Liz and John's South American Grand Cruise 2014 travel blog

John at Cajun Cafe Fort Lauderdale

Me at the same place

Air boat on the Everglades

Lilies and Saw Grass at the Everglades

Black vultures

A large Grey Heron

Alligator show


Thursday 2 January

Fort Lauderdale

We both slept remarkably well and got up at half seven feeling reasonably refreshed. I was surprised that the jet lag wasn't that bad. John was quite chirpy and seems to have got rid of his worst cold symptoms. We also hunted for John's specs but to no avail. We reported the loss to hotel reception and security and then phoned the transfer company in case he left it in the car last night. Eventually I suppose he'll have to check with the airlines.

Before breakfast we looked into reception to see about our room transfer. What a disaster. They still denied we had a five day booking, were going to charge us again for the night we'd spent there and expected us to leave by midday! unable or unwilling To help us. She just said we had booked the room for one night. John then went to walk away saying we weren't going to leave and we were having breakfast while they sorted it out! It was and we were then able to have the room we'd reserved. We had breakfast and then moved to the upgraded room. What a difference - it was perfect. At last we were able to get a bit organised.

For lunch we went to a small cafe that prepared Cajun food by a nearby Marina. It was good and I sampled a local crab chowder with plantain crisps - delicious!! After lunch we picked up our hire car for the hotel car park and did a bit of an explore although driving on the right needs a heap of concentration and there were a few gentle reminders that John needed to turn into the correct lane at junctions. Still he did a hell of a lot better than I would've!

It was a beautiful warm day though breezy and quite humid but very pleasant for sightseeing. We drove along the beach for a while and the beach was packed with people sun baking and swimming because of the unusually warm winter weather. We looked for a park but it was so crowded and the traffic was crazy so we went back to the hotel.

I decided to get a swim in and the multiple pools at the hotel looked really inviting. So I changed and had an hour swim. Although it was a lovely 28 degrees out, the pool temp was about 23 degrees which is colder than I usually swim at. However I swam for nearly an hour and it felt so good. Afterwards we had a somewhat disgusting and very expensive coffee at the pool side (very little change from $12 for two) and then while John read, I did some stuff on my iPad. It was good to relax for a couple of hours before going back up to the room for a shower and change for tea.

John still hadn't found his specs and he has been onto the hotel security, bus transfer company and Delta Airlines. He's obviously lost them so that is going to be our first insurance claim. It's just as well he took another old pair with him. We also managed to get our travel e-kit phone to work after John found he'd put the SIM card in the wrong place in the phone! We got a signal and have actually started to understand how to use it in the various places we are visiting! You can get hold of us as well although there won't be a signal on the ship, only when we are on land.

We had tea at one of the hotel bars and it was quite good and not that pricey. However at 10pm we had a phone call in our room after we had both gone to bed saying the management couldn't accept our travel American Express USD card because it was a debit card. They requested an Australian Credit card and we pointed out that all we had was a Visa Debit card so they backed off. We haven't been too impressed with the Hyatt service so far.

Friday 3 December

Day 3 - Fort Lauderdale and Everglades National Park

It was much colder than yesterday with a cold wind and no sun coming through the clouds. That was such a difference from yesterday when it was quite balmy and warm enough to swim. Today I'm not going near a swimming pool. The maximum today is going to be 19 degrees. It was 28 degrees yesterday!

We were collected from the hotel in a small bus. The driver was quite funny and he told us a little about the Everglades. It's an enormous expanse of shallow fresh water some 260 x 180 miles across. In most places it's only a few feet deep with multiple canals cut through it over a century ago. We went north along the State Highway 95 which apparently goes directly to New York without a stop or traffic light. It's about 1300 miles to NY and takes 18-20 hours non stop driving. We then went off on the Alligator Highway to the Everglades National Park. The whole of Florida is dead flat and is the flattest state. When we got to the Park all we could for miles into the distance was saw grass which is a high sharp saw leaved high sedge with a few stunted trees of pond apple and a lot of water lilies. We were all put onto one of the airboats and I had awful difficulty getting my legs up and over the rail from the dock to get into the damn thing. You can imagine I must have looked quite funny. Still with help from the boat captain and John, I managed. I knew it would be fun getting out again! We left at low speed and there was quite of bird life. We saw cormorants, herons, egrets, eagles, black vultures, various ducks and smaller birds including some sort of parrot. There were a heap of what he called black birds but they had brown bodies and black heads and were smaller than the ones you see in Europe. We were lucky enough to see one alligator by a clump of saw grass which was surprising considering it was the middle of winter and they are quite shy. The are rarely much larger than 3 meters and live on fish, much like our fresh water crocs. The alligators only live in fresh water but the do have salt water crocs as well but they are manly in the tidal areas. They do not get as large as ours to in N Australia but are just as aggressive. The Everglades is totally fresh. It was great fun when we had several short bursts of high speed through the sedge and water lilies. It wasn't very comfortable on the metal seats and it was very cold in open boats. Still we both enjoyed it. After an hour we went back to the Holiday Park, where the boats are moored. Then we watched an alligator show where there were some quite large alligators being handled by a young woman whose profession was an animal behaviouralist. That was quite good. Then we were driven back to the hotel.

Since it was lunch time, we decided to go onto the Eastern Beach Highway and find a cafe to get something to eat. The beach is quite narrow and not nearly as pretty as what we are used to in Australia. There were no sun bakers or swimmers today because of the 10 degree drop in temperature. However it was pleasant walking along the front and we found a cafe which had good food and was a lot cheaper than the hotel! I had a conch chowder and it was delicious. John had a chicken sandwich which was the size of a house!! We will try Gumbo's tonight which we also noted along the beach strip. We should get good seafood there as well. We then made our way back to the hotel where we put our feet up in our room to read and relax. I wanted to write up my journal. While we were in there there was a letter from the Manager of the Hotel apologising for the stuff up and giving us $100 credit so they must have realised that the mistake was there's not ours!

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