Saturday, 23 April 2011

The Everglades

For some reason our alarm call doesn't arrive this morning but it's OK as Simon and I are already awake; the Equinox has docked and probably the change of rhythm disturbed us. Since our flight isn't until the afternoon we've taken the opportunity to book onto an excursion to the Everglades, and after breakfast we meet in Equinox Central. There's a bit of waiting around, but the process is very smooth - we walk off the ship, scanning our cruise cards for the last time as we leave, and collect our bags from a numbered holding area. There's a pretty long queue for passport control then we join our coach just outside the terminal and drive south. The scenery is very distinctively American, with large malls and condo complexes arranged neatly and spaciously along the highway.

We turn off earlier than I was expecting, into a holiday park where we are divided into groups for the airboat ride. The flat bottomed boats skim the surface, driven by two huge fans at the stern, and we power slide round corners at speed to get out to the area known as Alligator Alley. Altogether we spot two alligators, both quite close but obscured by the water plants and lying perfectly still. There are numerous birds as well, including several enormous vultures. Our guide explains about species, habits and habitats and speaks with a kind of lilting drawl which makes him hard to understand and seems to focus primarily on plants and animals that cause pain or death to humans.

On our return there's an alligator show, just one guy doing death defying stunts with a large but rather docile looking alligator. The highlight for Alex is the chance afterwards to hold a small alligator, even more so when the guy takes off the band that is holding his jaws together.

Then it's back to the coach for the journey to Fort Lauderdale airport. For the first time we have a truly terrible driver; although we deduced from the way our luggage was loaded that there would be drop offs at different terminals, he makes no attempt to communicate with us and one of our bags is offloaded too soon. Luckily we notice and get it put back on. When we do reach our terminal, the bags are literally thrown out of the bus on to the pavement. No tip for him, which will probably make him more bad-tempered still with the next group.

Despite careful allocation of items between bags one of them is a few pounds over, but the check-in assistant is too interested in the Royal Wedding to notice. We have a few hours to kill before our flight but find a Chilis and settle down to enjoy fajitas and quesadillas. We leave planty of time for security, but just as we reach the conveyor everything shuts down and a metal grille is pulled across the entrance behind us. Apparently, there is a "situation". We're held for 10 minutes but never do find out what the problem is.

The flight home is uneventful - even the tight transfer at Dallas is not a problem - and after a long and uncomfortable night, we're home. On the final leg, Simon asks Alex to list his top 5 moments but he finds it hard to narrow it down to just 5. It has been a remarkable trip, full of "once in a lifetime" experiences, and it seems like much more than two weeks since we were at Universal in Orlando. And now we have the whole Easter weekend to unpack, catch up on our lost night's sleep. Better still, we return to blue skies and sunshine - what a bonus!

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