Travel Black Book: Desert dreams

Travel Black Book: Desert dreams

Who: Elizabeth Lazan, 31, is a Singaporean actress based in Los Angeles with her husband, Ivan Lee Mora, 37, a glass artist and designer.

Favourite destination: Mojave Desert, California

Why: Ivan and I visited the Mojave while we were doing a road trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, to commemorate our move to Los Angeles as newlyweds last year. We decided to go through the desert as an initiation to a new chapter in our lives. I had never experienced the Californian desert. Everything blew my mind. Standing in the midst of towering sand dunes makes you marvel at the limitless beauty and astronomical power of nature.

Favourite hotel

We were looking for accommodation with hot springs and there weren't many options near the Mojave. We settled for Delights Hot Springs Resort (www.delightshotspringsresort.com) in the town of Tecopa. It has very basic, simple rooms, but also private, clean pools where you can look up at the stars while soaking in the heated natural desert water at night.

Favourite activity

Drive around the desert trails (www.nps.gov/moja/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm) and you can see much of the Mojave's amazing scenery and the Joshua trees, which the desert is famous for. The Joshua tree is one of 200 endemic plants found only in the Mojave. The unique tree looks like something out of a Tim Burton movie.

Make sure you get a map from the preserve's visitor centre before you start your drive because GPS and phone signals are unreliable.

Best hidden find

When I was at the Crowbar Cafe and Saloon in Shoshone Village, a small town in the desert, I had a bad neck ache from the long hours of driving. I started chatting casually with a woman at the table beside us and she turned out to be a well-known massage therapist based in Tecopa, the town where we were staying.

I went to see her the next day and after one session, my back felt so much better. If you're there, do go and see Karin Pine (Corner of Tecopa Hot Springs and Elias Roads, Tecopa, CA 92389; tel: +1-760-852-4478; tecopahotspringsmassage.com).

Must-visit site

Make sure you go to the Kelso Dunes, 120 sq km of migrating pink dunes, the tallest of which are about 200m tall.

You have to hike to the dunes and it takes about two hours to get to the top. With the wind and heat, it's a tough hike, so remember to have water, good shoes, sunscreen and a camera with you. The cap I wore made a world of difference.

Go in the morning to avoid the afternoon heat, but the sunset is supposed to be amazing from the top. Just make sure you get back down before it turns dark or bring a torchlight.

The sand on the dunes is so soft and the view is just out of this world. There were only five other people hiking the trail when we were there and its seclusion makes it even more magical.

Ideal time to visit

Go in May, June, September or October. The Mojave is the driest of North America's deserts and has extreme weather during its summer and winter seasons - Death Valley in the northern end of the desert holds the record for the highest air temperature in the world at 57 deg C though average daily temperatures range from 35 deg C in the summer to 13 deg C in winter.

Ideal length of stay

Anywhere from a day trip to five days, depending on what you are looking for. The desert is huge and you can explore the surrounding towns on a multi-day road trip. Drive up to Death Valley or down to Joshua Tree National Park and Pioneer town - a quaint, vintage desert town with shops and cafes.

Travel tips

Petrol stations are not easy to come across in the desert, so fill up before you start your drive.

We opted to stay in a hotel, but if you plan on camping or want more information about the region, I suggest you go to the Mojave National Preserve (www.nps.gov/moja) visitor centre, where there are regular scheduled chats with park rangers

vlydia@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on August 4, 2015.
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