by the looks. Must look out for this Bread and Puppet Pageant, sounds weird, does Europe as well. My roommate has moved in with her hubby tonight, thankfully. She reckoned she was nervous last night and apologised for giving me a rough night. I could have given her a heart attack when I shook her bed. Having an early night as no one to talk to tonight. This is a ‘New England’, felt just like the English countryside today. Thought today that if I had gone to India first I would be seeing Vermont in the Fall, bit of a bugger.
8 August – I will never arrive anywhere else without booking first, nearly ended up paying through the nose for a bed tonight. Had a lift to the bus depot this morning, was such a beautiful day. Arrived Boston quicker than I had imagined, not such a bad thing as it turned out. Found the hostel easily and got a reservation, however not in the same building, they have an overflow summer hostel 10 minutes away. Can’t get in until 5pm, left my pack until then and went walk-about downtown Boston. Whale watching looks hopeful. Seems quite a nice laid-back sort of city. May pop over to Harvard whilst here. Will go to Cape Cod tomorrow if the booking goes through, but cannot find out until much later tonight. They expect me to go back over to Hemmingway Street hostel at 10pm to check – stuff that. I will phone and pick up anything tomorrow. Collected the luggage and made the traipse to Beacon Street and found a long queue waiting to get in. The door was not locked, there was just one person on the desk, 12 beds and 26 reservations – big headache. After 1½ hour wait, some went off to find other digs and myself and another girl edged our way to the front. Finally got in and thankfully got a room for the night. Was starting to get worried. They do have a third house for further overflow, so think I would have gotten a room eventually. Able to do washing but not cook, so ate take-out, showered, which was wonderful. Started to sort out my JFK link, do not think there will be any problems but want to make sure. Boy am I glad that I have learned not to panic over things. Now, Cape Cod…..No go for tomorrow so try for two days’ time. Managed to book into here for tomorrow night too. Things are not going to plan – stay calm, stay cool, it will happen.
9 August – Waltzed into the other hostel without being checked and had breakfast. Storing some goodies until the evening. They couldn’t find my failed reservation for Cape Cod so I have to come back later.
Checked out Cambridge today, the Harvard sector. I have never been to Cambridge in England but I imagine this area is based upon it. Very university type feel to it. Lots of young people bustling, street cafes, bookshops. However a lot of tourist opportunities. Some beautiful buildings all around – red brick type with greyish/white interlay and ornate carvings all over. Strolled around Cambridge common by the Radcliffe College, women’s study college, now directly associated with Harvard. I have always confused universities with private schools in regards to their set up. Private schools are one big institute whereas universities are a cluster of buildings in a designated area, each hall being a community on its own, creating more of a college type existence.
Now a bit more orientated, I went for a drink, self-seating establishment, so I sat myself at a clear table (for two) and waited service. I was asked if I would mind moving to another area, I did so and was sat at a table for six. Served and happy with my lot I was approached again and asked to slide along to the near end of the table as a party of three were waiting to be seated. I showed a certain amount of disapproval at this and muttered an agreement to do so. Felt like a spare piece on a chess board. No tip here and shan’t come back.
The Harvard Yard holds the main of the study buildings and, I dare say, the administration too. A gorgeous area of trees, pathways and beautiful buildings. The Widener Library is the most prominent structure and, although tourists are not allowed into the main reference area, we were allowed into the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, with many shelves stacked high with his collection. He was a Harvard scholar who was killed in the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Many classics I spotted and titles unheard of. A wonderful collection. I strolled around some more, much enlightened by the atmosphere and came upon the Memorial Church. An unspectacular interior in itself but held much sadness within its walls. The church was built in memory of the war dead. So many brilliant minds wasted by ignorance. I see the majority area of those killed were potential lawyers. I would love to know which hall is the most sought after, or the most difficult to get into for study. Feeling, by now, very scholastic I sat on the steps and read a chapter from my book. Whence a large troop of people came along and on engulfing the entire area, I was forced to move. Somebody was filming the whole event and we wondered what importance these people had. Turns out they are a Cambridge technology group, whatever that means. I then sought out the law school, situated away from the yard, and wondered at all of the study case histories that may be lurking behind the doors. I nearly went into the museum but found it to be full of dead birds and animals, so refrained. I walked down to the boat house along the Charles River and found a spot to relax and read a while, after which I made the gradual journey back to the hostel to sort my query out.
Apparently, the hostel in New York and Washington advise people that Boston are very slow (and not so efficient either). It took them 1½ hours to decide that there was no record of my having pain $12 deposit. However, a mock receipt was made out and I got it back – not so of my food though stored in the fridge. Will be glad to see the back of the place come the 20th. Managed to get a reservation at Eastham. Truro was engaged, so I am happy now. Forgot that the ‘Cheers’ bar is in town, so will suss that out when I come back into town. A lot of people went out last night but I was plum knackered and had a headache. A lot of activity going on in Harvard Square.
10 August – Set off to South Station around 10am, had plenty of time to get my ticket and was prepared just to sit it out. However, crossing the road to the Peter Pan terminal, who should I run into, Jackie from ‘ull and she was still limping. Seems it was a spider that bit her ankle in Flagstaff. Her foot is still swollen. Her and Natalie have had a good time, they met Cher in New York, had dinner bought them on the train, twice, and a ride to their hostel, somewhere, I think by some kind policemen. Was going to dump my pack, get my ticket and go back to the station for a coffee with Jackie. Natalie was off whale watching, but could not leave my pack and waited instead. Shame, would have been nice to chat.
Not such a picturesque coach journey as I imagined it would be, just highway, trees and industrial establishments, so sat and enjoyed some more Jane Eyre – such a good book. The story is normal but the literary style makes wonderful reading. Got dropped off in Orleans and was pointed in the general direction of Rock Harbour Road, but took the wrong one and ended up going in a circle. Not wanting to appear on the same road again I turned back and sought direction from a church thrift shop. I was offered a ½ hour rest in return to a lift to the hostel by a kind lady. I had a rummage whilst there but did not find any bargains I needed. The ladies were enthralled to hear of my travels. The journey by car was not exact to my map but equally as long, and long it was, far too long with a backpack. I dread the return. Will try for a lift of some sort. Taken right to my door I was eternally grateful of this kindness; church people are so charitable.
The hostel is nice, small wood cabins, sparsely furnished with concrete floors – reminded me of Ayres Rock Resort. Have some messy room-mates. Got settled and headed out for provisions and ended up with fish and chips, too dear really and I was not that hungry, but figured the walk would run it off. Lots of nice shops to visit. Found a health food store and overspent on groceries. They did not have handled bags, just paper so had an hour’s torment of a walk to get back. I took an alternative route and seemed twice a long – it was dark by my return. I will think twice before attempting it again and will spend tomorrow on the beach to relax. Everyone keeps to themselves in the common area, not the same atmosphere as I am used to.
11 August – Am not pleased with my lot from the health food store. The water tastes like piss, the lettuce like shit and one of the apples had a maggot wriggling in the centre. Pesticides from now on, and to think I nearly broke my back carrying it all home. Had an unproductive day in all. Strolled off early as I could to check the area out.
I intended to do a little sunbathing later, if the sun would only appear. Got onto a ‘No through road’ and came out at a beach of some kind, very duney, marshy, a haven for dog owners I imagine and bird watchers. The tide was out and, with the few boats dotted amongst the marshes, looked very picturesque. Would love to have one of the properties down here, the locals are good in these small places at locating themselves in secluded places. The pathways brought me out at Rock Harbour and a much larger beach. How good it is for lounging around on I have yet to discover. With dogs being allowed to scamp about over it I doubt very good. Plonked myself down at the end of one of the rock harbours or rather the man-made rock wall entrances to the harbour and wrote some cards. Very strange how they have planted spindly tall trees in one line out to a certain point. Maybe it is all natural. Got chilly and I needed a pee so hit the road toward town. Had to go all around the houses to get there, ended up at Wendy’s. Have discovered since that I do not need to make a purchase in these places in order to pee. Spent the rest of the day strolling the town in search of my treasures, of which I found half, again nothing with Orleans on it. The sun was not about so perfect weather for wandering. Need a tremendous amount of pee time today. It concerns me for old age, will I be troubled? Stopped off at the Jonathan Young Cove Park where a windmill stands, however could not go in as it was closed, so have no idea of its history. Found a quiet spot alongside the town cove and sat reading for a while, very pleasant. Very tired tonight, rested nice and early.
