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Part 3: Bombay Beach to Salvation Mountain, Niland, CA.

The last time I was in South Africa about a month ago, I met up with a friend of mine who had just come back from his exchange in Chicago.  He showed me photos from his road trip while he was there, traveling with some others on Route 66 all the way towards LA.  On the way, they had stopped over at this little known place called Salvation Mountain just a few kilometers off Niland near the Salton Sea.

His photos made me want to go see this place for myself and with his recommendation and tips, I decided why not?  It was not far from the Salton Sea and it was on route to Phoenix anyway where I’d be spending the night.

17 August 2011

Thirty minutes and 20 miles later, I had arrived at the place, but not before getting a bit lost even with the help of my Garmin.  Turns out the roads here aren’t clearly marked and the best way to get around was to ask people (that’s IF you can find them).  The whole place looked deserted.  Making my way through the gravel road, I finally caught glimpse of the multi-coloured mound.

The Salvation Mountain, by Leonard Knight

The August sun here is particularly intense.   I stepped out into the hot, dry air and there’d occasionally be a warm breeze that would kick up some dust and rustle the dead leaves nearby.  I could also hear the faint clanging of old tin cans that hung on some beams near the mound.  I was expecting to see the artist/creator of this place but he wasn’t around either – or maybe he was, I wouldn’t have known it.

OK I must admit though, being alone out there with no one in sight and no roads with words like "Repent" and "Sinner" plastered everywhere made me a bit uneasy... It was somewhat creepy being there after a while.

Old paint cans - this is probably his "art studio"

Dry, dead trees

Nonetheless, I explored the area and climbed up the mountain and on the other side was probably where some of the people lived.  There were about seven or eight trailers along with rusty old cars parked in the open, flat barren land and still no sign of life.  No trees, no grass… just ochre coloured earth and gravel and then this splash of colour that Leonard Knight built (http://www.salvationmountain.us/history.html).

Made from cement, clay and over 100,000 gallons of paint donated to him by people from all over, what started out as a “small statement” turned into what it is today – a Mountain of Love.  The place is continually evolving and growing and someday, Leonard may no longer be around to carry on his project but here’s to hoping that his message of love and happiness will live on forever.

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