Photo: Im Yanis

What Is Your Most Surreal Travel Experience?

by Christine DeSadeleer May 29, 2009
Often, travel experiences can go beyond words. But once in a while, they cross into territory beyond comprehension…into the surreal.

“Life can be pretty surreal at times. And travel is no exception to the rule,” write Dave and Deb, the bloggers behind The Planet D.

In recent post, they chronicle a few of their most surreal travel experiences.

We seem to have some of our strangest experiences when we are on the road. Some of them are completely out of our control and we just have to hang on and enjoy the ride. While others have been completely our own doing. A momentary lapse of reason if you will. Either way, they make for some fun stories around the campfire.

Which got me thinking…

Without a doubt, the most surreal travel experience I had involved snow, hot springs, and 3 mailboxes out in the middle of the desert, no houses in sight.

It was mid-May, and we left at 5 o’clock rush hour east of San Francisco, heading up highway 80 towards Lake Tahoe. Hot air came in through the cracked window as we sat in traffic, but I simply relaxed in the passenger seat.

A friend had led this trip many times before, so for once, I was able to completely let go of the reigns and just sit back and enjoy.

Due to a game of “let’s point out all the weird, dreamy stuff we see” (which is pretty easy to do once you start paying attention – pink buses, guy dressed in drag on the side of the road, etc.), several hours passed quickly, and I noticed the air change as we climbed into the Northern California mountains.

Snow And Heat

Suddenly, I noticed snowflakes falling lazily onto the windshield. I literally felt as if I had been transported to another part of the world.

I couldn’t believe the feeling of sitting in the middle of nowhere, the snow hitting my face as I warmed my body in the hot spring.

Then the darkness began to set in as we made our way past the brightly-lit casinos on the Nevada side of Tahoe, turning off the road onto a dirt path.

My friend drove the switchbacks through the small bushes and what resembled tumbleweed. I wondered, “How the hell does he know where we’re going?”

Abruptly, we came to a stop at the end of dirt path, and he said to me, “let’s go.”

Out of the rented four-wheeler (it was always his approach to rent, knowing some serious damage might happen to the car in the places we were going) we jumped, and in the dead of night, made our way to a tiny, hidden pool of hot water.

Did I mention it was still snowing? That quickly became the fastest I’ve ever stripped. But I couldn’t believe the feeling of sitting in the middle of nowhere, the snow hitting my face as I warmed my body in the hot spring.

After grabbing a hotel room that night, we headed south to Saline Valley, located right beside Death Valley in California. We had to make a stop by these incredible sand dunes, where the most insane wind I’ve ever experienced made our hike to the top and along the edges a bit scary (and sandy in the teeth), but hardly prepared me for where we would transpire just a couple of hours later.

Oasis In The Desert

My friend had often told me of this “oasis in the desert,” but I couldn’t believe it until I saw it.

In the middle of Saline Valley, a humongous desert landscape surrounded by mountains, were two natural hot springs with friggin’ palm trees and grass surrounding them.

Apparently, hippies had been trekking there since the 60s, and somehow planted grass in the middle of the desert, with volunteers keeping it up over the years.

Because it is so hard to get to, and there are no signs, only those who know-the-way make it there. Which made the existence of three lonely mailboxes (what the hell are those doing out there?) all the more bizarre.

On that short, two-day trip, I felt a spiritual connection to the Earth that I had never known before. But I also found myself wondering… was it all just a dream?

What is your most surreal travel experience? Share your stories below!

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