12 August – ‘Oh the sun will come out tomorrow’. Nice and easy does it. It came out today, hooray! Walked the two miles or so to Staket Beach – at least if it rained there should be shelter. The tide was out when I got there at 10.30am and the beach sparsely bodied. Planted myself not so far down the beach, quite a good spot as it turned out. Well, the sun shone and shone and I turned front and back to promote a gradual tan on the lily bits and tits too. As the morning progressed the beach filled with families. Nobody else bared the breasts but I felt that, as most persons were small children, they would not object if I lay there quietly and bared mine to the sun. I heard no sneers, comments or objections, only one letch seemed to linger toward the end of the day. I find these days that reading good literature has made me talk in a similar way to, myself mainly, and to write also. I spent a good five hours on the beach and as the day slowly progressed, so did the tide. Those foolish enough to plant themselves down by the water’s edge soon retreated to the few good spots left at the top end. By mid-afternoon the water was ripe for the swim and I did indulge briefly to cool down. The water did look a little misty. I managed to slightly char my back and behind, so was lucky, at least most of the bod is blending in. I was offered a ride back by someone who observed me walking, however he was on a cycle so don’t think it would have worked. The sun was going in by now so was nice to stop off at Rock Harbour to cool down a while in the breeze. How different it looks when the tide is in. Have noticed how many people write diaries at the end of the day. Would love to read them and discover their literary content and quantity. Hoping for a ride to Truro on Sunday but am expecting to trudge to the bus stop, although having found my short cut it does not seem so far. Woodstock is this weekend, how I would love to be there, but for cash I should have.
13 August – Rain again this morning, supposedly brighter later. Tempted to hire a bicycle and head off but it is so hot and sticky. Was offered a lift into town by a guy staying at the hostel, however he was on a motor cycle so I declined. A. I hate motorbikes, B. I was not dressed suitably and C. I could not see another helmet on offer. It was only a short distance but not worth the risk. This evening the guy approached me concerned that I may have though him some mad rapist or murderer.
Decided once I reached Main Street that it was too hot to ride so would go on a cruise around the marshes. The breeze would be nice. Had a while to kill before setting sail so looked around the windmill. The guy was on hand to offer a guided tour. The mill has been in the area for its entirety from the 1600s, must be one of the oldest structures in America. It is 80% original, the 20% restored due to certain beetles eating away at the beams. We had quite a little chat and somehow veered from the subject in hand. The beams are red oak, trees which do not grow in the area anymore. They were all stripped for the purpose of building and the result on the land was such that sandy soil happened and only scrub trees exist now, which I guess is good from the point of view that the land is free to flourish for the time being. The top half of the mill is designed to rotate so that the sails could be positioned to the wind direction and thus production could continue. How so of the techniques nowadays I wonder? I also learned that there is not, as yet, a system that regulates the extents of a town limit so the committees attempt to sell off as much land to the buyer as possible, in order that less housing is erected. However, the owners are then restricted as to any extensions they want to build on their own land. I am now eternally grateful for our National Health system. The Americans have to take out extensive medical insurance policies to pay their bills and they run into $1000s. I guess the welfare people must get some sort of aid. It is all under review at the moment. I learned if I sue, the lawyer gets 75% earnings and get 25%, so in order to make a million the lawyer gets 3 million. They are such leeches, clever ones at that. The mill was a clever invention too for its day. The guy agreed that the children need an intense history lesson. Some of them who come to see the mill want it to work or to see moving pictures of it working. Something as precious and static as this means nothing to them.
The boat ride certainly stirred up a breeze, I needed my sweatshirt. We made a two-hour trip around the Nauset Marshes. The marshes apparently absorb a lot of the pollutants from the waters and grows about a foot a year. A birdwatcher’s paradise – gulls, terns, ducks, geese. I missed out on a good photo opportunity when we passed gulls swooping for sand eels. Some nice beaches to descend on, most only able to sail out to for seclusion. I guess you use the water for natures call. Plenty of people out today. The area is also good for clams and lobster. Lots of people out digging for soft sand clams for supper. As for the lobster pots, each mature resident is allowed 10 lobster pots, 20 if you have students at home. (I guess for parties) and anymore you have to wait for. There is a list of 20 years wait. You can buy them from people willing to sell but the cost is average $40,000. Looks like a lot of wheeling and dealing goes on and a lot of pilfering. No wonder lobster is so expensive in the restaurants. Our boat too had its pots and we stopped to check their contents. Crabs, starfish and weed – no lobster. Dead fish are placed in the pots as a lure. I actually had four small starfish in my hand. Could have watched them slowly die and took them home but returned them back to their natural home.
Read for the rest of the afternoon, determined to finish my book. Had a more interesting meal tonight and so was content. Will pack up tomorrow for the trip to Truro, the bus is only $4.
Current day thoughts
It is amazing to think that so much maple syrup is available for us to buy considering the length of time it takes to produce. It is a real labour of love. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. The Kiwanis are an organisation who assist in community projects and do a lot of fundraising. The Bread and Puppet Pageant is touring theatre company which I never got to see and I have never heard of since, although from my Google search it is still going strong.
I loved Boston, it made me feel good and more positive about myself, like parts of my brain were being woken up from a long sleep. I am quite a calm person by nature. I never liked it when plans didn’t go my way, but I have learned that there is a way to solve problems, and to worry about things too much is not good for one’s health. I have always said that I have lived a charmed life, not perfect by any means, but things seem to work out in the end, and so it did in Boston with the hostel situation. It sounds like the workers at the hostel were maybe a little lax with the administration side of things.
Stealing food from communal kitchens happened in all the hostels and it probably still does today, it happens in work places and in shared houses too – If you’re that desperate just ask!
It is hardly surprising that Cambridge, Boston had a very university feel to it considering it is home to one of the most famous universities in the world. It was interesting to note that women were starting to be taken more seriously then, breaking into male dominated sectors of society. These days the male population are starting to feel left out, not right but I guess what goes around comes around. Who knows in the future men could be campaigning for equal rights with women. The area was generally very inspiring. I love to wander in big libraries, especially old ones with character. I would be back in Boston soon.
Jane Eyre is my favourite book of all time.
I had forgotten about the charity shop ladies on Cape Cod, but reading this again has brought the memory back. I was easily disorientated despite having a map, and it only takes one wrong turn to take you miles out of your way (it wasn’t miles, just seems that way when walking). Such nice ladies.
From memory Cape Cod is a very laid-back place and people tend to hang out in the region to chill out rather than socialise, although for residents there is clearly community and they still have the national food-chain outlets the same as anywhere else.
It is funny reading out my concerns regarding my urination habits. These days I am more aware of incontinence issues and, as some of you may remember, I recently took advantage of some freeby incontinence product vouchers, stocking up for the future. I do not see myself as pessimist, more of an optimist that there is a future for me.
Yes, I sunbathed topless and not for the first time. I don’t see the problem with it and apparently neither did anyone else.
I rode pillion on a motorcycle once and I hated every minute of it, never feeling safe, and I never want to travel on one again. It might be different if I were in charge of the bike, but I am not in a hurry to find out. Nowadays I would consider anyone who offered me a lift as a mad rapist or murderer.
Woodstock was celebrating its 25th anniversary of the famous 1969 festival. I was so close but had to be economically sensible.
I clearly missed my calling as a lawyer. I missed my calling at a lot of things. If only I had the confidence when I was younger. So many what ifs in life.
The rules on lobster catching was quite an eye opener. Does everyone get a fair share though? Say for instance, and assuming there is a plentiful supply of lobster in the waters, all of the lobsters get into one person’s share of lobster pots and into nobody else’s pots, will they just take what they want and put some back or will they share them around or sell them to restaurants for profit. A dog eat dog situation.

