Thursday, December 8, 2011

Californian Splendours---17 Miles Drive

This panoramic state derives its name from the mythical island California in a 16th century popular Spanish novel; ruled by Queen Calafia and its beautiful, brave, strong, all women Amazon warriors who used gold tools and weapons! My wife Poonam and I dreamily flew from classy, vast Houston to vibrant San Francisco crossing beautiful territories below us. Even the air-hostess told me that she loved to fly over these regions! We were warmly received and taken to Sunnyvale, 30 miles south by our dear, friend Gopal with whom we stayed ; it was still daylight though the time was nearing 8PM. Refreshing ourselves, we had a sumptuous dinner with barbequed, tender goat meat accompanied by a good scotch. His flamboyant son, a software industry higher up, also had the hobby of nice-cooking, once in a while! Relieved of the harsh 100+ temperatures of Houston, we slept soundly covered with quilt in the 60+ temperatures here. Summer in the Texas region was punishing this year!

Next morning, we enthusiastically started for the scenic, countryside 17 miles drive, hugging the Pacific coastline. It was just cool and clean everywhere with mountains all around covered with lush, verdant pines. The whole, more than 100 miles, route from Sunny Vale was filled with ripe farms of artichokes, asparagus, strawberries, lettuce, you-name-it-they-have-it! Yes, California produces around 80% of U.S. fruits and vegetables! Fresh artichokes being mechanically harvested immaculately and cartoned was also a sight to behold amidst the eye-filling green fields. Perhaps such landscapes of the Silicon Valley gave romantic Steve Jobs an aesthetic vision in the design of personal computers!

We entered the drive at Shepherd’s Knoll on a cold, foggy day in late September. The fog engulfed the view of the Monterey Peninsular arc from the knoll and created a dreary atmosphere with a number of Western seagulls perched on sand in a certain part of the beach. But this was the way nature helped moderation of temperatures in summer and also reasonable supply of water to coastal forests! Forgetting about the promising sunsets in the evening; cold due to the strong breeze from the grey Pacific, we walked back towards our car, crossing strands of kelp (a proteinous, edible seaweed) in several places. And we chanced into pretty, colorful clusters of Ice plants on elevated mounds of sand. These charming, Hottentot figs (the other name, and I loved it as it conveyed something warm instead of ice!) with flowers of various hues are of South African origin; they control soil erosion and are also very fast spreading.

We moved on to Huckleberry Hill, from where again the views of the bay and Del Monte forests were marred due to the fog, but we could spot a deer or two at levels lower to us with binoculars. Soon we reached Poppy Hills, resorts having highly esteemed golf courses of the world. But I found myself least interested in them and their pleasant, cultured appearance as we had traversed beautiful green fields just sometime back! Also the whole 17 miles of the peninsula with beautiful beaches; restless, naughty waters and rugged rocky shores was ahead with the promise of the fog, giving way to brightness! The grand mansions of the affluent community, hidden behind screens of huge pines and the famous, huge Poppy Hills Golf Course with 18 holes, did not carry much meaning to the normal tourists charmed by the glories of nature even under adverse settings!

We moved along the serpentine route through lush green Monterey pines towards Spanish Bay, from where the beautiful beaches, accompanied by imaginatively designed Golf Courses started. In the adjacent town of Pacific Grove lived the Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck for a number of years, who wrote Tortilla Flat around the Monterey Peninsula! Strolling along the shoreline for a while with hands in pockets as the breeze was very cool for us, we drove towards the Restless Sea and Point Joe where huge white waves in the waters galloped towards the coast threateningly; mainly due to the submerged rocks breaking the waves earlier. Then we reached Bird Rock, a hill at a distance from the shores, sheltering a fantastic combination of cormorants, gulls and roosting pelicans during spring and summer and also seals, sea lions and otters with kelp around them. This happened to be the point of maximum interest for us as we watched the verity of fauna on the hill with binoculars.

We also had fun, feeding friendly, big seagulls flying and perching around us as we offered them feed; yeah…, the spine-chilling birds of Alfred Hichcock’s suspense thriller “The Birds” were really a good surprise! So also the playfully darting squirrels resting on thighs for nuts in the palms! All this with the saxophonic bellowing of the sea lions at a comfortable distance on the Hill and to top it all, we also had the rare, magnificent view of a big cormorant with wings spread on a nearby rock and a seal resting near its feet as if courting!

Well, with fun at heart and ducky world famous Golf courses (Spyglass Hill, Cypress Point Club) on the way, we moved on to the “Lone Cypress” with its bright green foliage at the flat top and the lunging haggard trunk, braving the teasing, Pacific! Yes, the over 250 yrs. Old tree, standing alone on a huge, granite really dramatized its valor on the live canvas formed with the ocean around!

It deserved to be the symbol of the prospering Pebble Beach and its enterprising residents. American restaurateur Al Bernardin, one of the residents of this elite area was the inventor of the, 420 klcl. Quarter Pounder, real macho, whole burger of McDonald’s! This weird variety of cypresses, due to very strong coastal winds, directly known as Monterey cypress now happened to be small populations in Monterey and Carmel.Some of them, as old as two thousand years had scary Halloween effects, combined with the persisting fog and memories of the “Ghost Tree” and the likes.

Steadily driving over the unusual cypress trees route we reached Pescadero Point, the northern point of the Bay. Here the famous, ghastly Witch Tree, also used for scenes by suspense film-makers, relentlessly withstood the harsh winds till it perished on Jan.14, 1964 in a storm. This was the only on which the important Hindu harvest festival of Sankranti occurred, and the atmosphere made me think of weaving a suspense thriller myself!

Curving over the Pebble Beach Golf Links, one of the most prestigious and beautiful golf courses in the world with some holes along the coastline, and the Stillwater Cove we reached the cute, town of Carmel towards the evening, still foggy! This wonderful, go-natural place, where wearing high-heels was prohibited as one was likely to trip over pavements distorted by roots of trees, was mostly developed by its worthy residents who happened to be the treasures of the country in the form of artists, poets and writers of the kind of Robinson Jeffers and Mary Austin. We walked along a calmly busy street and entered a store, also selling verities of tasty sauces and dressings. Gopal picked up a small jar of cranberry sauce and a good Californian wine for a turkey dinner. Then we moved on to the Carmel Plaza, another pleasant shopping centre with something for everyone. We bought a large Cappuccino for each one of us from a bistro and enjoyed the lively music and dance going on in the open space outside; where people leisurely accommodated themselves at the conveniently arranged tables. Yeah…some of them with their dogs in this exceptionally dog friendly town, where pets were allowed even in restaurants and hotels, having doggie-menus and provision of water for the pets! This lovesome town happened to be the home-town of the cigar smoking, gun-toting megastar Clint Eastwood who in reality strongly supported the selling and eating of ice cream on the streets as he contested to be the mayor of Carmel. Well…, mind you that he is a life long non-smoker and of course, gem of a healthy gentleman who regularly practices Transcendental Meditation! I tried to conclude that this was a good place for me to attain Nirvana provided some Richie Rich patronized me!

image from,r:0,s:21

Raja Ram Atre

1 comment:


Sir this the time when you should give more time to writing specially on travel write ups ..your narration of journey is superb..