Saturday, July 25, 2009

USA: Oregon

Here is a quick run down on my last six weeks living in Portland, Oregon, United States of America. Portland is a pretty neat city, considered by some to be one of the hippest places in America at the moment. Much cooler weather than the scorching spring I had in Davis, CA, and contains many more hills and trees.

Downtown Portland.

Some things that were awesome in Portland:
  • Boating through downtown on a tube behind the boat along the Willamette River.
  • Being able to get hot meat pies and grilled cheese (cheese toasties) from some of the many food carts around the city
  • Going to a Matisyahu concert in an old ballroom with springy floors.
  • Enjoying a pint.... in an primary school... which is now a pub. Small bars in detention and the honours room, movie theatre with couches in the school hall... beer everywhere.

A ranch/farm (?) on the road to Astoria. Ranches have animals, Farms have crops.

Aside from the good times in Portland, we were able to go on some small road trips around the place. One was to Astoria out on the mouth on Columbia river on the coast.

Mt Hood

Another trip was to Central Oregon. After spending so much of my time in Portland (and up and down the I-5) I was surprised to learn that most of Central and Eastern Oregon is all desert. We camped in Smith Rock State Park, which is situated in the High Desert. Some neat rock formations and classic North American scenery (or what I stereotyped North American scenery to be before I got here).

Smith Rock State Park

On the way back we drove along the Columbia river, around Mt Hood and back into town. A good adventure. Oh, and we got some really really good donuts at this place in Sandy:

I love Donuts.

So my American adventure (Part 1) is almost at a close. I would like to impart some important lessons I learnt while here in America, based mostly on my previous false assumptions:
  • American Beer is good. Damn good. Forget about all the Buds, Millers, etc, there is heaps of other good beer here. Pabst is the best cheap one.
  • Peanut Butter is indeed far more versatile than we give it credit. It can go on anything, is good by itself, and is a meal when applied to bread.
  • There is heaps and heaps of nature! Admittedly I have only seen the West Coast, but I imagined far more free-ways and suburbs... but California and Oregon are rather sparsely populated, and there are trees and lakes and parks everywhere.
  • Politics seem to very rather important to a lot of people, I found "fair enough" to be an indispensable part of my vocabulary.
  • 104F is very very hot, especially when you are painting a barn roof under the Californian sun.

Lots of Nature...

Next Tuesday Steph and I fly out to Toronto, Canada to start the next chapter. I already have a few job interviews lined up (quite different from the two months spend bumming around in London) and have a couch to surf. So if anyone is in Toronto in the next year or so, pop on in.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

USA: Big Trees, Deserts and Ocean

So Steph and I got hold of a car for a couple of weeks and over Spring Break went on a little road trip. The plan was to get to the Grand Canyon, but due the massiveness of this country it just wasn't feasible. We ended up doing some camping at two national parks: Sequoia National Park and Joshua Tree National Park.

Me on some rocks over looking the Sierra Nevada's in Sequoia National Park

We started out camping in Sequoia National Park which is in the South of the Sierra Nevada's (the mountains along the east of California, not to be confused with the very good beer of the same name). The first camp ground we got to was 3ft deep in snow, so we opted for the camp in the foothills and drove up to the hikes. The wild flowers were blooming which was fantastic, and there were signs everywhere warning about Bears!

A Giant Sequoia. The little trees are big too.

We did a bunch hiking around the park. Saw high peaks, knobby rocks, lots of snow, and wild flowers. The highlight was a meadow of Giant Sequoia tree's. These trees were massive. It was a little surreal really.

Highway in the Mojave

From the first park we drove a sneaky 6 hours to Joshua Tree National Park. The trip there was awesome, as we came over the mountains all the green just disappeared right on the pass and we hit the Mojave desert. It was awesome. Hot driving though!

Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park

We camped next to a collection of massive boulders in the Park and did a but of hiking around. It was rather cold, even during the day, which was a little surprising. The signature Joshua Trees were very cool, scattered through the valleys in all sorts of odd shapes and sizes. Some over 6 metres tall. I do love to visit deserts, they are so different from home!

