THURSDAY 15th January: Well the Edison Ford museum was very interesting but the Americans just do not quite get the experience right but try to push towards the guided tours where the guides put their own humorous spin on everything. But two hours of Southern Drawl and being patronised was just too much for us so we opted for the self guided tour, and we’re pleased we did when we came within earshot of one of the tours. But we still learned a great deal more about Edison than we knew before.
After a good morning we got on the road heading for Naples which is just before the Everglades.
We stopped at a McD’s to book a Motel for the night only to find everything below $200 a night had terrible reviews. We pulled into the one with the best but from outside it looked just too run-down. So drove back a couple of blocks to one we had seen as we passed. The outside looked pleasant and when we inspected the room it was passable, just, so we accepted the ridiculous price. It was run by a young Asian couple who were very friendly and it looked as if they were trying to bring it up to scratch, the bathroom had been recently totally re-fitted but the workmanship was a bit lacking. When we booked in the lady said that everything was way overpriced in Naples and when we went for a walk downtown it was all Valet Parking and sports cars. The night turned out to be the worst we had had so we decided that as it was a four day holiday weekend coming we had better book the whole weekend from there as the wifi was very good. The only Motel with half decent reviews was the Ramada in Florida City at twice the price we had been paying thus far but it was close to the Everglades National Park where we wanted to spend the weekend and on Highway 1 which led down to Key West which we also wanted to visit so we booked it. Just before we booked it our son NIK sent an email about a site I had joined some time ago but forgotten called Top Cashback which he told us produced Cashback from Booking.com
which we had been mainly using it costs nothing and on this booking alone gives us £13 cash back. If you buy anything on the Internet if you connect via their site you get cash back. Tesco’s for one so if interested use this link and we both get a bonus http://www.topcashback.co.uk/ref/Member119672378232
FRIDAY 16th January : Leaving our fairly grotty Motel we headed for the Everglades arriving at the Gulf Coast Visitor Centre which was just had a boat dock for trips into the Mangroves or round the Ten Thousand Islands. The trips we would have liked to do were booked up without a Two hour wait so we drove on to do some of the Board Walks just off the Tamiami Trail which is the main road which heads from West to East across the bottom of Florida. We’re we glad we did, on our first one we met a really informative young lady Ranger varying a Aligator Skull wro told us all about the American Aligators and their salt water cousins the American Crocodiles. Then we walked just a short distance to view our first Aligators just a few feet from us, we were then very lucky to experience the amazing rumbling roar of a large male hidden in the grass across the canal about 50 feet from us. The sound is difficult to explain but we both thought it was a very large outboard motor without a silencer starting up at first.
After this exiting time we walked a few more board walks experiencing many more close encounters with Alligators and many many birds. Then turned into Shark Valley National Park Paying the $10 which gives us 7 days unlimited entry into the Everglades National Park. Cars were not allowed past the Visitors Center , the trail was 10 miles each way which you could walk, hire a bike or take the tram. A tram trip was about to leave so we quickly bought two seniors and took the two last seats. Oh how glad we water that we took it. There was a fantastic guide, who didn’t have the Southern Drawl who was so informative and a very young girl driver who spotted every bird, flower and Alligator along the way and stopped so the guide could talk about what we were seeing. At the halfway point we walked about 500 yards to an obversation tower and the guide stopped and pointed out to the few of us who were near a very strange sight, about two feet from the path was a ten foot Crocodile who must have walked the forty odd miles from the sea and salt water areas to live in the fresh water among the Aligators and had even turned from green to black to match the Alligators.
We showed the picture to many of the Rangers we met later, who had heard about it but not really believed it. It was a great couple of hours and well worth the ticket price.
By the time our tram ride finished it was getting late so we motored the thirty odd miles to our Motel, with a bit of trepidation after last night’s experience. But all was well, the receptionist was great and the room was fine and breakfast was included so we would be ok for the next four nights.
SATURDAY and SUNDAY 17 & 18th January
The next two days were spent in the Everglades National Park, we listened to all the talks and went on all the organised Ranger walks we could. On one we came across this large Aligator just two feet from the path. He lazily opened one eye to look at us all then closed it again. Then a very young child came a bit too close, two eyes opened, then the mouth opened then he stood up. Luckily the Mother grabbed the child and pulled it away so the Aligator just laid down again, but Judy got this incredible photo. No he is not stuffed, he is very, very real! And that may be a wicked smile who knows.
On Sunday we went on a “Slough Slog” which was a walk across the flooded prairie and into the woods which entailed waiting up to thigh deep in swamp while a really passionate Ranger explained about the area and the plants and animals as we came to them. So a quick visit to Walmart to buy some trousers and long sleeved shirts as the required clothing.
What a fantastic time we had two or three hours, we lost track of time, wading about in a primeval soup just hoping we didn’t fall flat into it. The trousers washed out OK but not sure how long it will take to get our walking boots dry.
We finished off the day with a Starlight Hike to see all the wild animals we had seen during the day getting down to the real business of life.