(This is the third of four written on the iPad while in various stages of being in transit, and only now being published with images. This one was written at San Francisco Airport on 9th August. Note the date discrepancy. Due to the international date line, we never had a 10th of August this year)
Though I am delighted to be home, I am always a little wistful when I leave the beautiful “City by the Bay”.
We awoke there yesterday morning (Thursday 9th, by our time), to the sound of jet engines, but outside our window, the vast silky harbour was quiet, with the very barest of ripples lapping at the sea wall by our room.
The San Bruno Mountain State Park, the towers of San Francisco, and the Oakland Hills across the bay were all shrouded in localized sea mist.
Along the shoreline in Burlingame, sandpipers and plovers poked and prodded in the mud, seeking breakfast.
What a great idea! Despite its modest facilities, our hotel offered a complimentary hot breakfast. As with some other foodstuffs explored on this trip, the notion of a turkey sausage eludes me. However, we found sufficient “safe” food to sustain the beginning of our last day.
Breakfasted and refreshed, we set out to fill in time before our departure, by going for a long walk (OK, a stroll with picture-taking opportunities) along the shoreline to the South. Birdlife was plentiful, though not hugely varied.
We went past the neatly trimmed lawns and decorative gardens of the big name hotels such as Hilton, Doubletree, Marriott, Crowne Plaza, Embassy Suites, until the path reached some sort of untidy conclusion at a man-made tidal basin. There, an old and rather sad vessel called the Sherman was condemned to serve out its remaining days as a permanently moored restaurant.
Just as I was about to make disparaging comment about the condition of this former ferry, with its empty davits and trailing sun-bleached ropes, Mary grabbed my arm and pointed into the basin near the ship’s bow.
A great blue heron (Ardea herodias) was perched on a pontoon, and nearby on the handlebars of a moored Seadoo, was a snowy egret (Egretta thula) – just like our own “odd couple” at Petone, the kotuku and the white-faced heron. Unlike our herons, the egret hunches its neck and you wouldn’t know until it walks or flies, that it has a long neck like others in the heron family.We sat very still, and I kept taking pictures until a family drove up, with youngsters. Their noise and energy caused the two waders to flap languidly away in search of a more peaceful place.
We walked back to the hotel after a round trip of about two hours. Just as we reached the hotel, the heavy rumble of a 747 on finals made me look up. The big white koru on the blue tail stirred emotions, and we knew that this was the very aircraft on which we would travel later in the evening.
With no car, and a 1pm limit to our arranged late checkout, we went for a leisurely lunch in the restaurant next door. Then it was the shuttle bus to the airport, where we spent most of the afternoon on the wrong side of security. I wish Air New Zealand would open their check in counters much earlier than 6:15pm as a courtesy to their customers.
There is no affordable place to leave bags prior to passing through security. Lockers are a thing of the past (what will thriller writers do now?) All left luggage goes through a security x-ray process and each suitcase costs USD$20. It’s no fun being held hostage by your own baggage.
While we waited, we were intrigued to see “mounted” officers of the SFPD patrolling the enormous extent of all the three terminals. I spoke to one of the officers and he was very willing to praise the merits of his mount. “You may run at 15 mph,” he said, “but you can’t keep it up for 10 hours like this can.”
Through security one last time with shoes and belts off, and all my worldly possessions in a plastic tray, and then another long wait in the glossy but not particularly comfortable International terminal. One last 12 hour flight to Auckland, one last hop to Wellington, and so this episode is posted from home.
Normal service should resume tomorrow.