Rachel unsure of driving
So, our road trip is from San Francisco
to Los Angeles via Highway 1, along California's beautiful coastline.
We collected our car at half six on Tuesday, but before I go on a bit of back story is needed. Because we was waiting for Rachel's credit card to arrive we were booking beds in the hostel one night at a time. Unfortunatly this meant we had to keep moving rooms as the hostel was busy and had to juggle things about to fit us in. Tuesday morning we dutifully packed our bags again and moved rooms. The only one they had available was a double bed in a dorm (I know its a bit dodgy but we had nowhere else to sleep). We went in to put our bags away and immediately upon opening the door were hit with the smell of weed.
It was strong and it was nasty. There were two girls that looked spaced out laying on the bottom bunk, which we were told was ours, who didnt even respond when we said hi. We stashed our bags in the underbed lockers and left the room. We didnt quite know what to do, we knew there was no way we could sleep in that room, the few minutes we were in there had been enough to give me a headache but we also knew that the hostel was fully booked and had no other rooms available. We decided to head to the car rental place and see if we could get away with using a debit card to hire the car. Low and behold we could (wish we tried two days before!) and had the approval check done in five minutes. We decided to leave that afternoon rather than wait a night and start out in the morning.
A morning stroll along the beach in
We went back to the hostel and I spoke them about the room they had put us in smelling of weed. There was three members of staff at the desk as I was relating everything and got very mixed responses from them. The manager looked shocked, the dopey guy laughed and one of the other women amitted she had smelt it when she walked past the room earlier. I apologised for any inconvenience but said we felt we couldnt sleep in the room and that we had been offered a bed at a friends house for the night (a small lie but neccessary). We got our money back for that night, collected our bags and headed back to the rental office, with a stop at walgreens to pick up a map of the Californian coast.
We collected our car, a mumsy little silver crystler at half six and were on our way.
The Mystery Spot
Rachel was very nervous, it was the first time she had driven an automatic, sitting in the left seat and on the wrong side of the road! I have to say she did great and that evening we stopped at Santa Cruz. The next day we were up bright and early. Ourr motel was only a couple of blocks from the beach so we decided to take any early morning stroll. It was a lovely sandy beach, a quaint little boardwalk, complete with rides and funfair running the length of it.Even though it was fairly early there were plenty of people taking advantage of living so close to it. Dog walkers, joggers, surfers and families were strewn about, indulging in the good weather.
After the beach we headed out to place Rachel had found online. A weird and wacky attraction called the Mystery Spot.
It bills itself as the hub of strange occurances. We arrived early and paid our five dollars, there seems to be a lot of interest in the place as we had quite a bit of company. There were 15 people in all on our tour with tours happening every half hour. Our guide was a tall skinny dude who had a very annoying way of talking. He told us about the history of the mystery spot, that a developer wanted to buy a strip of flat land from loggers as he wanted to build a house but the loggers insisted he bought a whole section. He sent surveyors up to check it out and they found that when in the area of the mystery spot their compasses were affected, swinging as much as 180 degrees. He then led us up a very steep hill, citing that it is supposedly harder than normal to climb and that when stood still we leaned further than normal.
Sea lions basking in the sun at Monterey
Further 'proof' came from a slanted house that was built on a flat piece of land but slid to its current spot on the side of the hill, reported to be the centre of the mystery spot. He also laid a piece of wood out, showed us a spirit level to prove that it was laying almost level then rolled a snooker ball back along it towards the lower end. We all watched as the ball slowed down then reversed it course and rolled uphill right off the other end of the plank. It was a good gimick and worth the five bucks we paid to be wowed.
We then got back in the car and headed on. The majority of our journey was right next to the coast, with amazing sea views and sights that just took your breath away. Soaring cliffs rising out of the sea, huge waves crashing against the many sandy beaches and inlets, towering bridges spanning gaping chasms and sky scraping mountains that has seen the world go by.
the lone cypress
We were awestruck all day, each bend in the road revealing a new wonder to gawp at. We stopped at Monterery around midday, finding a motel near the piers. We wandered down, via a walk on the beach to the pier, which happened to be called old fishermans wharf. There were many places offering boat tours out of the bay to watch sea otters, sea lions and whales. It just so happened we didnt need to take one aas we managed to see two out of the three from the pier. We spotted a lone sea otter pottering around in the water just below us. He would disappear beneath the water for several minutes then emerge grasping something and chewing on it with obvious relish, drifting about on his back looking very relaxing and oblivious to the admirers gathered about cooing over him.
Yep, we drove over that
We also managed to see a large group of sea lions. They were gathered about the dock on an ajoining pier, we were so close that if they had come up to the edge we could of reached out and stroked them. It was very exciting to us to see such a powerful animal so close yet it still be completely free and wild.
Thursday we drove down a 17 mile section of Highway 1 which is protected. We had to pay ten dollars to gain access (its also home to very rich people) and drove along rugged coastlines, stopping frequently to spot wildlife. We saw seals that had come ashore to pup, though its a little early to see any pups, sea otters playing amongst the kelp beds, hundreds of birds and even more sea lions basking on rocks. We also saw the lone cypress, a widely known image so Im told.
The stunning coastline
One tree, deciding to grown out on a precarious ledge, surviving against the battering wind and sea for over 350 years has become pebble beach's symbol and trademark.
That afternoon we spend most of the day driving, heading for San Simeon, a well know area for Elephant seals. We arrived at an area where a lot of cars had pulled over and we quickly saw why. Along the beach, scattered and in groups were elephant seals, and there were people walking amongst them. We got out the car and went down, amazed that people were allowed to get so close. There were about two dozen seals in all, most of them mediums sized, with one huge male sleeping by himself a little way off. Everywhere there were people posing and taking pictures. It all seemed wrong to me, they were way too close to the seals, one guy even tried touching them.
Elephant seals at San Simeon
Girls standing near them for pictures squealed every time the seal moved and parents were allowing their kids to stand so close to the seals to get a good shot that if it wanted to, the seal could take a chunk out of their leg. Rachel and I kept a respectful distance, staying away from the awake seals, going round to the back of the sleeping ones and having one quick picture each while staying a healthy distance away. We then retreated back and took further photos from a distance. I didnt like the vibe at all, the intrusion feel very wrong and actually upset me. I know I was there too and had a photo taken, I can only say we did our best to be respectful to the seals health by trying to ensure that they were not stressed or affected by our prescence. Sadly, no one else seemed bothered about respecting them.
We then carried on a short way to where the bulk of the seal colony lay. This part way properly cordoned off and every was kept off the beach, content to observe from the bluffs. The beach was packed with newly weaned pups, old enough to be left by their mothers but still teaching themselves to swim. They all looked very confused, shuffling from one seal to another, as if searching for their mother. Aroung the corner we found a huge gathering of bulls, large crusty looking males that had obviously decided they were going to stay apart from the noisy pups.
Today we have spent the day driving down to Santa Barbara
, stopping at various beaches to sun ourselves and are spending the night in ventura before starting the final leg into LA tomorrow