And onwards we went, next stop Yosemite National Park.. Leaving Vegas Mid-day we drove up through Nevada, touching on death valley and some serious heat, we rounded back west into California as it got mountainous and as the dusk settled in we started to spot signs for Yosemite so we knew we were on the right track! As what soon became a bit of a trend I was handed driving duties while everyone else went for a nap and I was forced to navigate through a heavily wooded mountain driving up hill by myself (thats a lie, blake stayed up to help but yeah...my blog)
After plowing through a couple of small little mountain villages that looked very abandoned and very similar to something resembling a horror movie we eventually started to see some campsites and warning signs for bears! So we tried to find somewhere to set up shop and park our asses for the night. (This is the part where I will advise everybody that is ever going to go camping in the future that you should really buy a bright tent) We turned into a campsite and drove around looking for a free spot to park the van. We saw a nice free spot lucky to still be available at 2 in the morning. Threw the van into reverse and landed it halfway over somebodys tent! Nobody heard anything bad and we didn't seem to roll over anything resembling a human being so suffice to say we made haste in getting out of there after that. However if your reading this and I have been misinformed I'm very sorry for killing your friend/family member.
So after that little mishap we found a patch on the side of the road where we rested up for the night! Myself and two others chose to sleep in the van while the rest of the lads chose to sleep under a massive blanket on the ground.. not the greatest idea with all the bear warning signs but hey, no one was harmed. Very early the next morning I was awoken by a sharp knock on the drivers window to the sight of two not so happy looking bears..
..only messing, they were forest rangers. (I know what you were thinking, bears cant knock, they dont have fists)Anyway, two lads that looked like poorly constructed villains out of a rambo movie stood facing me! This was the first time we would be woken up by some form of authority on our trip! And definitely not the last! After a bit of a scolding they turned out to be fairly sound and told us what we needed to do to get set up and where certain campsites were. We thanked them, jumped into the van and made our way ever more uphill! And our first site of what was in store came to meet us as we saw a break in the trees.
Truly amazing. A bit of a shame that we missed all of it on the way in due to night time driving but it was definitely present now.. NATURE! We were ready for some proper bear grylls shit..
The complete vastness and differing landscapes of granite rock meeting forests of green trees meeting waterfalls and rivers really caught me by surprise. Never being somebody to truly appreciate views and nature and all that craic I was honestly overwhelmed at the sight of this beautiful place. A bit more driving around and we saw some more unbelievable views and sights..
We drove around for a bit more taking in the scenery, getting supplies in the only shop for miles and setting up camp! After we set up our tent and had a good laugh at the bear box (a sizeable enough box designed for storing your food as it was bearproof and the bears know not to go near it).. seriously though, a bear box.
We met a group of girls who were packing up to leave and it turned out that they were j1ers as well doing a pretty similar road trip to us just in the opposite direction! So we exchanged tips on previous destinations and cursed as they drove away. Its cold up in the mountains, always nice for a bit of extra warmth. We decided to go explore a bit more so we said we would jump in the van and find some place to have a bbq!
We drove down the mountain a bit and turned in off the road not knowing exactly what we were going to find. Turns out, like everything else in Yosemite, it was just another unbelievable set of scenery. We found a bbq pit next to a beautiful lake shadowed by a 100 foot tall granite cliff face, completely vertical in its ascension. And the best part, it had a waterfall coming out of it! Yosemite truly is amazing. There is new and different sets of scenery waiting for you around every corner!
We chilled here for a bit and the hairy baby (aka Dave) used his wilderness skills to cook us an aul cheeky lunch! This was also the last known sighting of my green peace jocks (pictured above) which managed to go missing apres swim. If your reading this lads I would appreciate if you came home! You were my favourite pair of underwear even though I only had you for a month or so :(
After drying up and feeding ourselves we threw on some fresh gear, jumped in the van and followed the road as high as it would possibly take us, up to Glacier Point. We must have reached where we wanted to go because when we got there, parked up were some tour buses and lots of other cars! We parked up ourselves and walked up to where everyone was and yet again, WOW. We were at the highest peak in Yosemite where you could access easily and the view around was absolutely incredible yet again.
Scotty Mac caught us unawares with this photo but I really love it!
I was getting to like this place more and more and really starting to feel like I missed out on this nature craic! We found out some history about Yosemite from a park ranger but mostly just enjoyed the view..