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Week 30: 14 August to 20 August

14 August – Wow, quite a day. Had to walk to the bus stop but was not such a bad trek, took a rest half way. Did notice one lady at the hostel remark to her mother when she saw me – ‘poor girl’. She had a car so could have offered me a lift. Some people imagine that you cannot possibly have set out with the intention of travelling this way, walk, with a heavy load. Unheard of. The bus was a little late but not so much. In any case I had time to spare.
Truro downtown consists of an extremely expensive grocery store, a post office, couple of restaurants and nothing else. It was still hot at this time. A couple of others were waiting behind, deciding whether or not to head to the hostel, but I carried on after purchasing some refreshment. If the road was a mile and a half to the hostel then I am a monkey’s uncle. It was a good three miles. I was dripping by the time I got there. After a time others came by, the two at the bus stop and a very drenched French guy with a soggy paper sack, and then some inquisitors from New York and then Michael. During my wait a ferocious storm was brewing, the wind was howling around. The sky was terrific, I imagined myself abandoned on the moors of England, much like a literary heroine.

Now, back to Michael. He is a New Zealander and has currently been away from his dairy herd for just over a year and plans to travel for a further 2-3 years. He came away with $500 and threw away his return air fare once here. He has hiked across Canada in the winter with no particular destination in mind, slept on roadsides, beaches, picked up work on the way, some well weird situations. He joined some fishermen for work and ended up spending 3 weeks with them. He just has this instinct for survival and falls into his situations at the last moment. I think a lot of his time is spent in a drunken stupor. Would make such an amazing story, I’d love to write it. And at the end of it all he is going back to his dairy farm, how sweet.

Rain over, Fergus, myself and the girls decided to go into town to shop. It was raining again quite extensively. Michael was waiting to take us back to his current digs, we wanted the loo so we joined him. We walked up a drive way, past the house and into the garage. This was where the guy lived, he rented from the house owner. What a hovel, we were worried, the bog was behind a curtain, which the dog seemed to like passing through to suss us out whilst seated. It did work amazingly. He had a TV and video, fridge, outdoor shower and he was happy, but, it was all so trashy and dirty, even Michael does not eat or drink there, except beer. The guy was nice though, I understand he had had cancer and now undoubtedly prefers the peace and solitude of a simple life. Mattresses on the floor above provided his bed.
On the way back it was raining but as luck would have it a ride was offered and we piled in. Have learned some interesting things from Michael, more things a man could get away with than a woman, but worth remembering. Could keep you amused for hours with his tales. Just feel like I am drifting at the moment. I am here on the Cod but it is a hell of a place to get around so not doing anything really. Feels like England anyway. Not even sure if I have a bed for the next few nights, my reservation was not listed. Even in Boston I have to just turn up. Can’t wait for bed. My backside looks like a battlefield at the moment. Wish I knew what was going on. The evening was wet and wild, it was remarked that it resembled the Lake District, I should find out one day.

