Goin’ on a gator hunt
Yesterday was devoted to travelling from Houston to Orlando, Florida.
It was a pleasantly uneventful trip, enlivened only by the person sitting behind us explaining why she was travelling to Florida. She’d been adopted as a baby and due to the way it occurred could not find out who her parents were. Then she did a DNA test with ancestry.com and, bang, she got a match. The match was close enough that it had to be her uncle or father. She contacted them, and it turned out to be her father, who she was on her way to meet for the first time ever.
Anyway, this morning, after a night in an airport hotel, we hired a car and set out South and East from Orlando. It was an easy drive because the roads are both huge and empty – which makes driving on the wrong side a breeze. Our destination was Camp Holly where we hired an airboat, captained by Bob (or, as they say locally, Baaab) and went out to see alligators. Bob was a huge man with his skin burnt deep ochre by years in the sun and his hearing completely stuffed by spending those years within inches of an airboat motor.
The St Johns River is unusual because it is only one of three in the World to travel North before emptying into an ocean. It is also the slowest moving river in the World. Thanks to that last fact, it is also very, very shallow. So the airboat, basically a shallow platform with a huge aeroplane propeller on the back, is the perfect way to navigate the river.
That all makes an airboat perfect for navigation, but it raises a debatable point about seeing things. It is extraordinarily noisy and as we zoomed along we were preceded by a ripple effect of things either jumping into the water or launching themselves into the sky to get away from us. On the positive side that meant we got to see all sorts of birds in the act of taking flight. I was disappointed that my cunning plan to travel without a proper camera meant I got no great photos of all this activity.
And we saw ‘gators, lots and lots of gators. Bob very nicely agreed with us that our crocodiles are generally bigger and meaner than his gators. But I have to admit we certainly saw a lot of alligators. I was actually at least as thrilled to see turtles and all the birds.
After checking in at our hotel at Cocoa Beach – we are in the right place, they have a space suit in the foyer – we went on a different sort of hunt. We’d been told that we might be able to see Space X’s Falcon 9 first stage in a barge in the port at Canaveral. The port was easy to find; finding a point where we could see the water without buying food was much harder. It was a nice day for a walk and we succeeded in the end. Sadly we didn’t see the Falcon 9 stage, but we did see the recovery barge – Of Course I still Love You – so we came away feeling we’d achieved.