America Through My Eyes- California – North-2

Telugu Original : Dr K.Geeta 

English Translation: V.Vijaya Kumar

Fort Ross-Point Arena-Yukai

Travel: Fort Ross is near the town of Jenner on the coast. Safari West is about forty to fifty miles from Santa Rosa. It’s a matter of an hour’s journey.

We left at ten o’clock in the morning and reached there at eleven o’clock. On the way we crossed the coastal mountain ranges near the village of Gurneville. We halted at the stream of water flowing down the hill next to the road near the entrance of the village.  As we thought it was difficult to go down on the rocks with the children we moved ahead. The journey along the mountain ranges took about two hours. Along the road with the massive tall trees and small narrow curves, the journey through the lush green jungle that slopes down the mountain valleys is breathtaking. Jenner is a beautiful town.  We decided to come there once again. The village is located on the banks of the river, at the confluence of the sea.  Some were rowing with small kayaks on the river. We Stopped by the Visiting Center on the shore to find out the details.  I touched water with my hand to see whether it was cool or not. Here the water was very cool as in the winter.  From there we can watch the river to the opposite side.  We drove another two miles along the trail and stopped at the first Vista Point and were mesmerized by the spectacular scenery. There the river  appeared opposite at the confluence. The feeling of seeing such an exquisite scene for the first time was breathtaking. On one side the river flowed silently into the ocean, seemingly pushed back by the waves. The difference in water colors is evidently seen as sand dunes were heaped up at the confluence on either side. From there we had a journey forward so we moved from there.


 Fort Ross: Fort Ross was once the gateway to the Russian settlement.  It’s located in a flat area on a plateau on the seashore. We reached Fort Ross at exactly twelve o’clock. We had to park the car there and walk about a quarter of a mile inside. When we reached the place, which looked like a small fort with towering wooden towers,  was crowded with more than fifty people. It’s a great pleasure to see so many people there against our expectations. The location is encompassed by wooden fencing and plenty of structures along with it, and an empty space in the middle.  Rooms for people to live in, warehouses for storing food, a church for prayer, armories, kitchen, high towers as a source for the main entrance and compound walls were seen round the location.

That day was July 4th, and also Independence Day, so everyone there was wandering around with Fort-era costumes and decorations.

By then it was exactly lunch time. We grabbed nothing but some biscuits to eat. There’s also nothing to buy around. It became clear that we could not find anything to eat nearby, so we gave some biscuits to the children and endured hunger for another hour and a half.

There’s a museum that tells the history of Fort Ross inside. The guide showed the visitors the objects used at the time and explained the history. Fort Ross was the first settlement of Russians from the Alaska region to California in the 18th century. It’s interesting to note when we were told that the Russians had extensive relations with the Spanish and Wild tribes around here. As they hunted down and used the Sea otters with fluffy wool bodies for winter clothing, they are now extinct.

They were involved in exports and imports with the Chinese. The guide called for a child volunteer from the visitors and Varu accepted immediately. Then she told the details of those times and offered a model dress to Varu of that time. The guide showed everyone something like a large dye board with Chinese letters and asked us to say what was that. I said, ‘It’s a color dyed plate!’ feeling elated! We were surprised when the  guide said it was “molded tea powder”.

There was an artillery firing ceremony that takes place every year on the occasion of that day, July 4th. The guide told everyone to come around. The program began there with military traditions. Ten volunteers were asked to come forward. I  went as the last volunteer to stuff the powder in the cannon. Giving orders in the Russian language gave the impression that there was a war going on somewhere.  It scared me a lot when I stuffed the powder in the size of a little salt packet. There was a loud noise in a matter of moments as it was lit by a small fire of incense stick tied to a large stick. I yelled out “Oh!”  No one around was scared except me. Everyone was laughing at me, amusingly.  I just felt ashamed of it and laughed at myself. It was a great experience.

Although the fort area was badly destroyed by earthquakes and carelessness, it’s rebuilt and preserved for tourism.  On the opposite side of the exit there was the roaring sea with its undulating high waves.  The sun was shining well but the cool breeze was blowing over the sea. Standing on the summit of that vast hill, we thought of coming here once again on a moonlit night.  In the light of the moon, the place where the earth and sky and the foam of the waves meet  gave me a thrilling experience.

It’s already 2 o’clock. We got back from there by car feeling famished. Luckily after 2 miles of travel, on the roadside, we found a small deli at a petrol pump.  We bought and ate hot dogs, frozen pizza, cold sandwiches, pretzels, donuts, everything we could find there.


Point Arena: Then we had to go to Yukai for our overnight stay.  To get to that town we crossed the sea and went back inland. But with so much time left, we decided to travel another forty miles by sea to visit the lighthouse “Point Arena” and leave for the Yukai in the evening. At four-thirty in the evening, we’re taken up to the lighthouse, so that we could complete our tour.

The entire route to Point Arena is on a side seafront road. The road is winding beyond the high mountain peaks, with fierce waves below, and a bubbling sea that seems to have the power to swallow the whole earth.

