Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference. –Robert Frost

Lois at the Salton Sea Visitor Center

The Salton Sea. After a spring visit to Joshua Tree National Park, Gunter and I avoided the Anza-Borrego “super-bloom” crowds on the way back to San Diego and decided to take the road less traveled, turning toward Indio and the Salton Sea. We took CA Highway 111 to the North Shore Visitor’s Center. The Salton Sea, 34 miles long and encompassing 343 square miles, is the largest lake in California. It is an accidental lake, born from an engineering mistake made 111 years ago. A network of irrigation canals was built across the southern part of the Salton basin. They proved too small to handle flood waters and were poorly built. Inevitably, disaster struck when heavy rainfall combined with snowmelt poured into the canals from the Colorado River. The deluge broke through the canal’s headworks, breached the levees, and flood water flowed into the massive basin. The event created two new rivers, the New and the Alamo. Left to its own devices, the lake would have dried up due to evaporation rates of 180 cm per annum with precipitation of only 5 cm per year. But in 1928 Congress decided to use the manmade lake as a repository of runoff agricultural wastewater from the Imperial Valley, a process that continues until this day despite ongoing protests.

At the Visitor Center, we watched a short video about the ancient and modern history of the Salton Basin. Then we wandered around the area. One sign pointed out that there are 400 different species of birds that visit this sea; some of them stay year-round. Over 400 million Tilapia live in the sea as well. Cahuilla Indians once occupied these lands. Originally the Salton basin held a much larger body of water—ancient Lake Cahuilla, well above sea level. As the lake shrank, natives moved their villages down from the mountains and settled areas once covered by water. Fish camps followed the contours of that ancient lake. Fast forward to the1950s, when the Salton Sea became a tourist haven. Fishing, boating, hotels, and even a yacht club caused beachfront properties to skyrocket. Business boomed as visitors came from all over California.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bombay Beach. A friendly clerk at the Visitor Center said told us that Bombay Beach might be a good place to stop for a homestyle lunch. So, we drove further along 111, marveling at the desert flowers along the way. A small sign pointed to the settlement. We drove past a ramshackle bar/restaurant sporting a sign, Home Cooking. “This can’t be right,” I stammered as we ventured inside. I had imagined sitting on a patio under multi-colored umbrellas viewing the sea! The smell of rancid frying oil, beer, sweat and smoke assailed our senses. Gunter groped for my hand in the darkness. “Let’s get “outta here.”

Back outside and blinded by the sun, I looked back and quipped: “A collection of lost souls thrown into the dungeon.”

We pushed our Nissan onward through the sandy street, past run-down trailers, slab shacks with metal roofs, and rusty vehicles-without-tires collapsed into unkempt yards. As we turned the corner at a concrete dike that blocked the sea view, we encountered a block filled with child-size teepees. An “artist statement” says Ghost Town. Gunter laughed. “This place is a stitch!” We left hungry; that home cooking was nowhere to be seen.

Later we learned that Bombay Beach is a “census-designated place” in Imperial County, with a population of 295 per the 2010 census, down from 366 in 2000. Its elevation is -223 feet. A website called California Curiosities concludes: “I’ve seen the world after the apocalypse, and that world is Bombay Beach.”

Surprisingly, this disaster zone was a thriving resort town during the swinging 50s and 60s. An old sign, still standing, says, WORLD FAMOUS. LOWEST BAR IN THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Salvation Mountain. Hot, tired, and hungry, we drove further along Hwy 111 to Niland, where that same Visitor Center clerk said we couldn’t miss Salvation Mountain, right alongside the road at Niland. But we blinked, and suddenly Niland was in the rearview mirror. “Let’s go back,” I begged.

“No way!” Gunter was determined to head on to Brawley to find someplace for lunch. Then he recanted, “Well, if you drive.”

I spun around in the middle of the road (believe me, this is the road less traveled) and drove back. No mountain. I stopped at a gas station along 111. The clerk smirked as if he’d done this a thousand times. “Just continue two blocks and turn right onto Main Street. Go through town and take the road for about 2 miles. Don’t you worry when it turns into a dirt road. Can’t miss it!”