After watching a pretty epic sunset from up there we headed back to the tent to chill out, have some grub and general good times. Not all of us proved to be as useful around a campfire as Dave but we gave it a bash anyway!
Fed and watered with a few arguments about hot dog distribution we built up a fire and with the help of some medicine and a few funny anecdotes from the hairy baby we decided to call it a night! Crawling into the tent we realised it was never going to work, between lack of space and Jamie's seismic snoring some of us would be resigned to the car for another night! I gladly took the opportunity and made a dash for the car. What none of us had noticed though was that the previous nights sleep had been about 2000 feet lower than where we were now and it got cold. Very, very, very cold. So cold in fact that I decided to crawl into a 3 foot bag we had gotten when we snuck into comic con! to get an idea of the bag it was basically made of plastic and would fit a small child..
Here's what it looks like!..
After an absolutely freezing night we woke up to some nettle tea made, of course, by the man of the hour Dave! I don't think we would have survived the wilderness without him! Myself and one of the lads took a drive really early in the morning to the outskirts to stock up as we were under-supplied and desperately needed some petrol! When we got back we packed up the car again and decided to go do a hike and then make tracks north to Tahoe. We chose to do a relatively difficult hike and one we thought would be nothing too strenuous. How wrong we were. 7 Irish chancers with absolutely no water, wearing vans shoes and not a piece of hiking equipment between us. Not to mention the summer of torment we had put our bodies through!
About a quarter of the way up we stopped to take this picture.. As you can see we were fairly spent!
It was about here that we lost one of the lads who claimed he couldn't go on. We won't name and shame him, just say he is affectionately known as the cat!
The hike took the best part of 3 hours and it was tough, steep and constantly up hill. Just to make things that bit more fun there was also sand for a stretch! Driving each other on we reached the top, encountering some people speaking as gáeilge on the way up which was pretty cool, if your into that sort of thing.
If you think we look tired above try this one..
However we had managed to conquer it! We decided to do a little exploring at the top as there was some pretty cool stuff around! (I'm not gonna harp on about scenery again, I think you have gathered I enjoyed Yosemite at this stage!)
As we were having a look around on top who appears but the cat! Convinced he would get too much of a slagging if he didn't do it he turned himself around and did the hike about half an hour behind us! Some going! We had a good look around the top and took a few pictures. One of the lads made a good point that it was good to see we had it in us to hike it after the summer we had put ourselves through and he had a fair point. Once we were finished here we hiked back down and debated going for a nap in the car before we struck off. We decided against it and muggins here was landed with driving duties! Yosemite was amazing and in my own opinion was the best experience of the trip as a whole. I would have loved a week here to do and see a lot more and do some real exploring however there was more to do and see! Nobody seemed too bothered about the fact that we never got to see a bear as people's eyes shut and we departed further north...
So yeah. Didn't get back to this as soon as I had planned but things came up :P
So, Last time I threw something up we were heading towards Vegas.............suppose ill pick up where i left off!
Where was I!? Yeah, right, so we were tearing it through the desert on a completely straight and narrow road and a few eyes were starting to open! On the way we came across this really surreal backwater little village which was just off the highway and the people there were the real deal, "hillbillys" that were completely taken aback by an accent any way different to their own! Imagine how they thought the Irish accent sounded! Turns out the village was planted right on route 66 and there were only a few people left standing there to run the novelty restaurant, the feeling of isolation and abandonment really driven home when we took a look around the back of all the dilapidated buildings and came across a vacant and rusting funderland type theme park. It was a strange sight to see, especially with an idea of what we were expecting to see in vegas. However the camera was lost at this stage (a story we will return to later) so no pictures unfortunately but I think somebody got a video on their phone so will have a "route" around for that (pardon the pun!).
Anyway, foot to the floor on the way into vegas, desert all around us and the thermometer reading 110 degrees fahrenheit it felt a bit like this.....
.....well not entirely but it reminded me of it! So anyway we rocked over the Hoover Dam (where yet again the camera was still missing and moods were starting to get sour, so no pictures!) stopped off in Wal-Mart to load up on booze and supplies for the 2 nights we would be there and turned the van onto the strip and were nearly blinded by the neon and flashing lights and absolutely overtaken by the hypnotic vice the place gets you into, not to mention the heat! We pulled into the Tropicana hotel on the strip (cheapest, obviously) walked the considerable distance it took to get to our hotel room (the hotels are about the size of Ballincollig) and got ready to get togged out and go for grub in the excalibur buffet across the road! 30 quid all you can eat and it had been highly recommended to us by a Corkman who certainly knew and enjoyed his food! While we were getting changed/havin a few cans the mysterious case of the lost camera turned up in the hairy babies bag, which he previously denied, but anyway this was the moment he discovered it..
