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Trip 35 -- Kangaroo Island and Singapore Walks

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Today (LAX airport to Redondo Beach via Playa del Rey):
29334 steps/24.56 km/15.26 mi/4h 17m

"You must be the fulcrum of your own universe": a lesson learned in the strikingly titled "Ministry of Moral Panic," Amanda Lee Koe's collection of short stories that incorporate real figures from Singapore's history into philosophical tales of modern love. The set startled readers in the conservative-thinking nation when it was published a decade ago, but it earned her the Singapore Literature Prize. The country is not as squeaky-clean as its reputation sometimes suggests.

But first, Kangaroo Island -- or Karta Pintingga, "Island of the Dead," in the local Aboriginal language. I will not be the first person to walk its perimeter. Fifty years ago, Father Patrick P. Kelly circumnavigated it by sticking strictly to the coast, bushwhacking through dense brush, fording swampy inlets, scrabbling across rocks, and climbing up steep ravines when the coastline became impassable. He completed his circuit over two years, one stretch one week and another the next, resuming his journey after being brought by car to a previous stopping point, and not always completing the segments in geographical order. I'll be taking a continuous route as usual, but sticking to established roads and paths, which may be some distance from the coast.

Some of my segments will be quite long -- this Friday will be my longest single walking day in the whole Abecedarian Walks project thus far. Several of my stopping places have no food nearby. This is rugged and remote land, the domain of wildlife including the Kangaroo Island kangaroo after dark; their reputation as aggressors will prompt me to take extra care to arrive at each lodging by sunset.

In New York, the nights still belong to the people, so I preceded this morning's 6 a.m. flight from Newark to Los Angeles with a 2:15 a.m. dinner in Koreatown, conveniently one block away from the PATH train. K-Town isn't quite the round-the-clock neighborhood that it was pre-pandemic. Thirty-second Street was still full of people, some walking, some standing, some seated on the pavement in agony as they waited for nature to expel their most recent libations back through the orifices through which they had originally been deposited. But most of the liveliest spots had already shut their kitchens and were only serving such libations. I found Shanghai Mong still offering food, and an hour later, satisfied by fried dumplings and spicy seafood noodles, I boarded for the PATH train, changed at Journal Square, and exited at Newark Penn Station in search of the airport-bound 62 bus.

If you've been following me since Bonaire, you may remember that my usual discovery of the 62 bus involves leaving Newark Penn Station by the wrong door (the correct door is invariably locked, poorly signed, or both), scrambling around the entire building, and approaching the bus platform by walking in the roadway past its "Danger! Do not enter! Really bad idea!" notices.

Raymond Street Bus Lanes, I told myself. And by some magic I found the platform easily. Perhaps by the same magic, either the schedule had changed or I'd misread it, and the every-40-minutes PATH train had been so maliciously misaligned with the bus timings as to arrive immediately before the bus's departure, making a reasonable connection impossible and leaving me with nearly an hour to explore Newark Penn's less than salubrious warrens.

But when the bus did arrive, it brought me to the new Terminal A in good time, and I boarded the JetBlue flight to Los Angeles. The initial screams of the baby behind me roused a contempt whose magnitude would take the genius of Sondheim to describe, but it eventually quieted down, and I slept.

I'd booked an 11-hour connection in Los Angeles because the onward flight to Brisbane was on a separate ticket, and I wanted to minimize the risk of missing it. But what to do there? I thought I might walk downtown from the airport -- it would take only four hours or so. But some of the neighborhoods along the direct route seemed to pose a safety risk, so I reconsidered. Besides, I was just downtown half a year ago.

Then I thought, why not walk to the beach?

I was last in Redondo Beach in 1993, when the Harvard Glee Club rehearsed there for a week before our tour of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Today, the walking route there took me north and then west along boundary of the airport to Playa del Rey, and then down along the coast.

The sun was brilliant enough to be disorienting as I made my way north along Sepulveda Boulevard. I felt like I couldn't see what was in front of me. Spatial perception was warped. It was unsettling. Had I forgotten how to walk?

When I turned west and walked parallel to a runway, the world came back into focus, and for a brief moment at the airport's edge, all was silent. I followed a bike path for two hours until I reached Manhattan Beach, where I paused for fish and chips at the Shellback Tavern. The pieces of cod were the size of eggplants, and dogs were underfoot. This was my kind of place.

But an hour farther south, Redondo Beach Pier was even more my kind of place: casual seafood eateries around a marina. I didn't have room for another meal, but some ice cream hit the spot. Was this there 30 years ago? I had no memory of it.

I took a bus back up to the airport and prepared to board for Brisbane. This is one of those flights that arrive two mornings after they depart, so happy Presidents Day to those of you observing on land, or Presidents' Day for those of you who eschew AP style.

Go on to Kangaroo Island day 1