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Published: December 20th 2007
At the end of our cruise, having eaten our way through an atrocious amount of food on board, we then practically ROLLED down the gangway and out to the taxi ranks for our trip to South Beach!
From the cruise terminal we took a taxi to “Sobe” for our ‘second’ stay in Miami. Unfortunately it started raining pretty much straight away - damn Olga! So we lazed about for the afternoon at our hotel - making use of the free Wi-fi internet to catch up with the rest of the world - being on the cruise was like we had left reality for a week!! (Which was lovely of course….) ;-) That night we went for a wander down Collins Avenue which was quite cool at night - there is a very cool vibe to this area of Miami.
One special event worthy of mention is when I finally found a pair of jandals I had been searching for since Jan showed me his in South Africa - Reef ‘Fannings’. These incredibly useful flip-flops have a bottle opener built into the sole, so you are never without means to open pesky non-screw-top beers… ah the luxuries of life…
The next day we wandered along the beach, about 17 blocks worth of the beach! It stretches for miles! It was a nice warm day but there were very few people about being a Monday. It was cool seeing all the different lifeguard towers which are all different shapes, colours and have different paintings etc! And we saw two separate model photo sessions going on... how cliché! Next we wandered down Lincoln Road which is pretty cool, lots of cool shops, cafes, restaurants, etc. Then we caught a matinee of the Will Smith film “I Am Legend”. After that we decided to hire a rental car so we could go out to an Everglades park the next day. Once we had the car (a burnt orange Dodge caliber) we took a drive out to Key Biscayne which was a really great drive - Miami is pretty awesome! Got to love the palm trees that line every street and bridge! We drove out onto the southern most point and came across suburbs with the MOST MASSIVE houses we’ve EVER seen! They were huge!!!!! We couldn’t believe our eyes, so drove around all the different little streets with our jaws dropping the
whole time! We’re so jealous! We then reached the Cape Florida Park and drove through there to see the lighthouse right on the point of Key Biscayne. We didn’t have long before the sunset (and the park closed!) so ran out to the lighthouse and got some nice pics. We also saw our first raccoon! Though it was a bit mangy! After that we drove back to a small harbour near the park entrance and went for a walk around there. It was a really nice area. Then we drove back across the bridge to South Beach, which was great as it was dark by now and the city looked pretty cool all lit up!
The next day we checked out early and headed south to Everglades Alligator Farm, en-route we drove through the famous Coconut Grove area and seeing more MASSIVE houses, with huge landscaped lawns - I guess they’re more like estates! There were large rivers running through the whole area, and of course the truly rich had their super yachts moored down at the bottom of the garden… as you do!
The Alligator Farm was wicked :-) On arrival we went to the snake house
(Kristi wanted to get it over with!) and were stunned by the 20+ awesomely coloured snakes, from huge pythons to tiny baby cobras! They also had a range of iguanas, turtles etc, but the trippiest thing was that were no locks on any of the cages- - you could simply slide the glass door across and mess with the snakes... if you were so inclined… which we weren’t! In retrospect this is probably the best security they could have!
After that were the baby gator pens. This was a collection of about 6 large sloping concrete pens, with different aged Alligators in each one - from wee little babies the size of your hand to some decent size chappies about 1 metre long. The coolest thing here was that you could buy pellets to feed them, and watch them all swarm all over each other to get them. It gave us the willies watch the teeming masses of alligator’s babies all hissing and writhing around… uuurrrghh! Some of the pens had hundreds of the little treasures! We also visited the ‘Extras’ cages and checked out a pair of gorgeous Florida Panthers and a range of Giant turtles, Iguanas and
Capybaras (basically giant Guinea pigs!).
Next came the Alligator show, where an insane local messed with an alligator for our viewing pleasure! She also let us handle some baby Alligators (with their snouts taped shut!) Which was cool. The park also has a couple of dozen Nile Crocodiles and some Orinoco Crocs too, and we got to see a cute baby Nile Croc up close. From the show we raced over to the small jetty to catch our Air boat for an amazing ride into the Everglades themselves. This was magic, there were wild alligators all over the show and we were racing along in a 500 cubic inch V8 powered Airboat in about 6 inches of water!! Madness. We had to use cotton wool to block our ears because of the insane loudness of the engine, but had no protection from the water and mud when our crazy driver James pulled 360 turns! It was fantastic whipping through the water trails and over reeds etc in the incredibly vast Everglades - this is one place you would NOT want to get stuck! We had a few more sedate parts of the ride, where we saw 2 huge Iguanas
and yet more ‘gators.
After the ride came the gator feeding display, at the ‘Breeding Pond’, which actually was code for ‘Large area with Lake and 700 full size obese alligators’. There were masses of giant gators all basking in the sun - because of the plentiful abundance of food at the park they were all very blobby and lethargic - which was good, as little kids would have cried and run away if they were lean and aggressive! Our nutso friend from the alligator show then began to throw fish into the enclosure - the woman was fearless, reaching her arm over 10ft alligators, when they could EASILY have reached up and chomped her! It was very cool watch the big boys and girls eat the fish though, they are just so powerful and prehistoric looking. As luck would have it the alligator lady did not get eaten in the end, despite the fearsome hissing and snapping of gators! After that we wandered around the Breeding Pool, which is quite massive, and admired the crocs and gators one last time before jumping back in the car and heading to the airport! The Alligator farm is a cool attraction
and the Everglades are breath-taking - especially when seen from a ballistic Airboat! Overall, a great way to spend a day if you are ever in the Miami area! Another very exciting thing about the Alligator farm was the fact that only about a mile away was a drive-thru…Starbucks! (what will they think of next…) Still was quite cool getting coffee without having to move my old bones…
Our adventures on this day were not yet over however! First we managed to fly right through a Toll-gate, only to see that the penalty was $100US - Yikes! However we managed to call the Florida toll people and then spoke to the hire car company and are confident we hoodwinked the system and won’t have to pay... yippee!! The guy at the hire place even said “Just go… quickly, before someone realizes and tries to charge you!”
Our second crisis was when we arrived at the airport check-in desk and found we had MISSED OUR FLIGHT!!!! (First time this has ever happened to either of us!!) Yep, that’s right, in a fit of colossal stupidity, I had read the tickets wrong and we planned our day around getting to the
airport for our flight at 5.25pm, when it was actually at 3.25pm… oops! Kristi was ready to boil me in oil to say the least! To cut a long and painful story short, we managed to get onto the 5.40pm flight on stand-by tickets, which were them confirmed pretty quickly… pheww… I may well have been stuffed in a bin in the Miami Airport otherwise! This was a stressful little hiccup, but after calling our hotel in Ecuador to change our transfer pick-up time, it was all sorted. Then before we knew it we were winging our way towards the last continent of our trip, and away from the last western, English-speaking nation before home!!
Next stop Quito, Ecuador!
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