Clearly delighted we get a chance to show our guns off to the Facebook population. So off we went to excalibur for what can truly only be described as an ocean of food, and free milk! Something we had been lacking a serious amount of over the summer! So after trying nearly everything that was on offer there we waddled back over to the tropicana ready to tackle the nights festivities, or not. A can or two in everybody crashed!! Disaster! After trying everything to get a bit of life out of them I had no joy so... I got the idea, being the tight miserable so and so that I am, that I wasn't going to miss a minute of our two nights in Vegas so I jumped into the van and took a spin for myself down the main strip! It took half an hour to get from the end we were at to halfway down so I decided to turn it and go back, but on my way I decided to swing into the Bellagio for a sconce at the fountain and all that jazz. In typical me fashion though, when I pulled in I ended up in some taxi lane that was cordoned off by cones and I couldn't reverse as there was another taxi up my ass!
This is the entrance I'm talking about now but imagine it 100 times busier at 9 o'clock at night with every car horn in the world going off! So I said I would wait in the taxi lane and hopefully drive off peacefully, what I forgot however was that our van was a big white driving the kids to soccer practice type machine so it looked very much like a taxi! And seeing as I was in the taxi lane people started approaching it and opening the doors asking me to take them to the airport and to hooters and to god knows where. All I could do was keep refusing them and smiling! When I finally got out of that mess I took myself, very swiftly, back to the Tropicana and see could I get any joy out of the lads. After trekking through the Douglas sized hotel for about another hour I got back to the room and started jumping on the lads/beds. Eventually, and surprisingly, Jamie woke up!! However nobody else stirred so we got a couple of cans into us and went for walkabouts! Trying to get over the fact that you could walk around with your own booze and smoke away inside the hotels was enough for me and I was seriously running on empty so we left the Luxor(pyramid shaped hotel) and headed back to the room where I CRASHED.. And I mean that in no uncertain terms.
Vague recollections of the morning where I was attempted to be awoken for the breakfast by the lads kind of come back to me now but mostly I just remember swinging out, shouting certain curse words, and heading back to dream land! Apparently I missed a great morning in the pool where the lads had the banter with a couple of absolute babes and some other stuff happened but yeah, its my blog, f them.
Got up about 12 or so when the lads came back and today was when the real party started. It was Farraghers birthday so we went across to the New York New York to go on this rollercoaster he was obsessed with! In true gentlemanly fashion he wouldn't accept us paying our admission on to the ride as he had simply been delighted we came over with him! A present from the birthday boy, how bad! We hooked up with a couple of friends who were in San Fran for the summer afterwards and around 2 we were meeting some Irish dude from Dublin who was giving us free entry to clubs and limousine rides around Vegas for a fairly decent price so we hooked up with him and headed for Wet Republic! Talking to him he came across as a pure chancer but for all his talk he did seem to know a lot of people and was able to back up (some) of the stuff he was saying! We headed into Wet Republic with some problem with ID's but were seriously chuffed with the effort we had put in to get in there! Its an absolutely mental spot, as my description skills are lackin and I tend to ramble on I'll just lash on a video to give you an idea of how unreal this place was!..
Any place with that many hot women, good tunes and the pool as the dance floor is pretty alright with me! Highlight of the day had to have been when one of the lads who will remain un-named tried his arm with an absolute babe inside the pool and got nothing but half of what looked like the male jersey shore cast in his face! What happened next is way too funny for words however, the Irish guide guy who was about 5'8 and carrying a few came out of nowhere to get rid of all the guido looking fellas and send them back to the other edge of the pool! Other than that things ran pretty smoothly and Wet Republic is definitely a must if your in LV.
