I pack everything up again and take myself down to reception. Luckily it is quiet, if I’m going to have a row I don’t want it to be too public!
The woman on the front desk looks like the one who gave me the replacement room yesterday, but it isn’t her so I’m glad about that. She is ok about me checking out and indeed offers me a suite for my last night. I have to say I would normally probably accept the offer, but I am really ready to get back on the road so I, gracefully, decline. She says there is a cancellation charge.. I just look at her… she says she can waive it.. great so all done without any drama.. am relieved.
I drag my luggage round to the garage and pack it all onto the bike. I should have time to get a coffee before joining the Swamp tour. I have to catch a coach up by the steamboat so I make my way up there.
We are soon on the road out to Barataria Preserve where the tour will take place. On the way there is a recorded talk about the story of Jean Lafitte the local entrepreneur/pirate who dominated the area in the early 1800’s.
When we arrive we disembark and enter a small building.. there are a couple of exhibits, which, to my mind, are cruel and would probably be unlawful in the UK.
I don’t mind this one tho’
Outside there are several airboats moored up.. I did consider an airboat ride but a) it’s outside my budget and b) I think I prefer a slower pace today.
We climb on board and there are only about 10 of us so plenty of room to move around and see everything.
The ‘swamp’ is more like Henley on Thames than overhanging, steamy mangroves, but I’m in a boat on the water so happy as Larry basically..
We see white and blue heron… I try and capture them on camera but the white ones seem to have avoided me.
Before long we stop and the tour guide, Clayton, explains that the alligators are very short sighted and can only see small white objects in the daytime… so we are going to feed them marshmallows… oh please, they obviously have them trained or at least conditioned to respond to the boats when they arrive in exchange for the titbits, but at least we get to see them up close and personal.
Almost immediately we have guests for dinner..
well at least WE are not on the menu..
I have a go at feeding one…
I give it another try and this one takes the mallow off the stick.. it is quite a powerful tug when he or she grabs it from the end, I wouldn’t want that to be my leg that’s for sure!
We move on to a couple of other areas and at one point are joined by several gators looking for their sweets
The guide then produces a baby alligator for people to hold… I am dubious at first about holding it as I’m not sure I agree with it, although I suspect it is a tamed one. The guide says this is a ‘rescue’ and is his pet.. mmmm.
In the end I don’t want any regrets so I do have a cuddle…
At least it didn’t shit on me, unlike the Koala Bear I held in Oz many years ago.
I do wonder what happens to these ‘pets’ once they get too big for the public to be handling, I hope they are looked after.
This area is also a source of natural gas so we see a number of ‘spigots’ dotted around
Near the mooring area there are several, of what I can only assume are, holiday homes… they look very ‘desirable’ I must say.
Soon we are back on terra firma and into the coach for the 30 minute return journey to NO. During the trip the driver plays a DVD, it is a short film about saving the wetlands and how they help in protecting the city from disasters like Katrina. Speaking of which, there are tours available of the worst effected areas; to my mind its a bit shocking really to see it almost turned into a theme park.. I’m sure I am being harsh here, but after so much suffering and with so many homeless and destitute people in the city it does seem odd that 11 years after the event there is still destruction to be seen. I understand there is also a memorial to the people who lost their lives etc. but even so….
When I get back to the city I have one last quick look around on my way back to the bike.
When I get to the garage I go to pay the parking bill expecting it to be $60 for two days… the attendant says $72… eh! You are 30 minutes late to pick up so it’s an additional $12. You know what, this hotel business has really spoilt my time in NO. I have enjoyed the tours and meeting some of the people.. although most of them don’t seem to smile much, especially in the hotel and shops and even the ritual ‘have a nice day’ seems half hearted here. I’m glad I came.. would I come back.. no don’t think so.. do I recommend it as a place to visit, yes indeed it is worth the visit.
So, back on the road and I have to say it feels really good to be on the bike again. Of course it’s a very late start and the next stop is supposed to be Pensacola, Florida some 200 miles away. However, I decide not to take the interstate and travel on Highway 90 again which is a fantastic choice because it takes me along the Gulf coast. It is absolutely beautiful, much better than Pacific Highway 1.
The first thing of note though is the beach houses… jealous or what… and they name these homes or ‘camps’ as they seem to be called, some very quirky titles… I did capture a few:
There were many, many more, but I felt a bit self-conscious stopping outside peoples homes.
and before I know it I am about to cross a bridge into Mississippi…
So Au Revoir Louisiana, Hi Y’all Mississippi.
I pass through Waveland
and into Long Beach… the other one, not California again… and then I see the Gulf in all it’s glory
I continue along the coast road into Glufport, Biloxi, Pascagoula and Ocean Springs
Then suddenly I’m in ‘Bama
S’long sippi, short but sweet… Bam! Bama
The road swings away from the coast now up towards Mobile. It begins to get dark and I realise I’m not going to make Pensacola tonight. I stop and check out booking.com to find a hotel in Mobile for the night. You know what, it is a bit grotty, but the staff are nice and friendly, (they smile), the sheets and towels are clean, breakfast is included and the parking is free – all for less than £40!!