I loved the six days that we spent in Oahu, Hawaii and it was hard to have to wrench ourselves away from the laid back atmosphere of the place, it’s jaw-droppingly beautiful beaches and of course Kiki’s Bar (see previous post) but we had other fish to fry and other places to go to if we were to continue on our mission to straddle Gaia’s girdle in 21 days.
Ever since the first time that I met the Irishman he’s talked about Joshua Tree. ‘You’ll love it Lottie; I just know you will love it! and the first chance that we have, I’m going to take you there’. Sure as eggs are eggs, my Irishman has remained true to his word and thanks to him being invited to present a paper at the AIGA conference in Hawaii before Christmas, this suddenly meant that Joshua Tree was just a mere 5 hour flight and 3 hour car journey from where we were, a veritable spitting distance in global terms.
After touching down in LA, we picked up our rental car and out onto the highway heading due east. It was rush hour and every Tom, Dick and Harriet were making their way, either back home, or into LA on the 8-lane motorway. As the late afternoon light quickly began to fade and darkness now surrounded us, the headlamps and tail lamps of the myriad cars made it seem as though we were part of a slow motion version of the Stars and Stripes as the mass evening exodus out of, and into the City of Angels began.
A journey that should perhaps have taken 3 hours max took over 4.5 but the sat- nav steered us through mountainous passes, bleak trading posts, massive wind farms and silent backwaters until eventually the signs to Joshua Tree started to read just 10 miles instead of 190 miles. It was late by now and as we left the main road and found ourselves negotiating bumpy, desolate sand tracks we felt sure that we must be nearly there. But we weren’t. 8 long miles outside of Joshua Tree we were for the first time in a long time, in the middle of nowhere. Not a light, not a lamp, not a house, nothing, just silence and desert and shrub illuminated in the cars headlamps.
Amazingly, and nothing short of a miracle as far as I was concerned, Oh so Streetwise Madame Garmin had found
our cabin and I, the doubting Thomas that I am (due to previous bad experiences with in-car navigation devices other than trusty road maps) had to eat my words as we struggled stiffly out of the car and then found ourselves almost blown away by the biting winds coming off the desert around us. It was absolutely freezing. Once we’d negotiated the sophisticated cabin security system and let ourselves in, we were enchanted as like two kids we rushed through the house checking out the bedroom, the bathroom and the kitchen making loud exclamations through chattering teeth and exhaling clouds of breath every time we opened our mouths to speak!
Our initial excitement after orientation of the cabin soon waned as it dawned on us that we had nothing to eat or drink, nor any firewood to heat the place so there was nothing for it but to get back into the car and head back to Joshua Tree and hope that there might be a shop/bar or indeed anything that could supply us with the vittels and fuel that we needed to stave off starvation and hyperthermia until the morning.
It’s always interesting meeting the locals in any new place. First impressions do count and all I can say is that I was petrified when we were introduced to our first bone fide Joshua Tree residents at the gas station. We’d decided to stop there because there was a shop attached to it where we could make our necessary purchases. As we got out of the car, suddenly out of nowhere, we were approached by two men who looked pretty scary. Bearing in mind that the temperature that night was sub-zero, one of the men was bare footed, and the other was swinging an oil can in one hand, and a hammer, (but just as may as well have been a machete) in the other. Clearly these desert folk wanted not just our blood but also our entire life savings. Muttering profound obscenities, they followed us into the shop. I grabbed a basket a la ‘supermarket sweep’ style and tore bread, eggs, milk, sugar, butter, jam, off the shelves faster than I have ever done in my life – as I grappled the chiller door to grab as many cans of beer that I possibly could, Irishman held the two axe-murderers at bay by chasing them around the shop and darting round the two tiny aisles to keep them away. Of course we couldn’t just do a runner and leave the shop, we had goods to pay for, logs to be brought out from the back so we then had to suffer the indignity of having the axe-murderers torment us as we paid. Fleeing to the car, weighted down with bags, we met another character. He had a long and sad story to tell, he too had a hammer.
To be continued: