Mexico Border to Big Sur National Park.
After the debacle to get our US visa, 6 months wait for an interview and a $3000.00 round trip & accommodation to Sydney for a 3-minute interview PFFFFFFFF, crossing the border at Mexicali was straight forward and the border guards were friendly. All up the crossing took just over 1 hour. (Pretty lengthy line). The customs officer made us laugh as he could not understand we drive around the world (he thought it was a MAD MAX VEHICLE!!!!). He wanted to know how we were able to get it from Australia, we told him it could float.
Having a complete self-sufficient overland vehicle, we see no reason to pay between $50 and $ 100USD per night to stay in full hook up trailer spot or RV parks. Hence, we camp in the wild, at rest stops, casino carparks, or BLM land.
Shopping done and our first bush camp was in the hills overlooking Lake Saldon. Lake Saldon is California’s largest lake in the middle of California’s largest desert and is a must-see for anyone visiting Southern California.
California has 3 deserts, The Mojave Desert, Colorado Desert and the Great Basin Desert. The deserts are a popular tourist destination and offer amazing natural features. The driest spot in California is the Death Valley.
Joshua Tree National Park’s western side is part of the Mojave Desert, the Eastern side is part of the Colorado Desert.
At night we did hear the Coyote but never saw one, likewise the desert tortoise and the bighorn sheep. But with 42 degrees Celsius it would be unlikely they would venture out. Key’s view is well over 1500 meters high and offers magnificent views when not hazy. The Joshua Tree, The Ocotillo plant, amazing rock formations and scenery were the highlights of this park.
There are 2 villages just outside Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree, and 29 Palms. Both towns are small, BUT with Los Angeles so close by the area draws over 2 million visitors per year. Joshua Tree and 29 Palms are both unique desert towns.
On day one we visited the western side of the park and ended up in the city of Twentynine Palms home to the Joshua Tree National Park Headquarters and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, the world’s largest Marine Corps training base. More than 20000 active-duty marines and families live here and 50000 active-duty marines from around the world train here as well..
Of all the towns in the desert area surrounding Joshua Tree National Park, Palm Springs is the upmarket resort town just 160 KM east of Los Angeles. Also called the Playground of the stars. Despite being a small city, it has the amenities of a cosmopolitan big city. Palm Springs has some of the most famous golf courses in the world. There are amazing views of the 3300-meter-high San Jacinto Peak, and the world largest rotating cable car goes to around 3000 meters. Palm Springs is one of nine adjacent cities that make up the Coachella Valley, Cathedral City, Indian Wells, Indio, La Quinta, Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage. The small boutique villages offer many events throughout the year, Music Festival, Country Fair, Film Festivals, National Date Festival, Desert Classic Golf tournaments and Tennis tournaments.
Time to move towards the coast. The Coachella Valley connects with Los Angeles via the San Gorgonio Pass a busy up to 6 lane highway. We decided to stay overnight at the Morongo Casino, where we could park at the rear and the shuttle bus picked us up from the carpark to the casino and back.
Los Angeles is the second most populous city in the USA after New York. Having been to Los Angeles many times over the last 45 years we did not spend a lot of time in town however the city does deserve a write up. The city is located between the coast (low land) and the mountains.
The freeways of Los Angeles are known all around the world connecting downtown and the suburbs with 6 or 7 lanes in each direction.
The major attractions are Hollywood, Beverley hills, Anaheim (Disney World) Venice Beach, and Malibu.
Downtown Los Angeles has as many as 35000 people per sq kilometre. During the week you can listen to the radio and hear 20 or more different languages. You have the choice of more than 50 foreign language newspapers. Critics refer to Los Angeles as “la-la land” or even worse as a place reeling from earthquakes, fire, smog, gang warfare, and riots. Those who love Los Angeles mention its mild climate, entertainment, and lifestyle.
We were looking for new tyres but no luck, the weather was lousy hence we left after 3 days and headed North to Big Sur National Park, Monterey, and Santa Cruz. (Hwy 101 was closed due a landslide North of Santa Barbara so we had to detour via Highway 5 to get to Big Sur NP).
Santa Cruz is a city on central California’s coast on the northern edge of Monterey Bay. Its long wharf, with eateries and shops, stretches into Monterey Bay. It is famous for its Boardwalk’s and the vintage rides include the 1911 Looff Carousel and the Giant Dipper roller coaster. Also known for its beaches and beach volleyball competitions. In fact, it is a classic California beach town. Unfortunately for us it was cold and with just 17 degrees we hoped for a much warmer California. Due to its proximity to the Bay, fog and overcast mornings is what we experienced during the night and morning hours, clearing around the middle of the day. Santa Cruz attracts many street performers, musicians, and artists, creating street side entertainment and atmosphere.
Next stop Monterey; we found a nice quite stop between the golf course and the cemetery, a couple of hundred meters of the beach and the John Denver memorial. Monterey is a city on California’s rugged central coast. Monterey is famous is Monterey Bay Aquarium, with thousands of marine animals and plants on display in underwater and interactive exhibits. Like Santa Cruz Monterey is a vibrant coastal town with many events during the year. Next to the city is a National marine Sanctuary which is a federal protected ocean area with a coastline of 444KM.
Both towns have many celebrities living here, hence it is not the cheapest place to live and do shopping.
Next and last stop before we are moving north to San Francisco was Big Sur National Park. Following the 101 south from Carmel was amazing with cliffs plunging a few hundred meters down to rocky coves. It is rugged and mountainous, offering great scenery. Unfortunately, we were only able to drive the 32 miles south from Carmel due to the landslide. However, if you can drive the complete 144 miles from Malpaso Creek to the village of San Simeon we are told you can say you have travelled the longest most scenic underdeveloped coastline in the USA. The views are amazing and getting to Big Sur Village you see the brilliant redwood forest. Big Sur National Park attracts up to 7 million visitors per year. This has started discussions re the necessity of shuttle buses and tollgates. The other major issue is that the highway has been blocked more than 55 times by landslides.
TILL NEXT TIME FROM SAN FRANCISCO
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