I didn’t sleep well last night: I’m still out of sync, everyone else in the room was already asleep when I went to bed, and there were a couple of snorers.
But I was up at 7.30am, and got ready for the day before helping myself to the DIY pancake breakfast. I left the hostel just before 9am, walked down to the recreation trail that runs along the coast, and walked to Lovers Point. Monterey has a rocky coastline with occasional sheltered beaches. There is a kelp forest here, and loads of seals and sea otters. It also has whale-watching, dolphins and lots of birdlife. And signs warning you that there may be a tsunami due to earthquakes.
So I spotted a few seals and sea otters on my way to Lovers Point, then rented a kayak and paddled over to San Carlos Beach on the other side of town. I was told to stay in the kelp and therefore out of the way of the boats, and no closer than 50ft from the seals and otters (unless they choose to come closer).
It was a bit difficult spotting the seals and otters amongst the kelp. You’d think it was a head above the water, and it would turn out to be a kelp leaf on an angle. But there were a few to see on the rocks and the beach at the Stanford Marine Research Centre, and the further I went, the more I spotted. I stopped and watched one (which I thought was kelp until I saw it’s nostrils), then it disappeared under the water. I started to paddle off and heard breathing behind me: got a bit freaked out when I realised it was following me! There was also a group of around ten sea otters, who must’ve felt like an exhibit having six kayaks around them.
I got a bit scared on my way back to Lovers Point because I was paddling into the waves and the wind had come up a bit: I kept having images of me crashing against the rocks! Once I felt safe amongst the kelp near the beach, I stopped to watch a couple of seals in the water. More kept appearing, until I could six around me. I left after a few minutes and headed over to a sea otter closer to the beach. He seemed to feel a little uncomfortable with me there, so I was about to paddle off, when three seals surfaced: two in front of me and one behind, all within about five feet! I couldn’t paddle off because one was right next to me, so I just hung on to the kelp and went “oh shit oh shit oh shit”, until they all went underwater again. I got out quickly after that, only for another to pop his head up a little closer to the shore! Certainly had some close encounters with them, so I’m glad I went, but I was worried about being so close!
After my wildlife trip, I went for a walk along Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck’s book of the same name, and to Fisherman’s Wharf. Both filled with tacky tourist shops. I got a crepe and a coffee, then went to the aquarium. I saw a variety of fish that were apparently in the kelp I kayaked through, then went to a show about sea otters. It was aimed at children but it was quite informative. Then I wandered around the rest of the place, seeing some coral fish, penguins, hammer head sharks and loads of jellyfish.
I got back to the hostel around 5.30pm. My feet are now sunburnt, to match my tummy, the top of my back and my neck. It hurts. Spent the evening on the internet and made the mistake of buying a 12-inch pizza for dinner. Managed half of it, but think I’ll have to leave the rest.
Monterey is very picturesque. I can understand why people choose to live around here. If the beach is what you’re after, this is much more preferable to Santa Monica (although that was a nice beach). And it’s a smaller, more pleasant town too. So it’s a real shame that they have all these tacky tourist shops and cheap-eats. I feel that they bring the place down. But maybe the people of Monterey like it.
I should also mention that it’s pronounced “mon-er-ay”. The Americans drop the “t”. I tried that too, but it sounds ridiculous. I don’t know what they think when I pronounce it “mont-er-ay”, but I have had some funny looks.