15 August – Abandoned to the wilds today I left the secured haven and roamed the dunes. You really are stranded all day if you have no transport. Not so good to have no shelter from the sun, or toilet facilities. I see no reason for closing the hostel, shall make my point at some stage. I followed the Cranberry Bog Trail to the Bog House. Quite a pleasant little trek through the shrubbery. You would never think that the cranberries could ever originate from such a place. There is a legend that goes with the originating of the berries, which involves an old woman, a giant and a drop of blood. I think the Indians created it. It was also the Indians who taught the white man the properties of them. The trail continued past the bog and left to a stretch of secluded beach. Looked just perfect, only three of us there, so plonked myself down. It was a hot sun but the wind was strong on my back. Was nice just to relax without a care, but the flies constantly disturbed my peace, they sting you and draw blood, it really is quite tormenting. I threw food down but they showed no interest. Oh for more bodies to distract them from me. The sand was so, so soft, it whipped up in a frenzie in the wind. From the sky to the ocean many blues blended together and with the rugged dunes behind it really was quite beautiful. I sat in my underwear; I could quite easily have stripped naked I felt so good. Along came Michael, book in hand, on his morning jaunt. Quite a scholar at heart I think and at one with nature. Seems he and Rick had a conversation on the meaning of life last night, instead of beer, but I don’t think Rick is up to such stimulating conversation. He stayed for a while and strode off. He never stopped on his return. I was twice desperate for a pee and, not wanting to go in the sea, I went in the sand discretely. Sounds awful but no harm done. I would have read more but for those flies, I could not concentrate on anything. Tossed and turned on a couple of areas of beach and enjoyed the solace that our sculptor has to offer. Found the loos in the parking lot, portacabins, nice. Got back onto the road, the wrong road, ended up going all the way back downtown along the south road, rested and came back along the north. The clouds were dark and so I imagined it would rain again, besides I could not stand anymore sun beating down on me.

Got in quickly at 5pm to get the first shower, my skin felt awful. I burned too so no more sun for me for a while. Getting concerned about Boston, however sure it will work out. Have to start getting myself organised, doesn’t feel like I am nearly on my way home. There is still India.

Went back out to the cranberry bog to take some photos. The weird French guy had followed, he was on his way to the dunes to see the sunset. I imagined he had come out to murder me and leave my body to sink in the bog, never to be found. Walked up to the top of the hill outside the hostel to watch the sun set. Felt so good to be amongst the heather, up aloft it all, alone and free with the wind afresh, nothing around but the greenness of the land, the blue of the ocean and a most spectacular sunset. I have never, from memory, seen such a sun. A vibrant orangey red. I sat and watched until the earth had tilted away from its sight. I realise now that that is how the tides work. Have to find the solitude of this existence somewhere, I am happy like this.

Finished Jane Eyre tonight, a happy ending and a brilliant book.

16 August – One of my most exhausting days to date. Mentioned that I thought I had been short changed yesterday, they would look into it. I am pretty certain though.

Caught the 8.23am bus to Provincetown so had a pretty full day ahead. I got it in my head to walk out to Long Point Lighthouse, the very tip of Cape Cod. Walked to the edge of town and out on the Province Land Road to what I imagined was close to the tip. Only took an hour so I was pleased as punch and unruffled. Got on to a trail and it was a while before I realised it was not going in the right direction. Not wanting to re-trace my steps, I made a rash decision to go cross country. I wondered whether I would encounter quick sand or something, it was getting uncomfortable with my pack by now. The soft deep sand made walking very difficult and I hate sand in my shoes. Came out by the lighthouse and hoped I was not on private property. Got onto the beach and walked in my chosen direction, many four wheeled drive cars were out for the day for the fishing. I seemed to get nowhere, certainly did not look like I was nearing my destination. I felt compelled to continue to reach my goal without a rest, but the sand was so hard on my legs I had to stop. I ate a little, drank a little and read a little. I figured I have reached the tip and was heading back around it, so went back the quicker route along the beach. It took forever to get back to the rest rooms, I needed a pee desperately so went in the sand. I had my shoes off, the sand was hot and the pebbles annoying, I thought I would die from the heat, I had no feeling in my feet. I did not rest for so long before wanting to head back. I had refreshment and started to walk off. By the way, it was very lovely looking out to the sea. The breeze was cooling, the air refreshingly clean, only the sun was too much without shade. Anyways there was a shuttle bus into town so, being knackered I felt I had done my exercise for the day, I boarded it.

The town is very quiet, much like Cornwall, with some wonderful exclusive shops. Spent the remainder hours searching each shop for that special something. Saw lots of things, but would not commit myself. Nothing actually jumped out at me and said this is America, so banking on Boston. I think that Provincetown is the gay capital of Massachusetts. The store holders are a giveaway, but you also see both male and female couples holding hands in the street.

Must ring JFK tomorrow. Have sussed out some shops in Boston so should all be hunky dory. Have to admit I was pissed-off with the seashore by the end of the day. I am absolutely shattered.

Never really got to my point did I. The lighthouse I reached was totally wrong to the one I wanted to get to, I had headed in the wrong direction, such a shame, I think.

17 August – A frustrating but fun day. Made it to Boston ok and in good time. Went straight to the hostel. Was good to actually know where I was headed. No room at the inn, or the summer hostel. However, with three vacant bodies we could go to the Farrington Motel or was it an Hotel, for $22. We had two bodies, me and Angus, so we waited for the third and whilst we waited, I did my post cards. A third accosted, Christopher, we headed off on the underground and with good directions found the Farrington on Farrington Street. My bites are killing me today, loads have appeared. It is a very nice olde worlde style furnished place and our bit is more like an apartment, again very nicely done out. Breakfast is included so quite a good deal. Still not certain about the next two nights.

