There are few things more certain to generate a sense of the surreal than a 5am start followed by a six-hour flight jumping three time-zones.
So following that up by then hopping into a car and embarking on the Los Angeles freeway system was without doubt slightly surreal. First enormous roads – 14 lanes wide, I mean what on Earth is that? There’s something horrifying in seeing so much concrete devoted to moving so much air-conditioned metal about. In the space of 20 minutes we saw more cars than we did in a month in Iceland. Everywhere you look there are roads, surrounded by other roads. And strangely there’s not a petrol station or roadside services to be seen. We eventually concluded that these roads, enormous though they were, were too suburban to have services on them. It’s just, just… flabbergasting.
Then combine that with the views being strangely familiar as you drive around. At first we thought it was because there’s a s certain similarity with Australia. And it’s true, there is. But the familiarity actually comes from having seen the scrubby hills and trees as the backdrop to countless movies and TV hows.
But that was yesterday. A night’s sleep and waking to a lovely warm day helped us settle into San Diego. We spent the day at the zoo, or as they repeatedly say in the zoo: “the World Famous San Diego Zoo”. It really is an excellent zoo with a wonderful variety of animals, generally great enclosures, and a genuine commitment to conservation. We saw a huge variety of other animals, but I think it was the bears that really captured our attention: we saw pandas, grizzly bears and polar bears amongst others. Well the bears and the harpy eagle; an enormous bird that’s big enough to take monkeys and sloths in its powerful claws – and which we got to see almost alarmingly close-up.
At first we wondered how a polar bear could possibly feel at home here in balmy San Diego. But upon reflection we’re struggling with the idea that anyone feels at home here. But so far we’ve seen an airport, huge roads, a hotel and a zoo: that can’t be the real California… Can it?