Since being in Oakland we have been living somewhat like a local. We have found the homeless even more saddening out here in the suburbs. Most days we are out and about in an Uber (which is cheaper than the BART transport). At a lot of the motorway under-bridges, and even in the parks, there are hundreds of homeless people living in tent cities. Not all of these people are displaced bums or drug users. Some of them actually have jobs, but just can’t afford to rent a place.
As a tourist, the areas you visit are quite sanitised, and they are a lot cleaner. The Freeways and roadsides outside of this, are littered with rubbish and I am struggling to understand how a huge metropolitan city like San Fran is somewhat ‘third-world’ outside of its golden spots.
We have spoken to a lot of our Uber drivers and locals and they are all saddened their city has over the last 2-3 years become the ‘home’ of homelessness. Everyone, says that the rent / living here is beyond the reach of so many people and when I think to NZ, and people recently living in cars because they can’t afford housing – I feel like we are on the first rung of the ladder to have a city in the future that is similar to this.
On a more positive note, we are exploring and taking in a few more sights than most might while here in San Fran. We have been on a short walk in Sequioa Park with our AirBnB host and walked amongst the giant redwoods, had lunch in groovy local cafes, and hiked up the mountain behind our accommodation.
On Wednesday, we caught the Ferry to Sausalito and spent the afternoon wondering around this seaside tourist town. It was a bit like Devonport, but also a bit like Akaroa. We walked all the way along the waterfront, had a toasted two-cheese sandwich and explored a bit beyond the usual tourist route. The housing is gorgeous, and clings precariously to the hill (a bit like Wellington!) and the whole place has a village like atmosphere. It had delightful houseboats and abounds with history. There was a lot of wonderful galleries, but alas I am already over my baggage limit! This is the first place we have been that there are no homeless or beggars!
Yesterday we climbed the mountain behind our house and explored the housing at the top. The houses were huge, and all gated. It took us a long time to climb up there.. You could see San Fran City, Golden Gate Bridge in the distance [but only just because of the smog / fog] and the Bay City Bridge. The development we are staying in, is in the Old Leona Rock Quarry and is executive type condominiums, but the houses at the top were Mansions. The land in between this development and the houses at the top is protected habitat. I can tell you I felt like a mountain goat going up and down. The grass is all so dry, so although there is a track of sorts, it is so slippery. With my recent accident prone history, I was so careful. I was very pleased at the top that there was a seat just for me 🙂
Today we took an Uber and went to Lake Merrit. It is actually a tidal lagoon, sort of a heart shape with the oldest wildlife refuge in USA. We walked the whole way around, stopping at the rose garden, community gardens and the bonsai garden. I loved the bonsai garden. We spoke to several of the volunteers who were all to happy to share their passion. Jason, you would have loved this. Some of the trees in the collection were more than a hundred years old. I learnt a new word today – docent! A person who acts as a guide, typically on a voluntary basis. So, our new experiences also lead us to new words! Typically most people we meet, think Colin is from England. His accent is obviously blended, but they have more trouble understanding me. There is a tent city springing up in the park, and it is a bit intimidating in parts. Even the band rotunda has been taken over.
Well that’s it for now, we are flying to Las Vegas on Sunday afternoon, so just have one more day here in San Fran. Will see what the weather is like tomorrow and plan our day from there.