Santa Barbara has so far been my favourite stop on the trip, and although I was sad to be leaving, the journey from there to Carmel was beyond incredible. I booked the rather complicated journey in a very simple process on the Amtrak website by inputting my destinations and the website figures out the connections, a bit like TheTrainLine. There was a slightly faster and more expensive option, but I took the cheaper option at $55.
The Amtrak train, equipped with patchy but functional on-board wifi, immediately began travelling along the coast. The views were beyond words. I couldn’t believe I was on a train, and I couldn’t believe this was my life. I was excitedly texting my friends, asking if I was dreaming. It was breathtaking, and better than I could have imagined.
When it did, it was at San Luis Obispo. This stop was of five minutes, and I pictured myself having to run at the speed of light to make my connection but the transfers were all connected so this Thruway Bus had to wait for me. I deliberately selected this route through San Luis Obispo because I wanted to go there and see this town, even just by passing through on a coach!
The San Luis to Salinas bus was pretty uneventful and I slept and played my little California themed playlist. The next stop was Salinas, and it was around two hours until the bus onto Carmel arrived. I initially planned to sit and wait it out, reading the tourist flyers. But I read about an Salinas old town and decided to explore. To drop my backpack it was $5 which seemed a bit absurd, but I didn’t want to be stuck inside and I didn’t want to carry it.
I’m glad I journeyed into Salinas. The old town is near the station, it’s almost a little historical living museums of trains and old houses. I initially took a left out of the station but everything seemed a little bit too far, so I walked the other way and found the most glorious small town. Salinas is lovely. Spanish tiendas, motor trade workshops, little houses and churches and beautifully painted wooden houses line a long stretch of road that leads and leads and leads. On the way there I passed a young guy guarding a shop with a metal gated front, and on the way back I stopped to chat to him. He was Mexican, and his family moved to Salinas when he was seven. He told me he would love to travel, but hasn’t yet had the chance. When I returned, he’d show me around, he said.
I was running short on time to get back to the station, but I needn’t have worried. The Amtraks always come in late, I would quickly learn. I was catching a connecting bus, but the bus had to wait for a train full of passengers to come in, which was forty five minutes after its due time. I got to Carmel late, and at nightfall. What happens is you are dropped off at the bus stop in Carmel which is around a forty minute walk from the village. In daylight it’s not a problem, but at night there are no streetlights and it’s very quiet, so you might want to take a taxi, especially if you’re travelling alone.
For travellers without a car, it’s a long and fiddly way of getting up the coast, but the Santa Barbara to San Luis stretch goes right along the coast and the views are unrivalled. It’s perfectly doable, and I really enjoyed travelling with Amtrak!