We always thought we would have to go out of our comfort zones on this trip and Los Angeles provided a great opportunity for us to step out! As one of the most pricey areas for accomodation on our trip we decided to heed the advice of a travel companion we met in Kelowna - we couchsurfed.
Couchsurfing isn't quite standing on a couch surfing a wave, although I can imagine that being interesting to watch, but it does have it's own risks. Simply put, we find people we've never met willing to put us up on a couch, bed or mattress and crash there the night.
For our first experience we had a great host, a bearded American called Jeff who let us stay on a blowup bed for 4 nights. He also hosted 2 Polish and 2 French travellers, so we were able to meet different cultures in the same space.
Jeff was a great host, he cooked breakfast in the morning and dinner at night for us, we spent most evenings chilling, chatting and laughing with him until the earliest hours of the morning. During the day we entertained ourselves with a mixture of common and uncommon activities.
Our first day we decided to do the Hollywood Blvd, the main tourist strip of LA. We saw stars of stars, handprints in concrete and a lot of dressed up impersonators looking for an opportunity to get tips from photo's.
Normally, in a place so driven by the tourist industry we are very careful not to say yes to anything we haven't planned, and for the most part we did, but being in the holiday spirit we said yes to a Hollywood tour for $15. The tour was a great idea as it provided us with the opportunities for the rest of the trip.
The tour itself meandered it's way up a surrounding hillside past famous peoples houses like Will Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Michael Jackson and the house of the fresh prince. It shows just how much a house can provide insight into someone's character, from Madonna's more elegant and huge hillside house to a more modest size and well hidden Will Farrell's.
We were also able to see some great views of LA and saw the Hollywood sign from about 2 miles away. Although we thoroughly enjoyed the tour with the cheesiest jokes from the driver we were hoping to get closer to the sign, unfortunately the driver explained how there was a huge fence around so we couldn't get close. The next day however we proved him wrong.
The following day we were scouring the couchsurfing community for activities and came across a 10 mile walk to the sign, 'a perfect way for us to get up close'.
It was a beautiful 27 degree day so we decided to saunter on foot to the meeting point not really sure what to expect. After about 2 miles of walking uphill to the meeting point we found ourselves amongst about 30 people from different groups and organisations. Because of the eclectic mix of hikers it was easy for us to speed up or slow down our pace during the journey depending on who we wanted to get to know more or swiftly move on from.
The walk winded its way up the hills surrounding Hollywood providing incredible views if LA and the surrounding area. Although most were hikers there were some horses that passed us during the hike. At one point we were astonished as we watched a horse fall down with a little girl on top. For any normal rider it would have easily caused broken legs or serioys injury to the rider, but luckily for this girl she had short legs and in a swift motion rolled away from the horse as it fell.
As we walked on by and moved our way up the hill towards the sign the views became even more breathtaking, and by the time we reached the top (perhaps only 10 metres from the Hollywood sign) the hard work became worth it! The peak from the top allowed clear access to about a 30 mile view in every direction. From there you could see the block like formation if roads and houses, and beyond that Santa Catalina and the sea.
When we'd completed the downwards trek a group of the hikers invited us to dinner. Dinner consisted of an all you can eat Koreon grill where you're served raw meat and cook it yourself on a grill built in to the middle of the table. It's quite a fun experience although you do put your lives in the hands of strangers. Here we met our next couchsurfing host Raul, due to be visited while back in LA for one night before flying on.