We bumped along through a deserted desert landscape until we began to see signs of life—lots of trailers and hippie-style shacks alongside the road. Then around a turn, there it was, a psychedelic creation bigger than life! The humongous artwork is made of adobe, straw, and half a million gallons of lead-free paint. Some areas are covered with murals, others with Bible verses and sayings. We parked alongside the road and rambled among all kinds of vans, trucks, and even a boat—all painted with Bible verses and art. Finally, we came to the mountain itself, painted with a red heart and GOD IS LOVE in the center and topped with a white cross. We saw groups of young people trudging to the top while others sang in groups at the bottom. What glorious diversity—people of all sizes, shapes, and colors were walking toward that mountain. Surely, the founder fulfilled his purpose!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Bible says that faith can move mountains. Did you know that faith can also create them? Leonard Knight wanted a mountain in his childhood dream to come true. He also wanted to move to California one day. Born in 1931 near Burlington, Vermont, he was something of a loner and said his schoolmates made fun of him for having a stutter. So, he dropped out of tenth grade and had to learn how to survive on his own. The New Englander spent most his years doing odd jobs in the Midwest. Then during a visit to his sister in San Diego in 1985 he arrived at this hardscrabble spot during a day trip. (Legend has it that he arrived in a hot air balloon.) After “landing,” he heard a message and began erecting a cross. Mixing water and hay, he applied a façade over a sandy ridge and then painted it with motifs and verses such as: Jesus is The Way. God Never Fails. God Forgives Sinners. He added flowers, suns, bluebirds, waterfalls, and a river that flows from the mountain to the Lake of Galilee in the foreground. He lived in a house on the back of the Salvation Truck, a vehicle decorated with the word REPENT writ large. For 28 years, he continued working on the project under the hot desert sun. He greeted visitors strumming his guitar and requested that all donations be in the form of lead-paint, preferably acrylic.

All paint is donated by visitors

The Salvation Truck King

“What started as a small monument of dirt and painted cement became, over time, a sprawling adobe and hay bale mountain complex, with peripheral structures made of telephone poles, tires, and car windows, as well as art cars and sculptures, all painted in a patchwork of stripes and color blocks of whatever paint was donated that week.”
—Aaron Huey, National Geographic

Salvation Mountain has grown to 50 feet high and 250 feet wide. It is truly unique and has touched and inspired visitors from all over the world. In 2011, Knight was moved into a care facility. He passed in 2014. A public charity, Salvation Mountain, Inc., was established in 2012 to support the project. coachellavalley.com

 

Leonard Knight, builder of Salvation Mountain

For more information on Salvation Mountain, go to their website at http://www.salvationmountain.us

Or watch an Amazing Places video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JAjIjXbe3Y or Roadside America https://www.roadsideamerica.com/video/61915

About the Author: Lois and Günter Hofmann lived their dream by having a 43-foot ocean-going catamaran built for them in the south of France and sailing around the world. Learn more about their travel adventures by reading Lois’s nautical adventure trilogy. Read more about Lois and her adventures at her website https://loisjoyhofmann.com.

 


Part VI of the “Our Big Bucket Cruise” blog series

March 25: The Veendam arrives in a moderate gale.

Ushuaia from the Sea

Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Strait of Magellan, and the easternmost part of the Pacific Ocean. Although the city of Ushuaia is in Argentina, most of the main island actually belongs to Chile. At 55° latitude, it holds the distinction of being “the southernmost city in the world.”

Ushuaia, the Southernmost Town in the World

The indigenous people were the Yahgan and Alacalufes (canoe Indians). Surprisingly, despite the inclement weather, they wore little or no clothing. Constant fires kept them warm, hence the region’s name: Tierra del Fuego, land of fire.

I’d always wanted to go to Ushuaia. Stories about the ceaseless wind, the snow-capped Andes, and the magical light had fascinated me.

Even though Günter and I are still not feeling well, and have cancelled our tour here, a catamaran cruise through the Beagle Channel and a ride through the National Park, we bundle up to walk into the town. The wind blasts us so hard it almost knocks us over as we head down the gangplank and onto the pier. We make it to the town’s main drag and then Günter, who now has bronchitis, turns back.

