I had a pretty hectic couple of days when I first got to the Bay Area.

I flew from San Diego to San Francisco, accompanied by Duong. We took the BART, SF’s subway system, from the airport to Oakland, waited an hour at the subway station, took a cab in the end that cost $70 to go to Trang’s uncle’s place, 2.7 miles (4.5 kms) away. We thought we’d stay there but then decided to spend that night in SF instead, paid for two dorm beds in a hostel last-minute and ended up sleeping together in only one.

The next day, with Trang, we walked about 9.5 miles (16 kms) around the whole city. SF is a darn hilly city. We walked up the hill on Grant Street in Chinatown, down again at the end, uphill and downhill, and uphill and downhill again while crisscrossing Lombard, the “most crooked street in the world”. We then hit the harbor and decided to walk along the beach to the Golden Gate Bridge. On the map, it looked like it’d take a couple of hours, and I was certain that we could take some kind of bus or shuttle on the way back from the bridge; it shouldn’t be that bad.

We started walking, it was quite fun at first, and then the wind got stronger, it got colder, the dim sum we’d had for lunch started disappearing, but we saw the silhouttes of the Bridge veiled in the fog, it got bigger, it must be quite close, so thought I. We kept walking. The wind started really blowing. Our hair got real tangled. We kept walking, and we kept walking. At several point, we weren’t even sure if the path we were on would lead to the Bridge, we asked some of the dog walkers and they said yes, so we stepped forth. We set out on the beach around 12:30. It was 2:30, then 3, and 3:30, still, we still can’t see the end of the path yet. We asked another man walking in the opposite direction just to make sure that we’re indeed on the right path, and he replied: yes, you can see it, but you won’t be able to pass it. You can’t touch it because there’s a fence. It didn’t sound very assuring but we had no idea what he meant exactly. We were trailing our feet when we ran into a bench and decided to take a break to decide the next step. Duong looked totally disshelved, no trace of energy left on her face. I could walk more, but I was getting worried because she had a flight to catch in 3 hours. Trang, who had been there before with her uncle, talked about a place higher up where you could walk on the bridge and asked us if we would want to continue. We looked at each other, saying: no, looking at it from here is enough. We can see that it’s long and it’s red, we don’t need to touch it, we should turn back and go home now.

San Francisco, USA, Golden Gate bridgeSo near, yet so far. On the verge of giving up

Despite saying that, i had no idea how we were gonna make it back to the hostel. I was certain that once we reached the bridge, there would be some kind of bus or shuttle that we could catch to go back downtown, but we’re nowhere near that place. We’re on the beach. To our left, there’s indeed a parking lot, and there seemed to be a path leading up with a few cars, but there was not much traffic, and the bus definitely does not pass by there. I suddenly saw a car coming out, it was gonna turn around at the parking lot. It slowed down, the driver looked out of the window to see if any cars were coming out. I sprang on my feet, waving my hand. I said to Trang and Duong that I’d flag down the car; I didn’t even wait to hear their reply before running out towards it – there was just no way to walk back to town. I could see the quizzical look on the driver’s face, but whatever – we were not walking anymore. There were already 3 people in the car, 2 guys in the front, and one girl in the back. With us 3, that’d be a little of a squeeze, which we of course would not mind, but i wasn’t sure if they would be ok. But there was no harm asking at that point. I asked them to take us to a bus station, i had no idea where the nearest one was, or even where there would be one. To my relief, the driver agreed and we all squeezed in the back, still having no idea where he was gonna take us, maybe just out to the main road and then we’d start looking for a bus stop sign, but he seemed pretty certain where he was heading too. We started making small conversations in the car. Turned out that they were from Kazhakstan (i’d actually thought China) which really curioused me – i’d never met any Kazhak before. And up and up he drove – still no idea to where, so I asked. And he said, oh, i’m dropping you off at the bridge – there is a bus stop there. Trang, Duong, and I looked at each other – incredulous – we couldn’t believe our luck. We were so relieved that we got a ride so that we wouldn’t have to walk – but we were ready to jump on whatever bus to get back downtown. And luck instead was taking us to the Bridge – woo hoo. The moment we stepped out of the car, we thanked the Kazhak a million times, and started laughing like crazy.