Coming Home to Joshua Tree via Route 62
The high desert of California is oddly reminiscent of the Klein Karoo in South Africa. Dry weeds tumble on the veldt, and rocky outcrops are littered with succulents under a virulently blue sky. Puffy clouds resembling cotton balls over a wide open horizon sets the scene, with miles of open road to eat up with your wheels. So we arrive at the Harmony Motel along route 62, to find the owner, a South African who has decided to make this place her home. Looking at the corrugated iron fence, she laughs and tells a story of how her relatives from the home country had worried she had fallen into poverty. “They didn’t know it was a work of art,” she smiles at the many layers of irony concealed in this statement.
In the late 1980’s the Harmony Motel was where Bono and the band U2 stayed while making their album Joshua Tree. Their picture and the news articles of the time are proudly on display in the common room library. Many people still visit the Harmony Motel for this very reason, to touch base with the history of the music that came from here. Outside it is blisteringly hot, but the cold pool is invitingly clean and blue. We jump in and cool down instantly. “The water is always cold like that,” says Ash, the owner. The resemblance between this area and its namesake Route 62 in South Africa is uncanny.
Ash exudes a sense of common sense and no nonsense at the same time. Her words are measured and clear as she relates how she came to be here in the high desert of California. It is a moving story of bravery on her part and a certain willingness to face the future with resilience and fortitude. We end up spending many hours visiting with her, sitting around and talking till the cows would have come home were there any. In many ways this feels like a home coming, a familiar feeling place where the tradition of strangers meeting to exchange significant parts of their lives is as simple as putting the kettle on for a fresh cup of tea. It is with high spirits that we leave this haven on our way back on Route 62.