Sunset over the Park

After the desert adventure we packed up the tent and drove for 9 hours halfway up California back to Davis. I had the opportunity to drive through LA which was pretty cool. Although the interstates go over the city, rather than through it, so I only had to change from one highway to another... nothing too stressful!

The weekend after Spring Break we went on a camping trip to Bodega, which is up on the North coast of California. We camped in a Redwood grove and heard Mountain Lions trying to eat our left overs.

Sonoma Coast

The coast reminded me a lot of the Kaikoura coast, with out the ranges right beside it. Sloping away were some pastures used for grazing (sheep!). It was so much like home. After Bodega we hit Sebastapol which is a small town with not much going on except a tasty micro-brewery, a tasty cookie company and a farmers market with free rice and chocolate at closing time!

Looking North from Bodega Head, over a Californian Poppy.

So those were my recent adventure. We plan on some more camping this weekend, and of course more adventures to come. I haven't yet ventured much past California (aside from 5 days in Portland, which is another cool city) but have got a good taste for this State and I love America.

Ending Thought: Before I arrived in America I believed the stereotype that all American beer was bad. Fortunately after some research I have discovered I was grossly mistaken.

USA: Davis, San Francisco

I am now in the United States of America, and have been for 2 months and 1 day. Life is pretty sweet, sweeter probably as I am eating way more quality American peanut butter (its so much better/sweeter than all others!). The adventure began way back in February when I arrived in San Francisco and has continued out here in Davis where we are living at the moment. Davis is a small college town in the middle of.... lots of farms. About 1.5hrs from San Francisco.

We live on C St, near 1st St.

Its a nice town with everything you need. A good number of pubs, parks with basketball courts and pick up games, an In-n-Out Burger, an excellent bike path network, easy to navigate, lots of young people, and a shisha shop. What more do you need? Oh, and excellent (albeit expensive) public transport connections to near by cities.

Our apartment.

From Davis we have been on some adventures. More on the big ones in the next post. But we did get one day in in San Francisco. From what I saw walking around and sampling tasty treats its a pretty cool city, and one which has a very good reputation for being awesome. There are some massive bridges and steep streets with houses that Danny Tanner would be proud to live in.

China Town, looking towards the Bay Bridge. 30c Pork Buns!

We did some exploring around the city, over to Oakland and also down south in Silicon Valley. I could very easily seeing myself living here, I am a big fan of big cities, and in my field this is the place to be (outside of Bangalore).

View of SF from above Oakland. Golden Gate Bridge on the right.

So that is me. I am in Davis and loving it. Next post: Road trips around California!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Zealand: Home

So I am now at home... and have been here about a month. Home is indeed as sweet as they say it is and I am loving being out here on the farm with my family. Mums cooking is still the best ever and Cookie Time's are still super tasty.

So from India we popped into Singapore and saw Rowan for a few days, sneaked up to Malaysia for a little peak and spent a small amount of time with Dave in Melbourne exploring the Great Ocean Road. Then to Auckland for a couple of fantastic nights with the extended family and talking with the US Consulate.

View of Whiterock (left) and Mt Thomas (right) from Mt Karetu (grass at the bottom)

Back in White Rock I have just been climbing the local hills (Mt Karetu, Mt Thomas), swimming in the best swimming hole ever at Foxes Creek. Just been chillin' out really, getting all my stuff in order, trying to avoid exerting myself too much.

Foxes Creek, best swimming hole in the world, 3m deep some places!

The last six days was spent down south doing a bit of tramping. Started off with an over night to Welcome Flats on the Copeland Track, near Fox Glacier. After that we spent a night in a pub in Haast... classic kiwi stuff.

Some rainforest on the Welcome Flats track.

Then we embarked on the Motatapu walk, which is on Shania Twains property. It was a really good walk. A little hard on my poor IT feet and we didn't have nearly enough food but the challenge was well worth it. I then hitch hiked back to the beginning from Arrowtown to near Wanaka very successfully.. hitchin in NZ isn't so bad. More pics here.

View from the Motatapu Track

My plan now is to hang out and absorb as much New Zealand as I can before I head off to the United States of America in early Feburary.

Sunrise from Mt Karetu summit

Now I am just going to sip on this Monteiths and try and avoid the hot sun... you needn't worry about me though, I have already had one swim today. Life is sweet.