Friday, January 12, 2007

Alligator spotting at Everglades

Continued from parts [1], [2], [3] and [4].

The next day was our sleep-in day. This was to avoid a horror situation involving three zombies walking/driving in the streets of Miami (there are enough traffic horror situations in Miami as it is without our additional input). Around 10.00am, D's alarm rang. As usual, we followed our routine of ignoring the alarm until S suddenly remembered - if we did not get going soon, the hotel's cafe would soon be closed for breakfast. That woke us all up pronto!

There was no time to shower. So we all went downstairs in our gypsy states of the previous day. Mercifully, some people in the restaurant had showed up their pajamas - so we did not look too out of place! Deciding to make the meal "brunch", We dug into the breakfast buffet which had a hefty price but a decent collection of food - the pancakes and freshly squeezed juice from Florida oranges especially come to mind :-).

After a leisurely breakfast, we got ready to go to Everglades National Park - that marshy/swampy area where they have alligator farms. We first made sure that the airboat rides were open on Xmas day - mercifully they were!

The directions to Everglades were more convoluted than those to Key West, but we managed to reach there just fine without any getting-lost episodes. It was a cloudy day with threats to rain which never materialized, at least during the noon. Hmm, how is it that Florida has such copious rains just when we decide to visit it? Ah well, as we all know, it rains a lot where good people are present 0:-) - heehehhehe!

The airboat place had a cafe attached to it where they were selling, I kid you not, gator tail sandwiches!!! Whether these really referred to alligator tails or not, no one had the courage to find out. We bought the tickets for the airboat ride and waited for the next boat.

While we waited, we looked around at their collection of snakes (how many of you feel your skin creep when looking at snakes? Mine always does) in cages. There were also a wide variety of birds flying around - peahens, ducks and so on - it was a very peaceful garden. Of course, we set about taking lots of pictures.

We were called to board the boat about 10 minutes later. The airboat could carry 16 passengers and was built in a special kind of way to allow travel in the marshy backwaters. Normal boats would not work in such places. We were also given ear-plugs for use during the part of the ride when the boat's engines became too noisy.

We set off slow. Everglades is very famous for its abundant flora and fauna. Unfortunately I don't recall the names of all the bird varieties we saw. But the osprey, the egret, some kind of eagle and a bird dubbed as snake-neck bird (because of its long snake-like neck) were among them. We also saw a turtle.

And of course, we came across alligators. Of the first set we saw, one alligator was lying in the shallow water, its yellow eyes staring lazily at us. Another alligator relaxed on the mud on the shore. They did not look that dangerous from the boat - but no, I would not have got out of the boat for love or money!

The boat guide was happily telling us survival tips in case we found ourselves abandoned on one of the marshy islands - things like what to eat, what to drink, where to stay etc. Hahahahahaha - I doubt I would have recovered from the shock and fear to even necessitate knowing any of the other stuff!

Anyways he also said that the place abounded in snakes though we did not spot any. Then was the most fun part of the trip - the boat-guide gunned the engine and we went zooming through the marshy land. He also did a couple of sharp spins and turns - it was like being in the chase scene of an action movie :-D - totally cool! Of course, my hair looked like Medusa's after that trip - but yeah, it was totally worth it :-)!

From the air boat ride, it was on to an alligator show. We were ushered into a small enclosure. The show-host then said that he was looking for volunteers to wrestle with an alligator. Of course S, D and me immediately put our heads down religiously and pretended to not exist. I was whispering to D about how this reminded me of one of our classes in undergrad where the instructor used to randomly pick out students to answer questions and all of us used to have our heads buried into our notebooks in the fond hope that the instructor would not notice us.

Well, it did not work back then and it did not work now either. D was picked as "volunteer". The show-host then proceeded to tell her that he would demonstrate how to wrestle an alligator and she could then do it based on the instruction. D nervously giggled and said he was joking. I was asked to position myself beside the enclosure to capture the "fun" on camera - oh well, as long as it was not me doing any wrestling :-).

Well, the guide wrestled the alligator - again, as I have said before, I don't like shows with performing animals, so did not like it too much. But at the end of it, D was told that she need not wrestle the alligator and just needed to hold a teenager (bigger than the baby gator but smaller than an adult) alligator with a band around its snout for safety reasons - though the guide did remove the band for a short period when the gator was still in D's hands. I busily clicked pictures.

After the show, we all could take snaps holding the teenager alligator. Though I was so not for it when we entered the enclosure, I held the alligator too - it was not at all yucky as I thought it would be. The alligator was pretty heavy in spite of its small size and its skin had a cold and rubbery (not slimy) feel to it! So now we all three have alligator-women pictures :-)!

After the patel pics, we spent some more time browsing through the store and buying some more knickknacks - pretty chains, souvenir magnets etc. Then we were ready to go to South Beach where we were planning to spend the rest of the day.

To be continued...

Post script

1. D said that she had a sudden urge to hold the alligator's head against her cheek and pose for a picture. But then she thought that she wouldn't like it too much if the alligator decided that it wanted a taste of her ear and so abandoned these plans.

2. On an entirely unrelated note, it is unfair enough that if you love to eat, you HAVE to exercise too unless you are okay with looking like a blimp and/or dying of some obesity-related disease. On top of that, while it takes at least four weeks of regular exercise to get your body to even very basic endurance levels, it takes only two weeks of not exercising to absolutely lose ALL the endurance you gained with the prior months of exercising. I should know - all my fitness classes restarted this week after the holidays and I am SORE. I am re-recognizing every muscle group in my body and currently, any change of position requires lots of ouches and light, ginger and gentle movements. This ain't fair, I tell ya - *sigh*!


rads said...

o gosh, that was the exact place we went tooo. That boat/car thing was super flying/sailing thru the everglades. You have too much fun :-p

Saranya Kishore said...

Nice once again Arch.

Ws D going to wrestle with the alligator in the picture?!! I would have fainted then and there :--)
Getting back to workout routine after vacationing is sooo not fun!! :--(

iamvisheshur said...

u ever been to the croc park near chennai??-n i heard that there is some dolphine show in florida-did u see it??

Archana said...

Rads - LOL - I think everyone who goes to Everglades (first timers at least) do the same thing :-))!

Saranya - thank you! Yup that was the alligator - mercifully she did not actually have to do it!

Iamvisheshur - yup, a long long long time ago - don't even remember now :-(! Nopes! Have the dolphin/whale show in San Diego though. But don't like these animal shows :-(!

Anonymous said...

what is the name of the white trees that line the roads going towrads the everglades??