After the days boozing we went back to the hotel to get perked up and throw on the gladrags and into the stretch hummer we popped. However after a summer of torment to our bodies we were never going to look truly classy, vegas style....like
Free booze in the limo plus the general occasion got to us and we barely noticed the limo taking us away from the strip and away from any high rise buildings! When somebody finally noticed we were being told to get out of the hummer and were being sheperded into a strip club where we were forced to pay $20 in. Feeling a slight bit dis-honoured we shelled out the 20 quid anyway because even with that we were still getting a fairly decent deal compared to other people we had heard about! Time took a backseat but as soon as we we knew it we were back into the stretch and making our way to studio 54 nightclub in the MGM Grand. The night turned into a bit of a blur but you can be assured Farragher had a memorable 21st birthday night anyway!
We got up in the morning and tried to do the tourist thing around Vegas but did it pretty miserably. One highlight was getting into an elevator to the top floor of the bellagio and flynners heading into the honeymoon suite for a look at the Vegas skyline, with the honeymooners inside with him! Our heads were a bit too sore and the heat was a bit too much for us to be bothered so onwards and offwards we went for Yosemite!...
Where to start!?
I spent the summer of 2010 on a J1 in San Diego and I can safely say it was the three best months of my life! But as this blog is about travelling I wont go into what happened in San Diego but more about what happens when you put 7 muppets from Cork City in a van and let them have free roam of the Entire west coast of America!
Our plan from the outset was to visit
1. The Grand Canyon
2. Vegas baby!
3. Yosemite national park
4. Lake Tahoe
5. San Francisco
6. Pebble Beach
7. Santa Barbara
8. Los Angeles
And to be fair to us we managed to visit every stop however nobody could prepare us for what the next 2-3 weeks had in store for us.
Leaving Rogers International Hostel at approximately 00:30am we were going to drive overnight to the grand canyon, take a couple of pics there and then arrive in Vegas approx. 14-15 hours later!
After a couple of heated debates with the hairy baby (aka Dave Little) about where to fit surfboards and if there was any actual point to bringing them we reached an agreement. Ciara the Chrysler (our beloved van) was packed up and ready to go!!... Along with a new member who recently decided to join us on our trip, for moral support and because we thought he was sound. Wally the watermelon!
Night driving duty was handed over to Blakey and we were off! The natty ice was in full flow in the back of the van and the tunes were pumping as we made our way inland and towards the Arizona desert. By the time morning hit we were making our way through Grand Canyon National Park on our way to find this massive hole in the ground that people seemed to tag as amazing, and to be fair, when we got first sight of it all of us were lost for words. It truly is astounding. The sheer size and area of the canyon is completely overpowering. It is 446km long and up to 29km wide! If you can't get an image in your head of that here is a picture of me at the canyon (excuse the hat)
We went on a short hike down into the canyon to get some better views and get a real idea of how expansive this place actually is! It was here however that our short-term friend wally had a disagreement with one of the lads and met his untimely end off the side of the grand canyon.
After making our way deep into the canyon we decided to hike back up to the top and continue our trip to Vegas! However nobody really anticipated that the midday sun was now coming out and we were going to be going UP hill... we barely scraped our way back up to the top but dragged our sweaty, sorry selves into Ciara (our van, last reminder) and made our way to a Mc Donalds to fuel up and hit the road towards Sin City!
The Grand Canyon is truly an amazing place and it is not hard to see why it is regarded as one of the seven wonders of the natural world. Even though we only had a short time here I was pretty happy just to see it. We had a laugh and got all the pictures, saw exactly what we came to see and managed to insult a couple of middle class american tourists while we were at it! You would need a lifetime to truly explore the whole canyon itself and with Vegas on our horizons mindsets switched from loving nature and marvelling at canyons to wanting to hit the road!
I was handed driving duties and while we were on our way 6 of the 7 eyes in the van closed for some shut eye. So I threw up the music, put the foot down and took in the landscape and different terrains we were driving across, from driving up and down windy mountains which lead on to 40-50 mile long desert plains with straight roads where speed limits didn't seem to really exist!
Going on a bit more than originally planned here so I'll update the rest tomorrow evening! Late on a Sunday here and the mind just isn't up for it!
So basically for my class blog I've decided to shpiel on about travelling! A pretty vague topic fair enough but hopefully its something everyone knows a little bit about and that will stimulate contribution!
Over the next few months I am going to talk about funny stories and cool places I have seen on my adventures and I'll try and post up a couple of videos and pictures aswell. I'm also going to talk about the many many places and cultures that interest me and places I'd love to see! If anyone has any places they would like me to write about let me know on this or otherwise and I will do a bit of research and help fill you in!