Big Sur

We've had a very busy day today. There are so many things to see in the short drive up the coast to Mitre. We started by checking out Morro Rock, a huge volcanic rock which in the end was nothing compared to the rest of the coast up North.

We then stopped at Nitt Wit Ridge, a house built out of rubbish by an eccentric town garbage collector called Arthur Harold Beal who, instead of taking the garbage to the dump, built a house with it over the course of 50 years. Some residents see it as an eyesore, others (and us) as a great piece of urban folk-art. Arthur was eventually evicted and put in a home against his will. After his death his creation was ransacked slightly, but not damaged too much. Eventually it was bought by a couple who repaired some of the worse parts and cleaned up the gardens and who now show you round on a short half-hour tour.

Nitt Wit Ridge is the antithesis to Hearst Castle, the huge mansion built by William Randolph Hearst (the newspaper magnate). Forever the champions of the common people, and to avoid spending nearly 2 hours (with kids) tramping around all that opulence, we gave it a miss. We'd rather see a humble pile of junk house than a "monument to wealth and ambition".

A bit further down the road is California's biggest elephant seal colony. Even though the sun was shining there was a nasty cold wind so we only saw them briefly, but they were a magnificent sight. There must have been a few hundred of the beasts down on the beach. Not good lookers at the best of times, as they were moulting they weren't going to win any pretty animal awards.

Now we were really in Deep Sur territory. The whole coast down here is pretty spectacular, and we stopped at quite a few of the carparks along the way for a quick photo (and back to the nice warm car). As a future famous photographer I must say the light here is pretty bad - it always seems to be pretty hazy. I have no idea why they chose this area to make movies, maybe it isn't always like this, maybe near Hollywood it isn't hazy, or maybe this makes good light for film shooting, I don't know.

Another remarkable stop was to see the McWay Falls, California's only coastal waterfall. The falls themselves are nothing special, but the beach and the sea and the rocks make for an amazing setting. By now Aisha had fallen asleep so we took turns to do the short walk by the cliff. Lucas went both times as he liked scrambling down the dirt track to the main path.

From here we drove straight on to Monterey. We had wanted to stop at Pfeiffer Beach but missed the signpost. Drove through Carmel without stopping as it was getting late but we will retrace our steps tomorrow to visit the mission and, if we have time, some sea lions. We are meeting up with friends on Sunday so we probably won't have time to visit the Steinbeck Centre in Salinas. Though, much as we both love Steinbeck (I'm reading The Winter of Our Discontent at the moment), there probably isn't much in it for the kids.

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