Arriving into Santa Cruz
Well we've come to the end of our road trip, we have to say goodbye to Chrissie the Chrysler, we've clocked up 494 miles and I only drove on the wrong side once (and it was more of a track so it doesn't really matter!) I am actually fairly impressed with myself that I managed to do that drive, there were parts that we quite scary, not least driving out of a multi storey car park in downtown San Francisco during rush hour, 10 seconds after learning the controls of an automatic!
At the moment we are struggling to organise our thoughts with the photos, we have seen so many places, that it's very confusing. The first day, we picked up the car at about 6pm, so unfortunatly ended up driving part of the way to Santa Cruz
in the dark.
Our enthusiastic tourguide
We picked up a book of motel discounts, and had to chance our luck at finding a place that had vacancies and would honour the price quoted. We didn't do too badly, even the places which said they didn't have any rooms 'at that price' only charged $5 or so more, which was always still within our budget.
Just North of Santa Cruz was a tourist attraction called 'The Mystery Spot' which is a "gravitational anomaly" where "you will be stunned as your perceptions of the laws of physics and gravity are questioned". We had high hopes (no really, we did). In reality this spot consisted of a hill. Quite a steep hill, with a house built at the angle of the hill so when you stood in it you looked like you were standing at an impossible angle, and balls appeared to roll uphill. This, coupled with the really annoying tour guide who actually made us oooh and ahhh, made for an amusing morning, if not quite the experience we were expecting.
Sea Otter being chased for his food
I was particularly amused by the girl of about 20 with her parents, who was enthralled by the whole thing. Her dad looked less than impressed, and everytime he went to counter what the tour guide had said, she turned around and said very pointedly "don't
ruin this for me." !!
Monterey was our second stop and we got there early enough to have a better look around the town. Now that my new favourite animal is the Sea Otter I was very excited to see one bobbing around next to the pier!! There were also more Sea Lions, and they had taken up residence right on the side of the pier despite all the people stopping to look at them, they were so close you could almost reach out a touch them.
The drive down Big Sur was the purpose of the trip, so we got up early to make a start.
Random part of golf course in the middle of the beautiful scenery
Around the Monterey peninsula is the 17 mile drive, a toll road through a very exclusive estate full of huge houses and golf courses. Before we went we had heard mixed things about the road and were not sure whether or not to pay the $10 toll just to drive through a millionaire's back garden, but I'm glad we did. I personally don't care one bit if you've got a mansion the size of Buckingham Palace, and I'm not the slightest bit interested in seeing rich people play golf, but I am
interested in seeing the amazing scenery and spotting a glimpse of some wildlife so we paid the toll and drove in. They gave us a map detailing the points of interest which was good, and you could stop pretty much anywhere along the route anyway. We were lucky enough to have arrived slightly earlier than a couple of coaches, so we were constantly about 10 minutes ahead of them, it did ruin the calm abit to have a coach pull up and 50 shouting tourists get off! We saw yet more sea lions, as well as seals and a big group of sea otters playing in the kelp.
(Not so) Lone Cypress
It wasn't so exciting to see the 'Lone Cypress Tree', (whose image is actually copyrighted) as it is only really alone by about 20 ft, at which point there are several others. Still, I
couldn't stand on the side of a cliff for 250 years so I shouldn't mock.
The remaining drive down to San Simeon
(our stopover) was stunning, looking back at the photos doesn't do it justice at all. The road wound round the cliffs, narrow bridges cut across valleys, and we were continuously pulling over into laybys for another look. The information forum on the website of the Lonely Planet guidebooks mentioned Pfeiffer Beach as a fantastic beach to go to, if only you can find it as it isn't signposted.
Tiny signpost indicating Pfeiffer Beach
After much researching we found that if you go past the Pfeiffer State Park sign on the right, the Big Sur ranger station on the left, and go up a hill, almost at the crown of the hill is a 110 degree right turn whose only signpost is telling you that RVs are not allowed. This was the only instructions of where to find it, a needle in an 100 mile or so haystack. Well impressively we actually did find it, and followed the single lane road for about 2 miles at a VERY slow speed before reaching the small carpark for the beach. The beach was gorgeous, with strange pink sand and huge eroded rocks jutting out of the sea, with waves crashing through the holes, well worth it.
Our next stop was Point Piedras Blancas just north of San Simeon, where we had heard about a beach where elephant seals spend much of the year.
Walking amongst the seal...
As we approached the area we saw lots of cars lining the road and people milling about over a beach, which upon closer inspection was full of seals. We stopped and couldn't quite believe it. We followed some people through a gap in the fence and stood for a while observing the spectacle. I just couldn't believe that we could get so close to the seals, we took a couple of photos and stood back again. We both started to feel really uneasy about the whole situation, people were squealing and yelping, we even saw a few group trying to touch the seals, a couple of which looked like they were getting upset with the commotion, so we decided to leave. Of course you want to get close to a wild animal, it is a fantastic amazing experience, but you have respect it and it's home. You can't just run around trying to poke it, it didn't seem right.
The weaned pups at the official area
Further down the road we discovered what was the official site, with a proper roped off area and information notices up. Here we were told that most of the seals (there were hundreds) were weaned pups who were learning to be self sufficient after their mother's had left. We also saw lots of huge males huddled together away from the more vocal pups!
After San Simeon, the highway 1 down to Los Angeles
moved away from the coast at times, so we decided to take the faster route 101. We knew were going to stop overnight near Santa Barbara which gave us a little more time to stop off on the journey and take it easy! Our last day driving took us back along the coast as we approached, allowing us to drive through the Malibu area which was fantastic.
Part of the enormous beach in Malibu!
Huge houses overlooked endless miles of perfect beaches with surfers all along them. At one point Lisa commented on some surfers which were really far out to sea before realising with excitement that they were dolphins! I managed not to crash the car at this point and have a quick look too before they disppeared. Sadly we couldn't get any photos as they were gone.
We had just enough time to drop off our bags at our hostel in Santa Monica
before dropping the car off at the airport. Our first experience of LA was therefore navigating LA airport in order to find a bus back to our hostel. Not pleasant at all. All the way around the States we have been warned about LA, that the people are rude, they look down on you, that it is run down, poor public transport.
Southern Californian lifeguard tower - how exciting it's just like Baywatch!
I can say that our adventures around the airport confirm all that and more. So far LA has not been what either of us expected, but we are determined not to judge it by other people's opinions, so we shall see......
**the best photos are on previous entries but i didn't want to put the same ones up!**