Friday, April 19, 2002

San Francisco to Sydney - Day 1

Day 1 : San Francisco to Yosemite National Park

We arose this morning only to find the Sun still in bed. If I were asked to name my top 40 half-hours of the day, 4:30am to 5:00am would fail to rate a mention as would its close relatives 5:00am to 5:30am and 5:30am to 6:00am.

It was a still, cool morning, made to feel cooler by our tiredness and the fact that our towncar lift to the San Francisco Ferry Building was late. Towncars operate much like taxis, though the fares are fixed, the cars are classier and the drivers fancy themselves a bit more refined. Our driver asked whether we thought it better to take a car or some other form of transport to Yosemite; we proferred our considered opinions based on our lone previous visit.

Bay Bridge at Sunrise We arrived at the Ferry Building just before 6am, only to find the Amtrak (the US's national rail passenger service) station not yet open. The pre-dawn and sunrise views across the Bay were spectacular, particularly the views of the Bay Bridge, an example of which appears at left.

Once the station opened, we collected our tickets for the day's journey. We assumed, since we were to depart from Amtrak's Ferry Building depot, that the first leg of our journey would be by ferry. But, as if this were not already sufficiently oxymoronic, we were in fact required to catch a bus from the train company's depot at the Ferry Building.

Travelling gives you regular, sometimes unexpected opportunities to screw-up monumentally and to be blissfully unaware of this until it's much too late to do anything meaningful to painlessly correct the situation. As a consequence of this, Debbie and I are always keenly observant of any announcements, and alive to any other subtle clues in the surrounding signage or in our ticketing that might help us to arrive in roughly the right location on appoximately the right day. Amtrak, it seems, are wise to our strategy and are actively deploying countermeasures : the announcement for what turned out to be our bus implied that it was going all the way to Merced when instead this was true only of the train with which it connected.

So, we first caught a bus to Emeryville and then a train to Merced, arriving 30 minutes late for our connecting bus (yes, another bus) to Yosemite. About thirty minutes into the trip to Yosemite, the bus opted not to complete a steep hill, forcing our driver to pull off to the side of the highway, call for help and see what he could do to fix the mechanical defect.

Around twenty minutes later, an engine-overheat bypass switch was found and duly thrown. At this the bus rumbled back into service, only to stop again as we came down the hill into Mariposa.

So it was that we spent an unscheduled hour in the sleepy town centre of Mariposa. I imagine that Mariposa rarely justifies the epithet "bustling", but today, a Sunday, it barely justified the descriptor "inhabited". The local shopkeepers will surely be collectively kicking themselves when they find out that a busload of cashed-up tourists was stranded in their city and walked repeatedly by their closed shop doors. It could have been a Sunday to go down in Mariposa shopkeeper folklore.

Bridal Veil Falls from Tunnel View What should then have been merely a tiring 7½ hour journey was instead almost a 10 hour epic. It was worth it though : just look at the photo on the right. Snow remains on some of the upper reaches of the surrounding rocks and mountains, and snow melt has amply fed the many waterfalls. Tomorrow should be a spectacular day - assuming we survive tonight's forecasted below-freezing temperatures.

Originally posted by TC

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