We reached Point Arena at exactly 3.15pm.  Admission fee to the lighthouse is $ 7.50 for adults and $ 1 for children. But there’s no need to park the car somewhere and walk. We can park right in front of the lighthouse. There was also a resort facility with four to five rooms.  When we looked out of the car, we observed that the sun rays falling on the ocean waves were glowing brightly. When we stepped out of the car, a cold wind blew in, pushing the car door and us. The cold outside was like being in the refrigerator. Even in the summer season in July, it’s in such a terrible way! If winter here means it would be unthinkable. It was accompanied by gusts of wind and seemed strange to me all of a sudden. I could not understand why it was so windy all of a sudden. We ran from the car park into a glass-made gift shop.  Meanwhile the kids began to scream as the hats and papers splattered around. I ran out again and collected them back.

The tour started in fifteen minutes. A large replica of the modern glass lamp in the lighthouse above the round hall adjoining the former gift shop displayed there. That was awesome, like a half-bloomed lily made of glass.  We wanted to see the lighthouse after knowing about the history of the lighthouse, and the outlines, and its reconstruction after the earthquake. We were allowed upstairs after the previous batch arrived.  The circular winding stairs were more than one hundred. When we got on to the glass room, which was above 115 feet, there was the original light shining in the smallest glass box inside.  I felt very dizzy standing in that room.

Perhaps because of climbing all the steps round and round, standing  in a room with so many mirrors and looking down, and also looking at the amazing scenery around, the mind was blown away from the body and fled. The people around me disappeared and I became part of that great scene. The sea looked enveloped from three sides. The lighthouse was a solitary massive structure standing there with great self-confidence at the end of the land that stretches inland in the middle of the ocean. Two eyes are not enough to perceive it.  “Do you know what an “arena” is when the great slopes of the evening are reflected in the lightning eyes?” the guide asked us. In Spanish it means “sand dune”. He said that the lighthouse got its name as it was surrounded by sand dunes. Ten minutes’ time lapsed in 10 seconds. Once we stepped downstairs we can  turn around the lighthouse.  As soon as we stepped out, the wind blew ten times fiercely and we feared that the wind would throw us. It was clear for the first time that humans had no wings, otherwise we would have flown in the sky. I stepped back. Varu, Satya came round enthusiastically without fear. I kept coming out and looking out the glass window, every time I felt as if there was such an incredible bond between the land and the sea.


Yukai: We got out of there at 4.30pm.  We traveled another fifty miles that day to reach the Yukai as well and stayed the night there.  Due to the summer heat, it’s still bright even at 9.00 pm.  But as mentioned earlier we had to cross the jungle, the hills again, away from the sea, and go back to the plains. I had planned it carelessly not knowing  the hardships of such a journey. The next morning we will have to travel all around and back to another town on the beach. The great difficulty of crossing the mountains like this was realized well  that evening. It is a ghaty road that turns every two minutes.

The same route for about forty miles. Satya took up driving that day. He drives fast even on curved lanes, because of those twists and turns, I started nauseating and had a terrible headache. I couldn’t enjoy the beauty of the jungle and at least took a turn around the village. We didn’t  have time.  We went directly to the “City of Ten Thousand Buddhas”. I was reminded of Shanthi Niketan when I crossed the main welcome arch. I saw a few buildings, roads, and classrooms desolated and reminded me that it’s America.

The visiting center was just a one-way turn on the road.  At 5.45pm there was only 15 minute time left to visit a small hall like a museum there. The museum was only a small hall, so we got out within 10 minutes.  The man at the counter said the pure vegetarian restaurant there would close by 3 p.m. Thousands of Buddhists flock here during the time of meditation gatherings.  There were also lodging facilities for those who come there.

It is also like the Thousand Buddha Temple in Singapore, but not as great as from outside, yet the inside is like a replica to the original. Everywhere we look, golden Buddha statues on the hall walls kept inside the small glass shelves. The largest statue was in the middle of the hall and the hall is covered with golden colored wooden planks.  The interior is gleaming and beautiful. There is a great unique sense of spirituality that comes from being inanimate except for one or two volunteers. The temple is just across the road  from ten steps away from the main office where we parked the car. 

However, when the children came out, the peacocks outside unwrapped their pinion and attracted the children. Male and female peacocks roaming freely there.  All the male peacocks are playing there unfolding their pinion. Going through the middle of roads and buildings as if in Shanti Niketan, in such a great quiet atmosphere, and sitting with eyes closed in that chapel, when chanting  “Buddham Sharanam Gachchami”, we felt that a great feeling  was surrounding us with the great strength of the prayer.

It was seven o’clock when we arrived at our hotel.  From there it’s 3 miles to Buddha University. We proposed to come again in the morning if possible, so I was able to come from there.

We checked into the hotel and went out for lunch in another half hour as we couldn’t find anything to eat outside after 8.00pm, especially to avoid trouble with children. We searched online and went to the nearest Indian restaurant.  It’s not actually Indian, but a Nepali Restaurant. There were only two people serving and cooking at the counter.  There were already 10 more people waiting in chairs.  “Wait another hour,” while saying that customers were allowed inside. We no longer have the patience to search for another so we settled there. At least one and a half hours later, we got some food. On that day, since morning with the kids, we were totally exhausted. It seemed awesome now, when I think of it, how we could have waited there for such a long time! We did not know how we managed to get to the hotel and slept after having lunch at such a place with an insipid meal that night!

Due to an inordinate delay in the morning, it was not possible for us to go to Buddha University again. We had many things left in the schedule that day, yet, we had a good continental breakfast at the hotel and said goodbye to Yukai.




Photos & Telugu Original

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