The next morning when we woke up in The Rustic Motel in Olancha after our drive in the dark from Death Valley we were surprised and delighted with the amazing views from our motel room, it was only fantastic. Then we were off again on our 260 mile drive to Santa Maria and the Pacific Coast. We took a short cut along the edge of Sequoia National Park and boy were we happy that we did. The drive was amazing, following a river along the way and through valley after valley of great views.
The views and landscape changed as we drove, we started with the Joshua trees of the desert, then sparse forests on the winding river valleys at Kern Valley, then we had flat farm land with fruits orchards before Bakersfield and then water pumps and derricks. The farms became so big they had porta-loos and in fact we are sure that we found a porta-loo farm....see the picture.
Finally we arrived in Santa Maria and then the 18 miles of Pacific Coast dunes were within our grasp, we had finally reached the sea, it is amazing how much we had missed it. At Oso Flaco Lake we walked the mile of boardwalk that leads through lagoons and lakes along the dunes and on to the the beach. We saw a great variety of bird life and were delighted to see a group of white pelicans in a choreographed fishing dance. Lunch had to be had in the rock and roll diner....two train carriages and a great piece of American history, not to mention a great burger!
Shortly after this we reached Pismo Beach where we bought ice-creams and went for a walk on the 1200 foot wooden pier and watched the dolphins, the sea lions, the surfers and a lovely California sunset, a lovely evening. The place looked nice so we decided to stay in the Shell Beach Inn a little along the coast at Shell Beach and in the morning spend some more time in and around the town.
We left Pismo and started driving up the Pacific Coast Highway looking forward to the famous views along this coastline. The drive began cold and foggy and as we drove north the fog continued to roll in from the sea. We stopped by the side of the road to try and see the sea and we got attacked by squirrels!!! They forced me into the car and kept me cornered there with Alan laughing and being unable to protect me as he was creased up on the ground! Continuing on we got to a viewing area to see an Elephant Seal colony where the smells, the sounds of crying babies and the barking of the males while they threw sand over themselves was facinating to see, even with the fog billowing around.
We continued on our journey hoping to savour the long coastline drive with a dramatic scenery of land meeting ocean, however, it was not to be, we drove through fog and damp air and were sometimes lucky to see the sea below the cliffs when we stopped to see if there was a view. We continued on in the dark passing through Big Sur and ending up in Monterey Bay.
We were hoping to dive in Monterey, but again the weather was against us and after a few enquiries the gales now blowing had whipped up the sea and visibility and conditions were "not ideal" as Willie would say. So we spent a little time wandering around the shops and restaurants and generally being tourists and the following day we visited the Aquarium.
We had a wonderful morning going around the aquarium, they have a growing kelp forest, showing all of the life in the ocean outside, that we did not get the chance to dive. Their sea horse and sea dragon exhibits were excellent and kept us mesmerised for hours. After a couple of hours spent in the Aquarium we went for lunch/dinner and then headed out on the road to Santa Cruz.