Sunday, 21 December 2014

Too Hot For Hershey's....

Get in the Van Pt 3

We have left behind Yosemite, Death Valley, the Grand Canyon and we are at our
4th and final National Park on G Adventure’s San Fran to LA Express.


The Joshua Tree swelters before me. I look across the scorched Mojave landscape and I feel like I could be in one of three movies.

First a Western. Its to easy to imagine a cowboy on a colt appearing on the shimmering horizon, slowly riding this way, 10 gallon hat shading sweaty eyes from the sun, a six-shooter holstered at his side. An outlaw in the Wild West, a gun for hire, looking for a safe camp for the evening.

The huge rock formations that some of Nando’s Thirteen are clambering across (some more successfully than others) resemble what I imagine dinosaur dung piles look like but super massive. From behind one of them I could well imagine a huge prehistoric monster emerging.

That’s the second movie – The Lost World. There is nothing in view to suggest this is 2014 and this habitat is like nothing I have seen before. The Joshua trees are spectacular, like the bastard offspring of a palm tree and a cactus. T-Rex or Diplodocus would not be a surprise or seem out of place here.

While the more energetic members of our tour party scale the rocks (dino-poop) I have decided to look for rattle snakes. I persuade a couple of others to join me on this reptile hunt. 


I figure it is no more hazardous than the rock climbing the others are doing. We poke about amongst the crevices and folds of the weird rocks. We don’t find any rattlers but we do see some cool little lizards, a distant echo of the dinosaurs that once roamed the Mojave.


A shadow moves across the desert floor. Overhead are the ubiquitous Turkey Vultures, they have been a constant feature on our drives across the desert. Several are circling above us, perhaps hoping we find a snake and come to grief. We disappoint them by staying healthy during our wander about the park.

The sky is an intense cobalt blue and the Joshua Trees look stunning against it, like alien cheerleaders. Long gnarly arms/branches end in spiky green leaves/pom-poms. This place could be another world, not a lost world.


For our third movie we could be in a sci-fi alien adventure, discovering a new world, making first contact. I think we have a pretty decent set of people on our tour and would make great ambassadors for the human race.

I loved the Joshua Tree. It might not have the history of Yosemite, the grandeur of the Grand Canyon or the notoriety of Death Valley but I think it was my favourite park.

All of the films we could have been in would undoubtedly have been filmed in widescreen. As I look out over the Mojave I can’t help but think that I should be seeing this with a black stripe at the top and bottom of my field of view.


The heat is rising and my water bottle is draining fast. I’m feeling hungry too. I reach into my shoulder bag for a snack (regular readers of this blog will know my penchant for munchies while out and about).
I find my chocolate bar between my notebook and map of the park. As I bring it out of the bag it gives a little, well a lot. I should have realised when I packed it that this would happen. Total meltdown. Joshua Tree is too hot for Hershey’s.


We jump back in Lucy for the last time.

Nando pushes the pedal and aims us for LA, a final night with our fellow explorers and a flight home beckon.

In the van I am staring at the passing countryside as it fades into suburban sprawl and reflecting on the trip. Parts have gone as I expected, most of it has exceeded those expectations. I would recommend G Adventures to anyone. Fun, safe, ethical and value. Good people.

It seems I was wrong in my belief that I am too old and cynical to be inspired by new places and new people. The bus was awash with enthusiasm and optimism, as we neared our final hotel I was thinking:

“Don’t stop, keep going, more, now, again, further…”

I want to see it all, I want to travel to the ends of the earth and photograph it all.



I saw the sign shown in the picture above in the departure lounge of Copenhagen airport after a crazy trip to the Norwegian arctic and it felt so true as the van hummed and bumped into town.

While the plane climbed out of LAX I realised I learned a bit about photography too. Since I started taking pictures seriously I have learned all I can about sensors, settings, exposures, composition and editing. This has made me some great pictures but is time consuming and as my wife reminds me, it isn’t exactly spontaneous.

I loved the pictures my fellow travellers were taking. So many pictures, some shot with profile pictures in mind, they were snapped, shared and liked in a matter of seconds. Such spontaneity was inspiring.

I look from the oval plane window and see we are crossing the Mojave once more, this time from the air. In a burst of new found spontaneity I whip out the camera and snap a couple of shots from the window. As I look down on the golden sands it hits me how far we travelled but how much more there is to explore…


So…. Get in the van!

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