Gunter on the pier near the ship, bundled for the walk

Lois, Bundled for the walk into town.

All the streets climb up the hill from the port, as in San Francisco.  The cross-streets filled with restaurants, bars, tourist and winter apparel shops protect me from the wind.

As I walk along the streets, I begin to fall in love with this southernmost town in the world. Yes, Ushuaia is remote, desolate, and moody as the sun appears and disappears behind the numerous clouds.  Yet the town turns out to be quite charming and picturesque. The colorful buildings are a mixture of architectural designs, from colonial European to ski resort styles with steep roofs. (Ski season here will begin in six weeks.) On the corner is the yellow, multi-storied Horn Hotel. On the facing block is a cozy, blue-shuttered bed-and-breakfast with white fretwork and a garden of struggling blue lupines. Towering over the town is the massive A-framed Albatross Hotel. And behind it all lie the snow-capped Andes. Ushuaia is frontier town with lots of character and a cosmopolitan center of 70,000, all rolled into one.

After exploring the town, I meander over to the sailboat anchorage to take some photos. I cannot imagine the courageous and hardy spirit it takes to sail here! Only 100 years ago, the only people crazy enough to come here were convicts in chains. Prison inmates built the town’s railway, hospital, and port. That prison is now a museum that I pass on the way back to the ship.

Delayed by the port authorities, The Veendam leaves too late to view Glacier Alley, but we do experience a few hours of daylight while winding through Darwin’s famous Beagle Channel.

The Beagle Channel at Sunset Viewed from our Veranda.

The Straits


A must stop on our recent British Virgin Island 10-day sailing charter was Foxy’s on Jost Van Dyke Island.  We wanted to be there, of course, for the famous barbeque that takes place there every Friday and Saturday evening. On this particular week-end, Foxy’s would be sponsoring the Wooden Boat Regatta as well

Those visitors to the islands not on a sailboat can easily get here by boat, water taxi, private charter or ferry service from West End, Tortola; St. John; St. Thomas or from other locations on Jost Van Dyke. To top it off, Foxy even has a new watering hole, Foxy’s Tabu, on Diamond Cay, at East End. I expected that Foxy’s today would no longer be the little funky beach venue that Gunter and I recalled from our previous charter stop there twenty years ago. Even so, for memory’s sake, I wanted to dinghy ashore in the afternoon to see whether Foxy (a.k.a. Philicianno Callwood) might still be holding forth, captivating sailors with his exploits and tales of Caribbean pirates of yore.

banner_0041

I was not disappointed.

As I left the bar and strolled toward the new gift shop with all manner of tourist paraphernalia bearing the Foxy logo, there he was, Foxy himself with his big saucer eyes, barefoot and grinning. He was perched on a white plastic chair, surrounded by a new crop of fresh-faced admirers who would have been toddlers the last time I was there. I stood by watching him tell his sailors’ tales until the group had their fill and moved on. Then I told him that I was pleased to see him again after all these years and was not surprised to find that he had become an institution on the islands, as well as a capitalist and entrepreneur. He smiled and agreed that he hadn’t done badly.

I took a walk along the beach and then around to the back street, photographing tropical homes and flowers, banana trees, and goats. When I returned back to the bar for a beer, Foxy was gone. One lone guitar player sat on the bandstand, strumming a few tunes. I noticed a life-sized, mannequin of a Calypso guitar player standing behind him. Who else but Foxy would have an “epoxy Foxy” made as a stand in for himself so guests won’t feel slighted when he was not there?

Our group scoffed up the barbeque with plates of ribs and chicken piled high. We sipped on dark and stormies made with ginger beer and lots of rum, while the band began with reggae and quickly changed to rock. But Foxy was nowhere to be found. Getting along in years, (he doesn’t know how old he is) I assumed that, having made his appearance in the afternoon, he hightailed it for home, dinner, and bed.

