All aboard the magic bus . . . .

18 Aug

Well, lots has happened since the last time I updated this blog. It’s not that I don’t want to – it’s just that I have been on a bus since Friday night….

The Green Tortoise run tours of America, Mexico and elsewhere based on a bus which converts into sleeping accommodation. The luggage racks are widened to create bunks, the seats convert into a flat area.. And there are even two little separate spaces for couples.

So I’ve been rocketing around California and Oregon for a few days… let’s catch you up to what’s been happening

Day 0 – at 8pm I turned up as requested at a corner of a bus terminal and got on the crazy bus… quick orientation and then ‘The Miracle’ – converting the bus to a mobile hotel. Trust me, we got to be friends REAL quick. It’s cosy.

Day 1 – we woke up in the middle of the Redwoods National Park. Breakfast bagels and coffee on the bus, and then a hike through the incredible Redwoods park with some of the hugest trees I have seen. The play of light through the trees,, the incredible tree trunks, occasionally finding trees that had simply exploded when struck by lightning… and apart from us walking through, what seemed like a complete absence of wildlife and birdsong… very spooky and surreal. We hiked around 10 miles to the sea and back – I decided I wanted to take the extra one mile extension – which led to me running to meet the bus. And someone, somewhere, had mentioned bears in the woods….

We’ve got some wonderful companions – a dutchman and Tommy, his teddy bear (romantic present from his girfriend) – a shamanistic tattoo artist who does yoga every morning – an escaped Australian also on a world tour (and with some wild tales to tell) – a very quiet heavy metal fan – lots of folk from the bay area in California – an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman, which is a joke just waiting to happen.. And, incredibly, a girl from Coventry.

We camped out overnight at Trinity River (Skunk Point) – lying up looking into an incredibly clear sky at the stars was a beautiful and wonderful sight – listening to the ripple of the water running downstream… and just the vague worry that the bins had bearproof handles on them….

Day 2 – a bunch of folk went white water rafting at Trinity River… and I confronted my thrill issues by jumping into the river and swinging from a rope (before plunging into the river, of course).

Now, the drivers on the bus use a ‘buddy system’ to check who is on the bus and make sure no-one gets left behind. Today, this failed… Jim got left behind – and we didn’t find out for nearly an hour, by which time we’d travelled quite a way. Jim seemed happy- the rafting company had broken out the beers and he was suitably mellow by the time we got back.

We all contribute to creating food on the bus – but it’s amazing what can be done with simple camping equipment and a bit of imagination!

We travelled overnight on the bus – I managed to find a new spot that was a bit more comfortable… and woke up the next morning at Crater Lake. Perhaps it was a bit rude to make breakfast in front of the local restaurant – but we did ASK if it was OK.

Crater Lake is a volcanic caldera – the volcano exploded 7000 years ago, and the caldera then collapsed into the space left by the magma chamber. Over the years, the snowfall and rain has filled the caldera with water, producing an incredibly beautiful lake that burns a brilliant blue. The island in the middle is Wizard Island, another, smaller volcano. There’s no other water that feeds the lake – and, incredibly for August in 80 degree heat – there is still snow around the lake. And the water is INCREDIBLY cold. Although no challenge is too great on this trip, so I did have to swim in it!

There’s only one safe way down the crater walls – a climb equivalent to a 75 storey sky scraper. And, every now and then – chipmunks.

Then a bus to Umpqua Hot Springs. Volcanic activity floods this with incredibly warm water (the initial pool is too hot for comfort). The locals have created a little chain of pools that are now covered in a silica coating from the water. Late night bathing in the pools is swimwear optional… enough said about that, I think.

Overnight by the side of the river, after a campfire and cooking Smores (for those of you who don’t know – toasted marshmallow & chocolate between two graham crackers) (not sure, but the beer was good) and a lazy wake up… time for some thoughts by the river, a bit of peace and quiet reflection.

Day 4 – on the bus. With a quick stop for a dip in Rogue River and a game of football. Now, football is an interesting concept. Our resident Englishman (yours truly), Dutchman and Swiss are fine. The Ozzie eschewed his No Rules approach to football, and even the SF resident knew soccer. The guy from Milwaukee, however, tended to treat it as American Football with a round ball – so having been body slammed a dozen times… the pine cones and barefoot play made it interesting, too…

And so to Ashland. A lovely town, with a huge Shakespeare festival. The crew are off watching Henry IV but since I haven’t seen the other episodes, I’m in Starbuck, charging batteries on my camera and my phone, and updating this blog.

And then overnight on the bus to Lava Beds…

Catch you in a few days.

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