The Big Sur drive is one of the most famour routes, immortalised by the works of John Steinbeck. We had been warned that the road was quite a winding one, but figured - hey we're from NZ, we have many winding roads. Which is true, but the Big Sur route is quite a long one.
We started with a brief visit to Camel-by-the-sea. There are apparently lots of quirky houses here, but we didn't see any truly strange ones. Just quaint and charming buildings nestled into the trees - there was even a Thomas Kinkade shop in the little shopping district. We wind our way through the grid of streets to the beautiful golden-white beach, shimmering blue water
flecked with patches of kelp (which we scanned without avail for sea
otters). Early morning dog walkers are up and about, and crows roost in a skeletel tree. I find a keycard lying in the sand.
general store looks like it belongs in a storybook. Beyond it the road dips in and out of the pine forest, offering stunning vistas of the ocean - of sparkling blue water speckled with kelp.
Sheer cliffs, rocky outcrops give a stark and wild beauty, mostly unobscured by trees. I can understand why Big Sur has its reputation. It is a view often marred by fog - which given our Alcatraz visit, we were a bit concerned about. Needlessly, as it turned out - the view is clear and crisp. The sand is golden-white and dunes frame the road, carpeted in red, green and gold.
The road veers away from the sea and heads inland a while, the the township of El Padre where we pass through a small strand of redwoods, amongst which nestles a small church. Here there are campgrounds, a store - this is the actual "Big Sur" area should you be looking for accommodation. Then it is back to the shoreline.
The views are stunning, but not properly enjoyed by the poor driver, who must keep his concentration on the road. It is not that the Big Sur is particularly demanding - it winds a fair amount by US standards but it's not exactly like a switchback-roaded hill as is typical in NZ. It just goes on. And on.
At Lusia I find welcome relieve at the General Store. Outside, under the sign, swifts dart and dive under and around it. A brief investigation shows why:
After that, the roads become much straighter, the driving somewhat less strenuous. We are now in the San Simeon area, home to Hearsts' Castle. Where, sadly, the driver decides not to make the detour. There are still many miles to cover before we reach LA.
We do stop to meet some of the locals. This is the most accessible elephant seal colony on the mainland. Apparently they moved in here some years ago. There are volunteers on site, observing the animals and answering questions.
Here you will see the "mammalian slug" description rings very true too!
We stop at Santa Barbara, to lounge by the beach. It is a busy place, with golden-white sand and lots of people enjoying the sun - even a few bathers. The pristine beauty is marred only by the oil rigs, lining up on the horizon like ominous invaders. We enjoy milkshakes and a brief respite from the road. This is typical California - palm trees, Spanish-esque architecture; sun, sea and sand.