That night, back at the boat in the bay, we reminisced about Foxy holding forth and the how the crowd of sailors would explode in laughter. Later, I found this poem about him posted on the internet, called Troubadour of Jost Van Dyke.

And when he sees you’ve turned red from the sun,
Look out now, ’cause here it comes!
He’s certain to note you’ll turn green when sick
or blue when sad … it’s part of his shtick!
And when he’s done exhausting all shades,
He’ll wait a moment while the music fades …
You could never accuse him of being a dullard
When he abruptly cries, “And you call ME coloured!”

Liane Le Tendre – November 2004
British Virgin Islands


One of the joys of sailing around the world was shopping at ethnic markets and trying out new recipes.  During the time we spent in Australia, I was treated to this marvelous dessert twice.  The first time I encountered it was in Bundaberg, Queensland—in a beauty shop, of all places! I was having my hair colored and cut, and while I was there, a lady came in cradling a box from the local bakery. “Pavlova!” my hairdresser shouted.

“Lois, have you ever tasted this?” she asked. I shook my head no. “You must have a piece. It’s like manna from heaven!”

Not having any idea what manna would taste like (I always thought it was a kind of bread), of course, I agreed to try it.  The soft, sweet meringue melted in my mouth. The fruit provided a tangy contrast. Those tastes—combined with rich whipping cream—indeed tasted like a slice of heaven!

Pavlova is an authentic Australian specialty, so claim the Aussies. This dessert was created in honor of the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, after her tour in 1926 through Australia. But this dessert is also one of the national symbols of New Zealand.  Anna toured both countries that year. So was this recipe was created in 1929 in New Zealand or in 1934 in Australia? The two countries have even taken the fight to court. The controversy makes Pavlova all the more mouth-watering.

I made the dessert for “the kids” last Sunday when they came to our house for dinner. My daughter-in-law, Sabine, guessed that it came from Austria. That’s where Google comes in! All agreed that my version of Pavlova (see below) was lip-smacking good.

Recipe for Mixed Berry Pavlova
1 Pavlova shell
6 cups mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc.) cut as for fruit salad and mixed with a pinch of salt and superfine sugar to taste
2  pints best-quality vanilla ice cream or 1 pint fruit sorbet and 1 pint ice cream (optional; not always  included in a Pavlova, but very good)

Whipped Cream
Whipped Cream Topping:
1 cup very cold heavy cream
4 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the Pavlova shell on a cake plate. Soften the ice cream and/or sorbet (if using). Spread first the ice cream and then the whipped cream over the shell and top with the berries. Slice into wedges or just heap into a bowl.

Pavlova Shell
4 room-temperature egg whites
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tsp. white vinegar
2 tsp. cornstarch

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and draw a heavy 10-inch circle on it. Turn paper over.

2. With the whisk attachment in place, beat egg whites, salt and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer set on medium-low speed. When frothy, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the whites form soft peaks.

3. About 2 teaspoons at a time, add sugar while continuing to beat. Increase the speed to high and beat until stiff and glossy. Beat in vanilla, 1 teaspoon white vinegar, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch.

4. Spoon meringue into the traced circle, smooth with a spatula and shape like a shallow bowl.

5. To cook: Place in the middle of the oven and reduce heat to 250 degrees. Bake for 1¼ hours. Turn off the oven. Leave the meringue in the closed oven for at least 4 hours. Leave the meringue in the turned-off oven to cool, preferably overnight. Should end up crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle.

Pavlova Shell

Adding Sorbet

Pavlova with fruit added

Pavlova, Ready to Serve

Happy Guests


One of the common questions that I am asked about our circumnavigation is this:  “Did you catch many fish when crossing oceans?”  And after I answer “Yes, fresh fish was a primary source of food,” the next question is: “How do you catch a fish under sail?”

“Very carefully,” I answer. “But sometimes, the fish just has to win.”

I’ve posted on SCRIBD an excerpt from my forthcoming book, the second in the “In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss” trilogy, called SAILING THE SOUTH PACIFIC.  It is taken from the chapter “Passage to the Marquesas.”  In this chapter, my husband Gunter and I are sailing our catamaran, Pacific Bliss, directly from San Diego to the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, over 3000 nautical miles away.

