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Published: February 12th 2014
Two Worlds That Couldn't Be Further Apart.
The day before flying out of Fiji, I thought I must have over done the air conditioning during the night as I started to get a tickle in my throat. Unfortunately, not the case, as my final morning it had blossomed into a lovely and endearing husky rasp. By midday I was barely able to move and wanted nothing more than to try and steal my room key back so that I could curl into the foetal position in a dark corner. Instead, I had a generous Veronika and Joeli ply me with honey and lemon tea for the 7 hours remaining until I needed to be at the airport.
11 hours onboard a plane with a sore throat, a barking cough, and a nose that was now creating it's own tropical downpour was nearly the death of me. Once again, almost no sleep due to either me having an aisle seat and being assaulted by every passer by (ever noticed that transportation seems tI be the only time you can put your ass in someone's face and not have to say sorry?) or my own germ factory slowly converting my body
into a slime monster in readiness for end of days.
Flying over LA is kind of like flying over a never ending ant colony. It sprawls in every direction as far as you can see but other than the odd area, it never peaks up into the sky. Now, I know I expected it to be a big city, what with a significant portion of Australia's population in one place, but even from the air it's still just too big to grasp. The other thing that threw me was that, for some reason, I always imagined it to be reasonable flat... but no... it goes up and down more than their freeway system.... which is a lot!!
On the bus heading to Union Station from LAX, I lost track of the amount of layers we were driving over and under... at one point we were within 6 lanes, another 2 we're coming down from above on the right, another 1 from above on the left, and 2 that suddenly appeared from below on the left. And all with the amount of cars usually reserved for peak hour in Australia. Somehow within 100m we were all just 6 lanes
So... a couple of points you'll notice first about LA...
• The smog really is bad here... Everything looks kind of bland and beige until you get close enough to it.
• The most defining feature of the city (other than it's sprawl) are those palm trees you see on TV all the time... single stalk with just a tuft at the very top, and
• There is no such thing as North.
Now, I pride myself a little on my sense of direction and have never been lost in a new city yet... but with all the hills blocking any view of the beach, the sun hidden behind clouds and smog, and a freeway that doesn't know whether it wants to be above ground, below ground or that it really wished that it had been born a roller coaster, I was lost. Still to this moment, even after being to the beach as well as knowing that the freeway I'm heading down is the 101N, as soon as the water and the street signs disappear, I could be heading to Mexico for all I know. I know for a fact that I couldn't have
done this city without a GPS.
Hmmm.... Where was I?... That's right, on the way to the hostel.
A bus, an underground train and a short walk later I collapsed on my bed while simultaneously trying to stop my neck from acting like an elastic band and my nose from flooding the dorm. Deciding quickly that the rest of that afternoon was going to be used up with the mundane needs of travelling, I tried to take it as easy as possible.
I only planned to spend the 3 nights in LA at this point as I was to come back in April anyway and spend a bit more time then doing all the interesting stuff. My main priority for the next 2 days was to get a SIM card and to find out if I could purchase a car for better than all the rental quotes I'd been given. To clarify... The price of a rental car isn't too bad here, it's all the other stuff that kills your budget. Because I was needing it for around 82 days it was going to come to $2300US but then the insurance was another $2200US and roadside assistance
was another $600US. then because I was taking it outside the US into Canada I needed to pay another fee... and pretty soon I might as well have been flying home.
Never let it be said that hostel receptions aren't full of useful information. No sooner than I'd asked, a business card was produced for Morris... a guy that specialises in finding cars for travellers. Picking me up from the hostel, he took me out to see 4 cars that he currently knew of, all from certified mechanics, paint shops and panel beaters that he'd dealt with for over 25 years. I was a little dubious at first thinking it might be a bit of a scam, but all paperwork on the vehicles and the businesses were there for the asking.
I can not speak highly enough of Morris!! I knew a little about what I needed to do to be able to drive over here but he was a saviour!!! Once settling on a car and negotiating a price ($2300), Morris organised with an insurance company to cover me for just the 3 months I'd need it ($237) while Paul from the panel beaters took the car
down to get "smog certified" (you need it to transfer ownership). Then the paperwork was filled out (with the sell price listed as $300 so that I only get taxed $30 instead of $230) and I mentioned to Paul that if the car is in a similar condition when I return would he be interested in taking a look at it to buy it back, which he was happy to do. Morris also mentioned that if I email him about 2 weeks before I need to sell it he will put it on some sites and start asking around and I might end up getting what I paid for it back... otherwise I've always got Paul to fall back on. All that was left to do was get it all transferred at the DMV and I was in business!!
SIM card done... Car bought.... All with a day to spare.
Thursday came over even cloudier than the previous 2 days and before long rain was on the horizon. After collapsing once again due to yesterday's escapades and my health (thanks Mum for making me pack the Miso Soup... it was a life saver), I managed a decent sleep
and had managed to get past most the aches, so I signed up for the free shuttle from the hostel to the beach. I know... Not really beach weather but all the other activities were either booked up or for views from the Hollywood Sign which would've been next to nothing.
Dropped off at Santa Monica Pier
I'm told you can see all the way to Malibu with its luxury pads hanging over the ocean. Unfortunately for me, the weather wasn't playing nice enough for that today, but it still was pretty impressive. Vast expanses of white sand with boardwalks snaking along them and exercise equipment dotted throughout. For anyone who knows my aversion to beaches, this was at least a happy medium to my ideal scenario.
A leisurely walk along the boardwalk South for about 30-45 mins brings you out at Venice Beach
and Muscle Beach,
and although it was obviously too cold for the work-out junkies, I did get offered 4 times to get my medical marijuana card. Personally I didn't think I looked that ill still and I thought I'd probably get better quicker without any help from them. One thing I did notice though
was that their beaches were all immaculately clean... to the point where they rake them. Real pride as well as a good sense of safety and environment.
Inland of Venice Beach are the Venice Canals, a suburb where small rowboats are moored in front of each house. Unfortunately it looks like the canals have no way of circulating the water and the effect is a lot more like a local duck pond than an enticing and romantic cruise. It kind of smelt a bit like a duck pond too come to think of it.
Now, I know I'm guilty of having a whinge at the public transport system in Perth and I'm sure most can say something bad about their own city's... but where Perth's is a joke with timing, LA's is hilarious that it has only a minimal train network and buses are utilised for the rest. With an enormous population (which is no excuse - look at London, Tokyo or New York) they decided their best approach was to put more vehicles on the already cluttered roads. I'm not sure if the earthquakes or volcanic activity in the area is a reason why but I'm pretty
sure Japan has them too. To get from Santa Monica back to Hollywood it too 2 buses... not too bad you may think. The first was a "Rapid Metro" (like an express) and took an hour to get to Faifax (I nearly could've walked it - heaven forbid if you missed the rapid and had to take the local). The second was a local (isn't irony cruel) that moved what felt like 4 feet before stopping again... but by then I was lost again and wouldn't have found my hostel if I walked. It took another hour from there. The saving grace... it's cheap at $1.50 per ride or $4 for the day.
Enough whinging.... it's not as bad as it appears and I'm sure once I'm better and back in April the synopsis won't sound so depressing.
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