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Published: July 18th 2014
EvergladesMonday 14th July 2014
We had to be well-covered in mosquito repellant walking through here
The Everglades National Park was the planned destination for the next two days and Victor once again volunteered to drive. All we took with us was a change of clothes and our bathers, plus cameras, esky, laptop, shoes etc, and the Toyota Highlander (Kluger) was full.
The 120 kms flew by we reaching the town of Naples where we booked into the La Quinta hotel. They wouldn't honour the coupons we had for a reduced rate, saying they were out of date but would discount it to within 90 cents using Rags' RAC card. Rather pedantic but we were glad we remembered to take our card with us. Reciprocal benefits with the AA exist and we knew this from previous visits. Lovely clean, large rooms.
Off we went further south to the Big Cypress National Preserve, stopping at the Information Centre for maps before walking along the raised platform into the glades. We were a little disappointed in not seeing any alligators but we did find some turtles sitting on a log, and what felt like every mosquito in USA!
Luckily we were prepared for the latter and had smothered ourselves
Similar size to the one which gave us a fright. Length can be estimated by converting the distance from nose to just below the eyes in inches and calling it feet. This guy was about 8 ft (2.5m) long
in repellant before setting out.
We continued along a well-formed gravel loop road into the park, water on both sides. Stopping at a culvert we observed several types of fish and turtles swimming around but no sign of alligators. Rags thought the area was perfect for ambushing prey and wandered over to the other side of the road. He froze for a moment when he was confronted by an alligator snoozing at the entrance to the culvert, no more than 2 metres away. After calling over the others we took photos of this almost 3m beast. Rags parted some grass to get a close-up when the reptile suddenly spun around and dived towards us, luckily below us, into the culvert. We all leapt back in fright, we teased Helen later as she seemed to jump half-way across the road. That was a close encounter as signs we later saw, said we should keep 5 metres away from wildlife.
We'll respect these animals from now on, they really do move move like lightning over short distances. Rags was very disappointed that he forgot to take his photo in all that excitement.
There were lots of alligators in the
These were very prevalent in the 'glades
pools near culverts from then on. We stopped where some Park employees were testing Ph levels and water flow and watched one slowly swim towards us. The ranger said this was because it had been fed by tourists and wasn't as frightened of humans as they normally are. They become dangerous as they grow larger and often need to be moved to an area where there is little human contact.
At a place called Shark Valley you could either walk, ride a bike, or take a tourist vehicle to the coast, a 15kms round trip but by now we felt it was a little late for this. Instead we walked along part of the way next to a channel, seeing a cormorant drying its wings, unperturbed by us just metres away, as well as fish and turtles. The girls saw an alligator making its way along it, it ignoring them which was just as well as there was only the grassed bank between the channel and pathway.
Rags took a turn at driving, Victor happy to have a snooze in the back. As happens almost every afternoon here, the heavens opened and the rain continued until we arrived
We had an exciting ride on this airboat, cut short by heavy rain
at the hotel.
Dinner was at Chili's a nearby Mexican restaurant, where we shared an array of dishes s well as enjoying the two for one drinks. As usual Victor and Judy shared the margaritas.. Our waiter was a pleasant young man, we think new on the job as he made a few errors like ordering the wrong wine and forgetting some of the condiments which came with the meal. They even ran out of cabernet sauvignon wine much to Helen's dismay, but Rags saved the day by asking for merlot! They had an interesting device on the table, connected by wifi, where you could order your drinks, see and pay the account, as well as being shown various advertisements. Tuesday 15th July 2014
After an early breakfast, we set off to Everglade City, as we wanted to be on the first lot of airboat rides they have there. As it was we were too early so we drove around the pretty little town, the 'city' being only a little larger than a small holiday community.
The airboat ride was just great fun, more of a thrill ride amongst the
The airboat moved through here pretty briskly
mangroves than a sightseeing trip. It certainly didn't give us an opportunity to see any wildlife. After a talk by our “Captain” about the Everglades and the 3 different types of mangrove there we set off, first quite sedately on the waterway near the community, then much quicker through the winding channels in the mangroves, and then very quickly, with sharp turns and stops in the open grasslands.
We all wore ear protection as the noise from the large V8 motor with its propellor was deafening. Great fun until it started raining, we all got wet even though we were all wearing waterproof raincoats, and the rain stung our faces. What a let down, we thought we would miss the forecast rain by going early.
On returning to the wharf we spent some time walking around the area, mainly to get dry, before driving a short distance to a small island, Chocoloskee. The road ended in a car park which had an old store, on stilts, by the water's edge. Unfortunately it was closed, but from the information boards there and talking to another tourist, we learned this store was set up in the 1800s by an enterprising
Southeastern Lubber Grasshopper
Many of these large, colourful creatures were seen. They were about 6 - 7 cm long, flightless and slow moving.
person to supply the local Indians and hunters. All supplies were brought in by sea.
We reached the Gulf Coast Visitor Centre just 20 minutes before a cruise was to leave, after some fast talking by the young lady in the Visitor's Centre, we joined this with the hope of seeing more bird life as it traveled at a more sedate pace. Bird life at this time of the year is rather sparse we were told, the adult birds flying to different places away from here to reproduce. Mainly juvenile birds remained. Live and learn.
The boat did go out into the Bay of Mexico, into the Ten Thousand Island area, where we saw islands all around us, some dolphins feeding, a few birds, and some manatee feeding. Due to the water being stirred up by the rain, visibility was so poor we only saw brief glimpses of the manatees snouts surfacing for a quick breath before disappearing into the murky depths.
A large front could be seen approaching and the boat headed back to port rather quickly. Lightning and thunder as well as heavy rain made the journey a little uncomfortable especially when we had a
Just one of the squalls we saw before being in the middle of one. Lightning and thunder all around us.
flash of lightning and a sharp crack of thunder right above us. Mother Nature wasn't too kind on us today.
By now we had enough and called it a day, heading back to Punta Gorda. It was a great experience to go where we did, glad we did it, and would spend more time there another time of the year.
Back on Highway 75 we headed north, stopping firstly at one of the Outlet Centres along the way where both of us bought some clothing and more shoes at very good prices. Must learn to keep away from those places!
Costcos followed again and more food and wine was purchased, a tasty steak and salad being our meal for the evening.
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