After a freshen up and feed I set off to the Faneuil Hall and Quincey Market area. Boston has some of the most picturesque and beautiful architecture I have seen I America. Such a good party atmosphere too, the bars and restaurants are packed out by dusk. The square looks even better when dark and lit up. We got some food and then wandered around the stalls and shops and had a fun time. The thing I liked best were the finger massagers, very useful gadget. Then strolled along the wharfs, getting wet in the rain. Angus is in the hotel business and so we entered the Rowes Wharf Hotel. I think he wanted to see how they reacted to our appearance, no great shock really. In fact, we had the doors opened for us. Very nice place indeed with a lot of well-dressed personages wandering about. Looked into one of the limousines outside, just a glorified bar on wheels, nice if you can afford it. Discovered we are staying in the gay district so lots of lovies about. I guessed we were from the guy stood outside a nearby club.

Should be interesting tonight, I have the single and Angus and Chris have a double – cosy. Angus is Australian and Chris is Swiss. The flight confirmed I can relax a little until Saturday, I hope it drags.

18 August – Not such a traumatic day as I imagined. Sometime during the night Angus put up another bed in the room for Chris. I must have been well out of it.

I got up nice and early and went over to breakfast at 8am, to which we were cordially invited. Muffins and fruit and beverages were the fare of the day, all served up by our lovely host. Did notice one Chinese man take about three oranges and two apples for the day. The guy hosting us was most keen to know of my writing and hoped I would do some passionate work – so do I. Chris had been out painting the town red, Cambridge in fact, came home in the early hours, never heard him either. Said my goodbyes and made a dash for the Back Bay Hostel. I couldn’t wait for Angus.

Turns out after a jostling time on the subway that I made it just in time. Noticed how locked into separate worlds each person is on the subway, especially the morning rush hour time. If I had fallen I doubt anyone would have picked me up. I simply grabbed at the nearest person and made a general nuisance of myself. Got into the hostel with minutes to spare and with literally one bed to spare. Was dripping wet so desperately needed a shower, but no time, so mopped myself down with a towel, strew my things around the room and dashed out.

Spent the whole day ducking in and out of the Quincey Market shops and strolling the harbour. The rain was on and off so not so bad, it was still hot though. Tracked down my Boston Cream Pie, expensive but nice. It is cake with two layers of custard, chocolate topping and nuts edging. Was chatted to by a mafia type Bostonian outside the customs building. He was a hospital administrator so must have been rolling in dosh.

I understand a bit more about the Boston Tea Party now. It was brought about by the warring between England and America. A shipment of tea was dumped in the harbour in protest. I should think that the Bostonians must hate the British, with all of the fighting that went on between them. Never realised before.

Saw lots of nice things to purchase, the best being $2300, however settled for a sundial with a map of the USA on and ‘Seize the day’ (in Latin) on it. Kind of appropriate I thought and will suffice for us both. I waited and waited for sundown, must have looked suspicious lingering all of the time. Finally got the right atmosphere and took my piccies. Was ready to go back then. Looking forward to my whale watch tomorrow.

19 August – The day but one and what a gloomy one at that, in more ways than one. Just the right setting to suit my mind and the way I feel at present. Cannot drum up any enthusiasm for going back to England.

The weather was wet first thing, very wet, but I togged myself out in my sailing gear. Reached the wharf soaked to the feet, well only my feet actually. A few of us hung around the ticket booth, but no show of teller, then a guy wanders up and tells us that there will be no whale watch today, it was too rough out there. My world crumbled, I couldn’t begin to explain how deflated I felt, my big finalé gone. The company operating nearby however were doing a whale watch but they left 15 minutes earlier. What to do now? Took an hour Inner Harbour Cruise for 10.30am – time for a bit more breakfast. 10.30am came and 10.30am went and I appeared to be the only one around. The ticket booth then inform me that I would have to wait until 11.30am, there was a group arriving to make up the numbers, so buggered off again for an hour. 11.30am came and again the captain looked doubtful, I was getting mad. Then the group turned up and we could thankfully set sail. The cruise was the usual thing – buildings, docks and trivia. We stopped by the USS constitution dock, so got off for an hour to look around. Some ship festival going on. Tall ships from all over were on view. Included was the Bounty which I think was in Sydney. The area was nice so got a coffee and searched for the USS constitution. Found it back where I had started, but not in the condition I imagined. The ship is the oldest warship around and they are painstakingly restoring it. You can still wander on some of the areas, but it has been stripped so not much to see at all. Back in dock I still had time to kill, did a silly thing, booked onto an outer harbour cruise with the other company, because the present one had cancelled all further cruises for the day. Shouldn’t have bothered, it also included the inner harbour which I had already seen, plus a few little islands. What a crap day, at least it has stopped raining. Finished it off by walking to the Cheers bar on Beacon Street. Thinking on it, I could probably have walked most of the time here in Boston, the subway always makes things seem so far away, but they are not really. Went down the stairs to look around. Inside is very pokey and was full to the brim with people – some eating, some drinking and some like me just being nosey. I used the loo and checked out the memorabilia and got out of the place. Must be looking my age, they never asked to see my ID. Took piccies of various shots and came back to the hostel.

A mega sort out and chuck out. My wash was a problem but a little more money to put it right. Will today never end.

20 August – ‘And now the end is near….’ Rose at the crack of dawn and prepared to leave. Managed to remain fairly cool with my load and got to Peter Pan with time to spare. A pity my hair has gone awol. Got to New York at midday and quickly made my connection to the airport buses. New York, as I remember from before, is a mass of traffic, yellow cabs mainly, and a bustle on the streets. Had quite a tour of the city. Much I had once been through. Funny but it did not look such a frightening place as I feared. Have spent most of my time, since getting to the terminal and taking flight, with eating. I knew it would be that way. Virgin has good facilities and down to earth (ha, ha) staff. Personal TVs with remote control – films, music, comedy, news, Nintendo games. Feeling a bit tired now, only have 4 hours to go so may try to kip. Not sure what is going on in my mind at the moment. I am coming home, but I am not. Strange situation.

Current day thoughts

You remember in Forrest Gump where he started running and just kept going, well Cape Cod felt a bit like that for me, only with walking. I have to say that by the time I came back to England I was the most physically fit I had ever been through the combination of walking, walking, more walking and carrying my backpack around. Exercise without realising you are doing it, I recommend walking. Look after your feet though.

