San Francisco in October

I got to go to San Francisco recently for work. It must have been about 10 years since I’ve been there, but happily, I now have a bunch of friends who have moved to the area over the years. So I had the good fortune to catch up with them over the two weeks I was in town.

October seems also the best time to visit. We were blessed with beautiful weather throughout – cool but sunny days with fog that usually dissapates over the Golden Gate Bridge by mid-day.

The weekdays were filled up with work during the day, and catch up with friends in the evening, followed by losing battles with jet lag at night. But on the weekend, I managed to slowly take in the city and enjoy the Indian summer (although, just north of the city, the dry conditions were such that PG&E unilaterally cut off power to thousands of families).

On the weekend, my friend Eric decided to rent a car to drive down to Half Moon Bay, just so we could sample the delicious burgers from Dad’s Luncheonette. While there, we tried to check out the beach, parking in front of this cute little house
Well, here’s the beach at Half Moon Bay. The fog rolled in just as we approached, so we could barely make out the waves
Driving back to San Francisco, the fog lifted to unveil the gorgeous blue waters

My visit also coincided with Fleet Week, so on Saturday afternoon, Eric and I strolled along the waterfront, joining the thousands lining the piers, beaches and grassy knolls to watch the military planes do aerial loops overhead.

The Blue Angels over Alcatraz. Seeing these jets reminded me of the air and water show in Chicago, where we’d take an afternoon off work to enjoy the show off the back of my boss’s boat. Good times.

After, we continued our walk along the coast, through Presidio into Land’s End, where we tramped down the steep cliff to Marshall Beach. It’s a beautiful stretch of beach, overlooking the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands across the water. I didn’t expect that it was also a nude beach though, popular with guys looking for action by the rocks!

Watching the sunset

On Sunday evening, I also managed to get out onto the water for a bit of paddling, joining City Kayak for their monthly full moon paddle out by Pier 40.

It was a leisurely affair, more floating than actual paddling, not unlike the sunrise paddle tours I used to guide in Sydney. But it was very peaceful to watch the sun set on the water, and then to watch the huge orange moon rise from the horizon.

After, we did get a bit of kayaking in, using the moonlight to paddle up the waterway by the Oracle Arena to the last of the boathouses in San Francisco.

Watching the colors of the sky rapidly change as the sun set in the background. A lone sea lion popped its head out of the water every so often in front of our kayaks, to see what we were up to
The full moon rises over the Bay Bridge. I didn’t have my telephoto lens on me, so this little pinprick in the background hardly does the gigantic orange orb in the sky any justice.

Camping in the Outback

One of the top items on our bucket lists that I’m glad we finally checked (not off, because we still want to go camping again!), is camping in the Australian outback.

Although initially I was quite upset that I’d accidentally booked us on a camping trip the week of the full moon, it wasn’t an issue in the end. We had the treat of watching the moon rise over Uluru the first evening, and on subsequent evenings, the clouds overhead obscured most of the stars anyway.

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Our first campsite at Ayers Rock Resort. The moon was so bright, I had to burrow under my sleeping bag to escape from its glare

We slept at three different sites on the trip: at Ayers Rock Resort in Uluru, at Kings Canyon Site, and finally at a private bush camp, Curtain Springs Site. Curtain Springs was the most basic of the three campsite, without electricity or running water. Heck, even the “toilet” was a pit dug out with three zinc walls. It was however, the group’s favorite campsite since we had the entire area to ourselves, minus the occasional pack of dingos we could hear howling through the night. By then, we had also grown accustomed to spending time with one another, and happily huddled together by the roaring fire we fed from dead trees we uprooted.

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The dirt track leading to Curtain Springs Site

As with every meal we had outback, everyone pitched in to make dinner. Our guide Chris made soda bread which he baked in a pot heated with glowing coals from the fire, while Luiz, an actual chef in his past life, led the cooking of the bolognese pasta.

Although the evening was the chilliest yet, the heat from the fire was comforting. Bellies full and eyelids heavy after the excitement of the day, we rolled out our swags in a circle around the fire and settled in for the night.

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Initially, we were somewhat worried that it might rain through the night, but it held. At different points through the night I’d open my eyes and see either big patches of clear sky or fast moving clouds rolling across the moonlit sky.

All too soon, the sun rose the next morning, marking an end to our camping in the outback.