September 29th, 2008 – by: jagnroz
Dawn view of Miami from the Voras' condo
Today was Alligator Day. Baba arranged for us to go out to the Seminole Reservationto take a couple of tours of the swampy areas that are just north of Everglades National Park. The company we went with, Billie's Swamp Safari, was really good. They have quite a set-up with shows and demonstrations, in addition to the air-boat and swamp buggy rides. We had a great time.
Jag set the alarm for a 6:30 AM wake-up. Unfortunately he also mistakenly set the clock to one hour later than it actually was! He got up at 5:30 AM! He puttered around and woke me at "7 AM".
I could not figure out why it was still so dark outside. Then I checked my watch. Groan! It was just as well. We had to take the minivanto a Chrysler dealer for servicing and to repair a water leak that was driving us nuts. It was, as Jag deduced, a leak from the air conditioner drain. It had soaked the mat and run on the front passenger side of the car. Once the car was dropped off, we went on our merry way to our animal adventure.
Water swirls because of feeding fish
The drive was about 1 hour and really quite pretty. As I have mentioned Floridais as flas as the proverbial pancake. There are miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles with only a few trees here and there to break the horizon. We reached the tour place about 10:30 AM and immediately set out on the air-boat ride.
The company has built a canal in the swampy area. It does not look man-made at all. It is, in fact, a large irregular circle. Animals from around the world are living more-or-less natural lives without restrictions. They can roam as much as they wish in this very large compound. The main thing on this boat tour, however, is the chance to see a lot of alligators up close. They are magnificent animals, slow moving for the most part, and doing the things alligators are supposed to do: hunt birds, fish and any small animals that may be unfortunate enough to come near.
Reflection of storm clouds
Afterwards, we had some lunch in the little cafe at the compound. It was pretty good and very reasonable. Baba shared an Indian taco with me and we both enjoyed it.
Unlike the true Navajo taco, the cook cut up the fry bread and mixed it in with the chili. Still, it was good, although I did not eat all of the bread. It was so nice sitting in the little restaurant, cooling off from the oppressive heat outside. The humidity is really wiping me out.
Alligator buddy swims close to our air-boat
We were scheduled to take a 2-hour swamp buggy ride. However, several of the people on the vehicle were supposed to take only a 1-hour trip. The young woman driving the buggy, Kathy, compromised and gave us all a 1 1/2-hour trip. It was great fun. The swamp buggy is specially designed to go through both water and rough roads. It sits very high off the ground and looks totally unwieldly and top-heavy. We bounced along, laughing at Kathy's repartee.
She is a delightful tom-boy who seems to thoroughly enjoy her job. She has scquired a good deal of detailed knowledge about the animals in the park. She seems to be fearless and she makes me think she would be like my former boss, Georgie White Clark, at a younger age than when I worked for her. I believe she and Georgie would have had a great time together. We saw elands,nilgai,wild pigs, bison, birds of all kinds (including a rare spoonbill), Scottish red deer, Asian water buffalo, wild turkeys and several others. It was really beautiful. The most fun, however, was a flock of ostriches: a female and five or six youngsters. They followed us for at least a mile, and probably more, through water holes and along the roads (if you can call them that), hoping to get some food.
Oncoming swamp buggy
Other people must have fed them; now they think everyone will do that.
Ostrich family follows our swamp buggy
After the swamp buggy ride we relaxed under a "chiki", the palm-leaf structure used by the Seminole people as houses. It was so hot and I was really feeling uncomfortable. I drank water and ate some pretzels to replenish the salt I had sweated away. I felt better fairly soon. Kathy chatted with us for some time. She is an interesting young woman and we very much enjoyed having her company. It was then time for the "snake show". Actually it was not a show in the usual sense of the word. The young man, Hans (from Argentina or Chile), taught us about the poisonous snakes of the Everglades and Florida in general. He handled them expertly. They are beautiful creatures, especially the coral snake, which is very colorful.
Baba does not like snakes, but Jag and I are quite fascinated by them. We were allowed to pet a baby alligator (who wore a rubber band around his snout to keep him from biting). His skin is dry and pebbly. He is very beautiful in his own reptilian way.
Swamp buggy guide, Kathy, chats with Roz & Baba
We left immediately after the snake demonstration. Pierrette had called earlier to tell us about the severe weather in Miami. There was even a tornado watch - one apparently touched down in Key West! While out touring we had fine weather (except, of course, for the humidity). The cloud formations were gorgeous and there was no indication of problems. It rained on our way back into the city, however, but not heavily.
We stopped to pick up the newly-serviced minivan and then went to the nearby Costco store to purchase steaks for dinner tomorrow evening. Another stop was made at a regular grocery store and then we came back to the condo. Pierrette had prepared corned beef. I cannot describe just how delicious it was - and very lean, too. It was the best I have ever tasted. I must make it when we get back home. It is one of my very favorite foods.
Night view of Miami from condo
Tomorrow we will go for a boat ride at Biscayne National Park. We are really looking forward to it. We are hoping for calm water so that we can see the coral reef below the water. The boat will have a glass bottom.