I am not sure about Michael, was his story for real or had he just run out on his luck. Can’t remember what it was he taught me but must have been inspiring at the time. It was funny though walking up to the big house thinking this was where he lodged and then diverting to the garage.
Can only imagine that I had a few bruises on my backside as I bruise very easily. How they got there I cannot remember so can’t have been an interesting story.

The Lake District does have more than its fair share of rain but it much more beautiful than Cape Cod and to be fair one is a coastal region the other is not so there are bound to be differences, apart from the rain.
The cranberry bog, one of the highlights of my trip. I am glad to be here reporting this to you rather than being at the bottom of the bog. I don’t know if anyone saw me up on the hill but if they did I would imagine they could tell I was having a moment and were happy to leave me alone. It really was beautiful.

I think the fishermen I passed on my little jaunt at Provincetown were a little gob-smacked to see anyone walking out that way. I thought I was headed somewhere but it only led to the sea. I can just imagine the conversations they had back home that night…..’well we did see this strange woman walk by…..’ If only satnav had been available back then.

Sorry to stereotype dear store holders but the gaydar was pointing your way.

I think it is brilliant the hostel had access to other establishments in Boston so to not see anyone out on the streets. I never experienced it anywhere else but I imaging most big, popular destinations have the same system. It never bothered me that I would be sharing with two men. Angus was such a nice guy and a great laugh, it is a shame I was so horrid and scarpered early the next day, leaving him behind. We weren’t travelling together and I had myself to think about. I did leave him a note though. When we went into the posh hotel I was in shorts and an old t-shirt and Angus was wearing similar but smarter and he had a hat on with corks hanging around the edge. We looked a sight, which made it all the more fun. We rolled up to the reception desk and Angus said, in his best English accent, ‘Can we have a look at your tariff please’. A tariff was handed over, we looked at it and then walked out again laughing once we got outside.

The underground is exactly the same in London, only now it is me in my own separate world, not that I use the underground much these days, I am a bus person.

The mafia type Bostonian man was curious to know why I was looking up at the buildings, which is why he stopped to talk to me. A hospital administrator rolling in dosh, what a laugh. I am a hospital administrator and I am certainly not rolling in it.

Just a little note on the Boston Tea Party. This is apparently the reason why coffee took on as one of the preferred beverages in the USA.

Missing the whale watch was the most disappointing of things. I would love to do it one day. I often wonder why they always have small boats going out for such a thing, I guess there must be a reason. One flip of the whale’s tale and the boat would be over. The weather turned out to be ok that day after all, which didn’t help in processing the situation.

The outside of the bar they used in Cheers is the only bit of that particular bar they use; the inside is really small. The shots of the characters inside the bar are done in a studio.

My first experience of New York was in 1985. I just remember trying to get out of the city and onto the highway to our destination took what seemed like hours, the congestion was really bad. I imagine it to be the same today.

It was a different me coming home.



In the lap of the gods

Let's talk...... Posted on Fri, September 02, 2016 22:08:05

Wednesday 31st
August 2016, a day of luck and misfortune.

I had the week
off work and decided to head down country to give my second home a spring
clean, having recently evicted my tenants. I rose early in the morning ready to
leave by 8.30ish and head to the coach station, which would be my mode of
transport for the main of my journey. Coach due to leave at 10.00am. At 8.45am my beloved
drove me to the bus stop where I would be able to catch the one bus needed to
get me to the coach station. Heading
into town at any time of day is a bit of a nightmare, but at that time of the
morning more so, even with the main of the rush hour behind me. (Should have left at 8.30am).
Three buses went by, any of which I could have caught had I not been on
an economy drive by only wanting to pay the one bus fare, before my bus arrived. I boarded the bus just after 9.00am
and prayed. Progress was slow but steady
and my confidence in reaching the coach station on time intact. By 9.30am we hadn’t yet passed familiar
landmarks that would indicate we were close, so my patience was beginning to
thin. There was a point when the traffic came to a stand-still and I found
myself getting up and moving towards the front of the bus to see what the
hold-up was. I saw nothing but more traffic and started to think of a contingency plan just in case. The nearest rail or tube network was
ahead of me so running as fast as I could with a suitcase was all I could come
up with. I sat back down prayed some more and prepared myself for missing the
coach. However, slowly but surely we
progressed. I cursed every time a request to stop was made and cheered at every
stop we passed by. At 9.50am we reached
touchdown. I readied myself for the mad dash across the rail station to the
coach station. After skilfully dodging
people whilst running and huffing and puffing with my suitcase, I made it to
the coach station with a minute to spare.
I realised I would have no time to collect my ticket as planned so
whilst on the bus I opened my email ticket confirmation and hoped the driver
would accept it. (Why did I think he wouldn’t in this day and age). To my horror
I could not see the coach in its
usual place or a notice advertising it, (note to self: always have spectacles
to hand), so panicked. I walked further along the line of coaches to no avail.
I was about to ask a nice young forecourt attendant if my coach had already
left when as if by magic it rolled into line. He was however able to confirm my
e-ticket confirmation as a suitable boarding pass. Hooray for the coach running
late and hooray for modern
technology. Heart rate returned to
normal I sat back to enjoy the journey.
And this was just the beginning of my day.

Deposited safely
from the coach in timely fashion I headed to find the stop where I would catch
a bus to my final destination. Not totally au fait of the bus timetable I was
delighted to see said bus waiting at the stop.
I bounded towards it and asked the driver what time he was leaving. ‘In
one minute’, he said. Having told him I needed to get some cash from the nearby
cashpoint, unless he took contactless, (they do where I live), he told me he would wait for one minute
and then go if I was not back by then.
Further bounding to the cashpoint and back again I made it onto the bus. (Note to self: not as fit as you think you
are, try harder). The gods were with me
thus far.

