On 5th April Andrew, Ellie, Hope and Isobel came with Claire in three cars to go to the airport to see us off. We waved goodbye, and got on our Air New Zealand flight which took off about 4.30. We landed at LA about 7.05 local time. Immigration was fairly fast, and we picked up our luggage and arranged for a firm to come and pick up two of the cases and store them for a week. We had a bit of hassle picking up the hire car, but by 11.00 we had collapsed in bed at Howard Johnsons.
The next day we headed south, picking up the Pacific Coast Highway. We first stopped at Redondo Beach, and then at Huntingdon Beach. This was authentic Southern California – beach volleyball, loads of cyclists and skaters, the works. At Crystal Cove State Park we did some walking. Along the beach and then up into the hills. We spent the night at a motel in Laguna Beach, with a jacuzzi bath.
The next day we explored Laguna Beach, with some great clifftop views, and then drove on southwards and stopped again at San Clemente, another typical Southern California beach place. From there we got on the I-5 and drove straight down to San Diego, unfortunately ending up at a fairly manky motel. We had dinner in the Gaslamp district, where the bars and restaurants mainly are.
On 8th April we visited Old Town, a Disneyfication of the original historic centre of San Diego, with original and replica buildings and actors dressed in period costumes. We found a quaint period guest house and booked in, before visiting Balboa Park. This is quite extensive and impressive, but does the world’s worst cappuccinos. Then we drove across the big bridge to Coronado and had cocktails in the big flash hotel there. In the evening we had dinner and drinks back in the Old Town before retiring to our four-poster bed.
On Wednesday 9th we drove to Point Loma and the Cabrillo National Monument, and did a short walk there, before heading inland on the I-8. We headed north from there to Borrego Springs and then the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center. That evening we did a 3-mile hike up Palm Canyon before finding a motel for the night.
The next day we did another interesting hike before driving east, turning off on a rough track to get to Font’s Point. The view from there was fantastic, over the Borrego Badlands. We drove on to the Salton Sea, a vast inland lake, and then to Palm Springs. We enjoyed this more than we expected, especially as on Thursday evening they filled the main street with craft stalls and we enjoyed strolling along a people-watching.
On Friday 11th we visited Joshua Tree National Park, which is an amazing place with the weird Joshua Trees and strange rock formations. We did several short hikes, and drove out through the southern entrance, visiting a bizarre cholla cactus garden on the way. It was all definitely worth seeing. We returned to palm Springs for the night.
On our last day in California we went up the cablecar to the top of San Jacinto Mountain. We did some hiking up there, with snow still on the trails and views over the desert below. From there we drove west on the I-10, eventually turning southwards to Venice Beach. The traffic was bad and we had little time there. We found a cafe and sat outside having drinks and watching the ‘beautiful’ young people got past. We drove back to the airport, left the car, and picked up our other cases, before checking in for the onward flight to Auckland and Wellington.