Thanks to the whole passport-stolen-incident, we have to adjust our sails and skip San Clemente and our leisurely meander up the West Coast in a hired car … and get on another bus to get to the South African embassy in Los Angeles today. Hello Greyhound, my old friend.
It’s rough to be there around 5am, but at least the next three hours are just spent commuting.
We catch a cab to the embassy. It’s a pity I’m more concerned with getting this emergency passport than taking in the sights of LA.
The somewhat frightening face of a framed Jacob Zuma grins at us in the small waiting room area of the SA embassy. It’s quiet. Megan and I are the only ones there. I end up being assisted by a lovely lady called Lisa, who explains all my options – the recommended of course is to fly home immediately because an emergency passport is just that: your one ticket home – but I don’t want to cut a trip short that I worked so hard for (and had such a painful time getting visas for). So, despite her concern, I choose to keep my plans as they are and risk several trips on one piece of paper … including the long one home. To my joy, it only costs $19, a photo, fingerprints, and about thirty minutes’ wait until I have some official documentation.
I feel a lot better now. This was the first hurdle.
A few weeks prior to my trip, I was informed that I had some very distant relatives who live in Los Angeles. Jasha really wanted to meet me and I was happy to, so her daughter Carrie picks us up at the embassy to take us for lunch in Beverly Hills. It never stops being weird getting fetched and housed by complete strangers during my travels. But I am grateful. Especially since Carrie throws in a little guided tour in between the chitchat on the way to the Cheesecake Factory.
Now I start to see Los Angeles. The impeccably dressed toddlers. The traffic. The palm trees lining the streets. The common sightings of Lamborghinis and Ferraris. Lindsay Lohan.
Kidding. We don’t really spot anyone famous.
Lunch is great and I am enjoying the company of Jasha, Carrie, and her playful toddler Sophia.
I have, however, made plans to stay with an old school and dancing friend in Venice, and Carrie kindly drops us off. Her car’s built-in GPS cleverly indicates the roads with less traffic congestion to get us there quicker.
Lissa welcomes us with a drink and a tour of their home. I haven’t seen her in six years or so. When her husband Chad returns home, we each grab a bicycle – and Chad masterfully holds and straps two surfboards to his! – and we set off for a viewing of the sunset on the beach.
Riding through traffic on a bike will probably never stop terrifying me, but it’s a short ride and before I know it, the sand is falling away underneath my soles. Chad braves the messy surf while the wind whips our hair around and the sun dips below the pier as a giant yellow ball.
A trip home to change and get the sand off ourselves – without getting any inside the house! – before we head out again on a slightly scenic route to meet up with a friend and eat supper at Lula’s Mexican. They do actually have chilli poppers (hooray!) and some rather potent margaritas …
The night bike ride back home is less scary and more magical, reminding me of the days when this was entirely normal in the Netherlands.