I walked
leisurely towards my flat, time in hand, and all was well with the world. It wasn’t long before the gods turned. I put the key into the front door lock but unfortunately it would not turn.
I tried the two other identical keys on the fob with the same result. Had the
lock been changed without my knowledge? Sadly not, I came with the wrong set of keys, if in fact I have a key at
all. My trip was being done on the
quiet, no family who live nearby aware of my intended visit. This now was unavoidable. I contacted my niece first since she was the
last tenant and I knew she had a key, plus her new home was close by. Unfortunately she was out to lunch, in the
town where I had caught the bus out. She
wasn’t due back for a while and was intending to drop in on her grandparents
(my parents) on the way back, and suggested I contact them. I did just this and, after apologising for
bothering them and explaining the situation, my dad (and part-time caretaker)
came to the rescue with a key to let me in. By this time it was raining. An offer of a lift was made to the shops to
buy provisions, which was gratefully accepted.
With the rain and drop in temperature a jacket was required, which was
in my suitcase. Now, when I put the padlock on that morning
the combination was the same as it has been for the last couple of years. Somehow, between homes, this had mysteriously
changed and the padlock remained just so. Out into the cold we went, first stop
to buy tools to break the padlock. A
selection of saws and a pair of cutters were selected, which would subsequently
boost my dad’s already over-flowing tool box. Next stop the supermarket. I took my provisions to the cash desk, paid
for them and walked towards the exit, closing my purse as I went. On trying to put my purse away I realised I had left my handbag at the
checkout. Not too sure where my head had
been all day, not secured tight enough that’s for sure. The padlock was successfully sawed through and
my dad returned to his home. The rest of
the day unfolded uneventfully and I retired to bed.

I have to just
mention this one thing the following day. Thursday was a good day, busy and
going to plan, until that is I started to prepare my evening meal which
included a tin of soup and bread rolls. Not complicated I hear you cry, except
I purchased a can of soup that required a can opener, which I did not
have. Could have persevered with a pair
of scissors or a screwdriver, but figured that could all end in bloodshed, so
mad dash to the nearest shop to buy a can opener. Have to admit I was tempted to get a
takeaway, but resisted and enjoyed my soup eventually.

Seems the gods like to keep a balance between good and bad.



The Talko

Let's talk...... Posted on Mon, June 20, 2016 21:59:20

Very excited today to have made my first contribution to the online magazine ‘The Talko’. A little light entertainment to help build my portfolio. Hope you enjoy.

http://www.thetalko.com/15-times-you-have-a-right-to-be-jealous/

Hopefully the first of more to come.

smiley



When the claxon goes

Let's talk...... Posted on Wed, February 17, 2016 15:04:49

We are well into
February already, and good riddance to January.
January was truly one of the saddest I have known in terms of those the
entertainment world has lost. It hits home
just how short life can be, which is why I never understand why some people
fear retirement. I appreciate that some
careers can go on far beyond that, but for the common or garden nine to fiver
it baffles me. Once I looked forward to
retireing at 60, so when the claxon goes to mark my state pension age, now 67,
I’ll be off in a shot. For me retirement marks the beginning of my life not the
end.

For a past
generation, the retirement age, 60 for women, 65 for men, when state pension
could be drawn, was something people worked towards, something employers worked
by. It was put into place for a reason, aside from giving us a rest to enjoy
what time we have left, it made way for the younger generation so they could
have jobs and enjoy a regular life too.
As it is the current state of affairs is not promising.
The Government has staggered the state pension age, and discrimination
against age makes it difficult for employers to enforce retirement. To counterbalance this, youths now have to
stay on in education or training for longer. Now I am not against education, it
is a good thing, but overall the situation must have a negative knock on
effect. You can rob Peter to pay Paul,
but Peter still needs to be paid. There
are swings and roundabouts and catch 22s all at the same time.

Most of us will
factor in our state pensions when calculating the right time to retire and for
many there will never be a right time financially. But how many older people look down on youths
who roam the streets or sit on their backsides enjoying the wealth of benefits
because they don’t have jobs. My guess is that some of those people are the
ones who refuse to retire unless pushed.
It could be said that staying on in employment after state pension age
provides the opportunity to defer state pension, thus boosting the Government’s
coffers for longer, but to whose benefit.

Is there a
solution? There is, but without dragging to the depths of other political and
social issues (living wage, immigration, benefits etc), I cannot conclude here.
However, there are ways that we as individuals can contribute to our own
wellbeing towards and in retirement and perhaps quash the fear and thus help
restore the balance in society

There is no shame
in being old. If you worry about not being in control anymore then that is down
to your own insecurity. If you feel you
have nothing left to live for it is your own fault for not filling your life
with anything other than work. You are
not on the scrap heap. Look at retirement as a new chapter in life, you have
earned it. Stop for a moment and look
around, you might just see there is more to offer than you thought. The key is in planning. Always look to the
future, don’t dwell on the past, it is gone.

Save some money,
if for nothing else, to pay your own funeral expenses when the time comes (and
it will). Downzise your accommodation or release the equity. Economise.
Keep busy. Pursue further those
hobbies and interests or find some more – make a list of what those are. Make use of your freedom bus pass and go
places. Finish those projects around the
house, visit friends, make new ones, tidy up that paperwork and loose ends in
your life. De-clutter. So many things to
concentrate on. Look forward to having a lie in every day, in being able to
forget that it is Monday tomorrow, in being able to decide what you want to do
today.

Employers can do
their bit too by rethinking staff deployment in creating mentoring positions
for any employee who has reached state pension age, ready to train up new
employees in the form of an apprenticeship.

And here is one
for the Government – Once upon a time every young man had to do national
service. How about a retirement national
service coming into play, where a person who reaches state pension age has to
serve 2 years working in a nursing/retirement home (those well enough to). I hope it would make some
realise just how lucky they are and then decide to make the most of what time
they have left.

Finally, if you
absolutely have to work then volunteer. There are plenty of worthwhile and
rewarding volunteering jobs out there. So go to it.

Catch me in 15
years to see if I need to eat my words.



Happy New Year

Let's talk...... Posted on Fri, January 01, 2016 12:21:53

The other Queen’s new year speech….

Two of my colleagues (one late 20s the other 50+) were discussing the kettle in the staff room about how much scale had built up. The younger of the two said it must be time to get another kettle, whilst the other suggested descaling. It made me wonder if this is the way the next generation thinks; If it isn’t perfect ditch it and start again. Please tell me I am wrong. I may not be the modern day MacGyver or indeed Mrs Beaton but I did pay attention as I was growing up and learnt a lot of life skills and tips in the process. When I make a major purchase I like to buy something that will last. It may be that you have to put some effort into maintenance in order to keep it going, but throwing things away just because it is easier doesn’t make sense. Now, my life is far from being perfect. The phrase ‘do as I say, not what I do’ seems quite appropriate, when I think of all the things I’ve thrown away.

