Saturday, December 09, 2006

Big Sur

In the morning we checked out and headed back on route 1 towards the coast. Our first stop was just down the road in the town of Morro Bay. Passing by three large smokestacks from an old canning factory we arrived at Morro Rock, a very large rock connected to the town by a road. Lots of people were out fishing and birdwatching along the breakwater. It was the perfect day for it with blue skies and warm but not too hot.

Not far from Morro Bay is the small town of Cambria, where we stopped for a quick lunch. There are three parts to the town, an older part, a newer touristy part next to the highway and a beachfront part. We ended up by bad judgement at the second of the three, although it was reasonably pleasant.

William Randolph Hearst (on whom Citizen Kane was based) built a huge ‘castle’ in the area. We passed it on the highway, but declined the idea of taking the tour. We were much more interested in what lay about five miles up the coast, a large seal colony. We stopped in two of the parking spots in order to get a good view of the elephant seals in the colony. During December the bulls come in to shore so we were able to see several of the huge animals along with the smaller females. When I say huge I’m not kidding. I was blown away by the size of them.

Back on the highway and we were soon in the area known as Big Sur. Big Sur is not really a specific town, rather the name for a stretch of the central California coastline. From the moment we hit the southern part we were travelling through jaw-dropping scenery the rival of any we’ve seen thus far on this trip. The craggy hills run right to the ocean with the road winding precariously along the side of them. Our average speed plummeted, but this was all the better to enjoy the views. We stopped in several small parking areas for a look out over the ocean. We were rewarded at two of these over and above the views of beautiful little coves. At the first we saw pods of dolphins leaping, so many of them that almost everywhere I rested my eyes I would see a group. At the second a white spray from the water alerted us to the presence of a whale, most likely a grey or humpback whale migrating to it’s winter breeding grounds.

The sun was getting lower in the sky and not wanting to rush on to Monterey or drive the winding coast road in the dark we decided to book in somewhere at the village, the place that is sometimes shown as Big Sur on the map. The village is a rather scattered lot of accommodation and eating choices. We pulled in and got a room for the night at Glen Oaks Motel. The room was a little over-priced for what it was but beggars can’t be choosers.

In the morning we turned back and went South again to visit places that we’d skipped over in our hurry to get a room the night before. A short way down the coast we came to a state park which is famous for it’s waterfall. We jumped out, paid the day access fee for the park and walked round the the waterfall view. The waterfall wasn’t too spectacular, but the coastal scenery was. Little unaccessible beaches nestled between rocky outcroppings and the sun made the ocean sparkle. On the way back northward we stopped at every turn off to check out the view. It continued to be beautiful. In several of the clifftop stops the barking of sea lions echoed loudly. The top of the cliffs was a great vantage point for watching the seals cut through the water. We took our time travelling up the road until we’d passed the limit of Big Sur and reached the towns of Carmel and Monterey.

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