Death Valley National Park, USA

The drive to Death Valley National Park from Yosemite was going to take about 7 hours and we were going through some pretty boring parts of America.  It was just straight highways with nothing to see and nowhere to really stop. We pulled over for a quick lunch on the side of the road and were quick to get going again. But boy was our mood about to change fast!

As we entered the desert the scenery improved drastically. The landscape was dirt, cactuses and Joshua trees, with mountains in the background. It was stunning. Andrew was pumped to drive through the desert listening to Queen of the Stone Age’s album Songs for the Deaf on full blast. It’s a concept album that was recorded in the Californian desert and it added to the eerie scenery.

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When we got closer to Death Valley National Park the scenery got more and more dramatic. We went over the mountains into the park and had to keep popping our ears.

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We arrived at our accommodation just before it got dark. We were staying at a place called Panamint Springs and the accommodation could not have been more perfect. It wasn’t really a town, not even a village; it was just a few cabins, a collection of permanent tents and a bar. It was exactly what we imagined the desert to be like – empty and kind of creepy. It was fantastic. We were sleeping in a tent slap bang in the middle of the desert, with nothing around us.

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Death Valley attracts a really interesting type of people; you get your hippies and your loners, just interesting people. As we drove in there was even some guy meditating on the bonnet of his car. Why you would choose there to meditate when you’ve got a whole empty desert is beyond me, maybe he was scared of scorpions. After some stargazing and a pretty early night, we woke up early to watch the sunrise. It was very pretty over the mountains, and we enjoyed being able to watch it alone.

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After having some breakfast we started to explore the park. We loved driving in Death Valley National Park, it was exactly how we imagined those long roads in the desert to be: deserted. We played Arctic Monkey’s AM album, which was also recorded in the Californian desert and a personal favourite of mine.

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We stopped at a spot called Mosaic Canyon and went for a short walk. The canyon was beautiful with a lot of what looked to be granite. It was so incredibly hot that I could not imagine going for any big walk in this National Park.

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Mosaic Canyon

Next we had a look at some sand dunes and saw an interesting looking lizard. We wondered why it was letting us get so close for a photo, until we realised it was right in the middle of taking a big poo.

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Sand dunes

We made our way through the park and the landscapes continued to amaze us. We arrived at Badwater Basin, which is a massive salt flat and is 85 metres below sea level (the lowest point in the United States). The salt flats were really impressive and seemed to stretch on forever.

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Salt Flats

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By this time of the day it was so hot and dry that our lips were cracking and our throats were burning. On our way out of the park we drove through a canyon called Artists Canyon, it was a lot of fun going through some tight squeezes and the colours on the rocks were striking.

Death Valley completely exceeded our expectations. The only reason we decided to visit was because we could not go straight through the mountains in Yosemite to Las Vegas (because of the snow); we had to go around. We are so glad this was the case, Death Valley was incredible and a definite highlight of our trip so far. Now some very dusty people and a car headed toward Las Vegas.

Here is a breakdown of our costs for 1 day:

Budget = US$161 (NZ$233)

Accommodation – US$76

Activities – US$10

Food/Drink – US$43

Miscellaneous (Petrol etc) – US$25

Total spent – US$154 (NZ$223)

So we ended up being US$7 (NZ$10) under budget, so it was pretty spot on. We managed to save a bit on food because we had a lot left over from Yosemite.

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