What I really want to say is, not everything in life comes with jam on it. We live in a world of great expectations. If you want perfection don’t just expect it to happen -work at it and you will find your equilibrium. I wish you all a happy and balanced new year. X



Sweets for my sweets

Let's talk...... Posted on Mon, November 09, 2015 22:47:04

It has been four
months since I purchased a regular chocolate bar or packet of sweets. This is nothing
short of a miracle and a record in my adult life. I haven’t cheated by eating other people’s
sweets either. And do you know what, I don’t crave or miss them. 100% chocolate
is tempting, but too expensive to buy on a regular basis for the amount you get. With recent publicity about the amount of
hidden sugar in our food I felt it was time to start reducing my intake. If I had the time to dedicate to food
preparation it wouldn’t be so difficult to eliminate refined sugar at all. Of course I still consume other naturally
found sugars such as those found in milk, fruit and honey, which, according to
my estimation, provides me with a daily intake that still exceeds the
recommended daily intake of sugars, so it’s a bit of a mine field. In cutting out too much food containing sugar, one runs the
risk of missing out on other essential nutrients needed for the body, and sugar
isn’t all bad for you.

I recently had a
birthday. During the week that followed I comsumed more cake than I would
normally eat combined from the remaining 51 weeks of the year. It has become something of a
tradition at my work place to eat cake when someone has a birthday. I
could say no thank you, but feel that would be rude since someone has gone to
the effort of providing it. The same dilemma
occurs on visiting people in their home or eating out. Is it too rude to ask your host or the chef
how much sugar has been used in the cooking? What does that say about me to
other people, too picky, too awkward? I don’t want other people to go to any
trouble just for me. It brings to mind the phrase, ‘a little of what you fancy
does you good’. (Note to self: Not everything
in cake is bad for you).

So, what about the alternatives? I admit to going over the top at bit at the
beginning and found myself going out of my way to replace the chocolate. I’ve
calmed down now. I purchased a book on
going sugar free, and trawled the internet for sugar free recipes. There are a lot of good things out there, and not just the naughty treats. Fresh fruits blitzed with yoghurt and frozen into ice lollies are
great. Look out for fruit loops and fruit and nut bars that contain no added sugar, found in all
good supermarkets and health food stores (more fruit I’m afraid). Eat nuts for desert, and fruit of
course. Change to unleavened bread which does not contain sugar. (I recently bought a bread maker, so will be
experimenting with non-sugar recipe loaves of bread). Eat foods that leave you
feeling fuller for longer to lessen your craving for those snacking foods we
reach for. Look at the ingredients before buying a product. It’s not all bad, some foods you think might
have added sugar in don’t. Stop buying
those ready-made pasta sauces and make your own, even down to making your own
baked beans. All of you die-hard cooks out there may be laughing and saying, ‘I
already make my own sauces, what’s the big deal’. Well, it’s just not that easy
for everyone. And if you truly do treat your body like a temple, then
I’m proud of you. Discipline and dedication are key.

For me at least I
think this much is true, everything in
moderation. I don’t have an especially sweet tooth but cannot eliminate
refined sugar completely from my diet, at least for now.

Remember, If you must snack, snack responsibly.



A fresh start

Let's talk...... Posted on Mon, November 02, 2015 22:20:22

You know when you
walk into a room and you forgot why you went in there? That’s what happened to
me when i finally sat down to write my blog. For months I have stored an array
of topics in my mind to write about, but no, just as I am ready to off-load I suddenly
develop writers block. So I thought I
would talk to you about my first day back to work after annual leave. Only a
week, 6 days to be precise, a 10 day break if you count the weekends. Not long,
but enough to relax and start afresh. The broom stick is away and the cobwebs
gone.

I saw a penny on
the ground at the bus stop this morning so I picked it up, and you know what
they say about that. A good omen for the day. The buses, I catch two, run the gauntet of road works efficiently and
deposit me successfully at my destination and, after popping into Sainsbury’s
to purchase necessary provisions to see me through the day, I arrive at my work
place with time to spare. Not wanting to give
free time to my employer, and determined to put into practice my new
work resolutions, work to rule, life/work balance, that sort of thing, I walked
up the four flights of stairs to the office to waste some time, made good by
reminding myself that exercise is beneficial.

It was a good
start to the day, Christmas meal menu choices sorted, no problems reported and
everyone in good spirit. In fact it was a rather disappointing morning to be
truthful. Of course there is a backlog of work
to catch up on, but I could detect no skullduggery having
gone on in my absence. One expects to be
missed a little and to discover the usual foray of activity has taken place.
What oh then. So, it seems to be a relaxing day to look forward to. My lady is
away and we are entertained by the radio and the dulcet tones of a fog horn. After deleting most of my emails, one in
particular comes to mind asking us to submit votes for our line manager for the
annual staff awards – the cheek of it, and setting the order for the day, I set
about my tasks. Before long lunch-time arrives.

I have vowed
never to work through lunch again, so remove myself from the office to a much
less savoury room to enjoy my lunch, which is a mix of whatever we had left in
the fridge at home since I never went grocery shopping at the weekend. Our staff, come meeting, room is grubby,
smells nasty and has no windows but it is quiet, deserted and provides a place
to put ones feet up for half an hour and ease oneself of a little (a lot)
flatus.

I inform my
supervisor that my afternoon will be spent envelope stuffing. Best not to overload myself too early in the
week with achieving targets. The fruits of my labour were enough to prove my
not having been idle all day. A diary
date comes through informing me of our monthly meeting coming up next week and
can we think of some new things to discuss as we keep going round in circles
with our agendas. I think that pretty much sums it up .

Tools were downed
ready for departure on time at 4pm. I decided to risk our nearest exit lift and
hold my breath, hoping not to plummet to the ground, as it decends the four
levels. Safely exited in the light of day, I gaily skip to the bus for the
journey home.

As a means of
passing the time on the first of the evening’s three buses, since I was
standing, I did some buttock clenching between stops, keeping the exercise
regime going. Bus number three delivers me safely home. It is dark now and
foggy, the same as when I first set out this morning, but all in all it has
been a good first day back. A fresh start.