Saturday, October 25, 2008

Today I saw...

...lots of fishes swimming in the sea.

Two dolphins playing hide and seek - they hide better then they seek.

The skimmiest fish I ever saw - they skim over the water better then I could possibly skim a stone.

And the inside of 3 hotel rooms - and nearly 4 after the internet didn't work in our room.

I did NOT see...

... the American crocodile in Crocodile Lake.

An alive raccoon - road kill doesn't count.

A manatee

Or a mermaid!

Phew - and the day hasn't even finished yet! We're off to start exploring the east side of the Everglades now.

Key West with monsoon rain

I wish I had a regular internet connection and time to sit here and relate some adventures. Of course that would mean sitting at my computer instead of having adventures...

Today we left Key West - we spent 2 nights there. It rained solid in a very monsoon like manor for the best part of the 2 days. The roads were flooded and the sea was grey and angry looking.

My first (and last) impressions of Key West are not very pleasant to say the least...

But luckily the bits in the middle were fun and games. We just happened to arrive in the middle of Key West's biggest festival of the year. We could get fairly normal cost accommodation for Wednesday and Thursday but on Friday it nearly tripled and an executive decision was made to head for the north instead.

On Wednesday when we arrived we took the Conch Train - a guided tour of Key West - to get our bearings. Then went home and prepared ourselves for a night out.

First stop was Margaritaville - Jimmy Buffett's restaurant - where we ate dinner and of course had a Margarita. Teresa is a Jimmy Buffett fan so this was her 'moment'. Dinner was great and the place had a really nice ambiance about it.

We then wandered along the main street (Duval St) and eventually decided on a bar called the Lazy Gecko. It was fantastic sitting there and watching people come and go.

The Fantasy Festival is an annual event where people have the perfect excuse to take off their clothes and/or walk around in weird and wonderful costumes. There is lots of body art - designs and pictures drawn directly onto naked skin.

Wednesday nights theme was 'red'. So anything red went. Red knickers or boxer shorts were the sole items being worn by some. Others went all out and wore the most incredible fancy dress outfits that were obviously a labour of love.

The most memorable of all being a group who were dressed as rednecks. The women were all pregnant with many many children - one even pushing a pram full of baby dolls. They had tattoos - one daring man had 'I love Sarah Palin' written on his shoulder - lots of teeth missing, head scarves etc etc.

One man was painted all over with red paint and wore a very tiny black thong. He hovered near my stool as I came back from the loo and I have to say I was willing him desperately not to sit on the stool as I really did not want to have to sit on either the red paint or where his bum had been.

Thursday we spent about 10hours shopping and enjoying the festivities in Duval St again. I think I managed to clear all the gators and crocs out of Key West. I'm thinking I may need to buy an extra extra suitcase now!! I'm not sure just one extra will be enough any more!

Anyway, sleep is calling. Hoping to get up early and go out on a glass bottom boat to see the reefs around here (Key Largo).

Monday, October 20, 2008

Log-o-diiles, shade-o-diles and swamp-o-diles

Everywhere we look there are 'o-diles'.

Sometimes they are the real thing and it gets REALLY exciting! Other times, we see things that are the same shape and colour and think we are looking at a gator, but when one of us gets brave enough to approach, we find it is only a log-o-dile or similar.

This morning we went driving along the Jane's Scenic Drive. It's an 11 mile unsealed track labeled as a dead end. We wondered if it was truly a dead end road or perhaps a 'never to return zone' road.

And was it scenic? Oh boy it was!!

It starts out with grassland swamps on both sides of the track and then becomes mangrove type swamps. It took us 2 hours to get about 3 miles up this road!

We stopped several times and saw a Cooter turtle, hundreds of butterflies, huge grasshoppers, heaps of birds - herons, vultures, eagles etc - and one tiny mini little pair of eyes peaking out from behind a log in a swamp!!

I didn't think it could get much more exciting, but it was all about to change...

We drove up the road a little more and ahead there was a fallen over fencepost partially blocking the road. As a joke, I said 'ooo look there's half a giant snake'. As I finished the statement, I realised it was not a fencepost at all... It was a very BIG alligator sunning himself on the road between the swamps!

We stopped the car and both assumed the position (camera's up to eye, that is) and started snapping (haha!!). We of course were desperate to get up and really inspect it. But both thought better of it.

After getting many many photos, we turned and headed back to the car - still keeping an eye on where that big fellow was of course!

We found a tiny dead snake on the road that was being escorted away by a large swarm of tiny ants. As we photographed that, the gator got up, crossed the road and slipped back into the water.

We drove on a bit further and again found another gator blocking our path, this time we stayed near the car and once we had taken another several 1000 photos, we decided to head onwards again. Unfortunately the gator had other thoughts and would not move. We managed to convince it to go a few yards then it flopped and went 'back to sleep'. We inched forward and tried again. But again it got up and lurched forward a few feet then flopped down for a rest!

It really did not want to move but we didn't want to get too close in case it had a taste for car tyres. Eventually it slid back into the water and we went on our way.

It was the best spent 2-3 hours yet.

Later we are going out on a boat to the 10 000 Islands, then tomorrow morning out again on another airboat in the mangroves.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dolphins, pelicans, Mr Racoon, the turtle and the stick insect.

Yesterday we arose very early and went off to walk in a wildlife haven in the hope of seeing some wildlife.

When we got to the gate and were waiting to be let in, Mr Racoon wandered across the roadway and climbed a tree. I was quick off the mark (for being up before sunrise that is) and out with the camera, managed to snap a tiny, underexposed little photo of him as he perched on a small and bendy branch directly above me.

We paid out $1 each and off we went. Walking along a path between 2 swamps and the first thing we saw was a wading bird eating fish. Nice, but not really what we came to see.

Then we saw a lovely ant trail with impressive signs of underground activity, still not what we REALLY wanted!

We saw a lovely red Cardinal, spiders, tiny lizards, more ants....

BUT! No alligators! In fact nothing bigger then the medium sized wading bird.

So we raced back to the car, drove to Jensens wharf and boarded our boat for a dolphin hunt.

We saw dolphins, but they were all feeding so just showing themselves briefly before diving for food. There were brown pelicans hanging out on a sandbar that we got close enough to to photograph. Osprey sitting high in trees on the islands.

I just saw the end of a spectacular manoeuvre by a King Mackerel - it leapt way out of the water and landed with a splash - possibly to be eaten by a dolphin...?

Then we saw a loggerhead sea turtle break the surface and disappear. Stunning!

Back on land and we wandered a few galleries while I bought more gator stuff.

Went down to the beach to watch the sunset - beautiful again! on the way back I spotted a stick walking across the path so stopped to investigate. A beautiful brown creature with a baby on it's back! I picked it up and photographed it. In appreciation it spat at me and after a few attempts it managed to blind one eye so after saying a naughty word in front of a small boy, I placed the wee fellow in the greenery and went on a desperate search for water to wash my eye. I can see perfectly fine this morning - phew!

Out for dinner then back to pack. Windy night so neither of us slept great, and I have yet again been eaten alive by tiny things and feel the need to scratch ankles raw.

Time to shower and pack car for today's adventure - it will include gators this time as we are heading back along Alligator Alley in the Everglades to a wildlife place.

Too many Gator-diles

Last night I had the enviable (or not) task of laying out and then packing all my new crocodylian loot.
I have been in Florida for 4 days as at last night and without a doubt need to buy another suitcase. And I am only buying small things at this stage. Scarey!