Here is a preview:

The One that Got Away

April 4, 2002

There is life out here today, over a thousand miles from the nearest land. Pairs of blue-and-yellow bonito weave alongside the hulls, pursuing schools of flying fish dashing frantically from the crest of one wave to another. The four of us stand on deck for a long time, braced against the dagger boards, watching the marvelous marine show.  We wonder when the next predator in the food chain will arrive, attracted by all the commotion.

It doesn’t take long. Just as we take a break for lunch, the whirl of the reel announces a fish on our line…

 The Second One that Got Away

April 6, 2002

Today, I awaken from my afternoon nap to hear commotion topside. “Lots of birds and dolphins,” Doug informs me, “and where there’s dolphins there’s fi-i-sh.” The reel whirrs as Doug rushes to the holder, picks up the rod, and begins to play the fish.

“Slow ‘er down!” he yells.

“How? We’re sailing.” Gunter heads for the controls at the starboard helm.

“Yeah, I know, at 8 knots. Turn into the wind, quick.” Doug can barely hold onto the rod…

Read the full version at:   http://www.scribd.com/doc/50473221/The-One-That-Got-Away

Pull back! Doug plays the fish

The Reel Bends to the Breaking Point

http://www.scribd.com/doc/50473221/The-One-That-Got-Away


the November 26, 2010 New York Times headline claims:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/26/science/earth/26norfolk.html

And believe you me, from traveling around the world, I know firsthand that these headlines from NYT get picked up by the newspapers of countries everywhere.  They cannot afford to do their own original research. So they simply repeat the dogma. But the editors put these headlines to make a political point, and NYT has always been on the bandwagon of man-made catastrophic climate change. So this fits their agenda.

So what is the truth behind the headline?  Like many other cities, Norfolk was built on filled-in marsh. Now that fill is settling and compacting. In addition, the city is in an area where significant natural sinking of land is occurring. The result is that Norfolk has experienced the highest relative increase in sea level on the East Coast — 14.5 inches since 1930, according to readings by the Sewells Point naval station there.

Amazing isn’t it?  NORFOLK is the only city to experience this high water increase in the sea level on the entire East coast. Think about it.  My husband, Gunter, the physicist, says that “mother nature must have designed a new system for gravity and how water seeks its own level.”  I wonder what that is. The new theory must be that the water in this particular area of the ocean is “X” inches higher than the water in the adjacent but SAME ocean a few hundred miles away!  Call it “Y.”  You can conduct your own experiment:  Just fill a pan partway with water.  Add some stones, or just add a few kitchen utensils.  Now watch the water rise.  Then mark another stone or utensil NORFOLK. Does the water around it rise more or does the water rise evenly all inside the pan?

One has to wonder if the problem is that it’s NOT the water rising, BUT the LAND sinking, but I guess that logic does not fit into the global environmental alarmists’ theory that the sky is falling.

Have the so-called “science writers” gone crazy?  From the article: “We are the front lines of climate change,” said Jim Schultz, a science and technology writer who lives on Richmond Crescent near Ms. Peck. “No one who has a house here is a skeptic.” Politics aside, the city of Norfolk is tackling the sea-rise problem head on, the article emphasizes.

I’ll bet they are.  And they should, if their land is sinking.

Islands are indeed sinking in the South Pacific and in the Indian Ocean.  This happens because most of them are coral atolls, and as they age, the land sinks. But the ocean levels do not rise just around them—only in their part of the sea. Think back to the pan experiment.

Those of you who are interested in geography and science can investigate this further by going to the diagram on my website in the story: “The Enlightened Environmentalist at http://www.pacificbliss.com/journal182.html You can go on to read the true story of Melanesian Carteret islanders, touted as the first global warming refugees by the ABC (Australian Broadcasting System) and later picked up by BBC and CNN.  And then continue to Part III of the story to find what Gunter and I discovered about the “sinking islands” of the Maldives, where they mined their coral reefs for construction material.

New York Times: get with it!  Don’t ask us to defy logic. As Barnum supposedly said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”