When I arrived in San Clemente I was faced with the same problems as the night before… nowhere to sleep! There are numerous campgrounds around San Clemente but they are either closed at this time of year or like to charge you between $35 and $50 to pitch a tent for a few hours!! Luckily I met Bud (pictured below). He was a camp host and took pity on me and let me pitch my tent on the space next to his RV.
This particular campsite had a small difference to others. It was situated on the border of Camp Pendleton, the largest US Marine Corps base. So As I snuggled into my force ten sleeping bag I could hear the constant rat-a-tat-tat of machine guns in the distance.
The next morning I woke early as I had one potential obstacle to tackle – getting across the Marine base. If you look on a map the only way south is on the Freeway and I am not legally allowed on there. However, these is an old road and a bike track and with blind optimism I set off.
The road hugged the coast and had been turned into a camping ground (which was closed) and was virtually empty. With the crashing waves on one side and machine gun noise on the other I continued south knowing at some point I was going to be met by Marine guards.
This did happen but not till I had followed the fence line for about 15km. When I did approach the gate the experience wasn’t quite what I had anticipated. I have seen lots of films with marines and normally they are super drilled, forward facing only soldiers with big guns and surrounded by lots of shouting. Well not here! I was greeted by 2 lovely guys who were checking ID’s and waving people through. They showed an interest in what I was doing and then offered me some Dominos Pizza! My perceptions were shattered.
I then just ran onto the base and from that point on I was left on my own. I ran by marines drilling, tanks and BIG trucks but at no point did anyone approach me in a military way! A surprisingly chilled environment!