I decided I should really hit the Everglades and take a look around. I’d yet to see any alligators in Florida and I thought I might see one on an airboat tour. Keren told me about the Miccosukee Indian Village. I travelled from her house to the Miccosukee Casino, the closest thing my GPS could offer. I’d had a hell of a time trying to get the GPS to recognize the address and now I was at the Casino and there was a gas station offering airboat rides. I was adamant I needed to travel further out of the city and into the swamp, that the Miccosukee probably lived in the middle of nowhere, where I wanted to be! I was right; I drove past at least eight other airboat places until I started hitting all the Miccosukee shops and their air boat tours. I was just in time for their last boat out. I forked over $32. As I waited I saw the mother of all alligators swim by, easily twice the size the Carolina ones. He or she was HUGE but swam by too fast to take a good photo. There were a few baby ones near the shore as well as an assortment of odd birds.
I got onto the boat with several other tourists, including an adorable old German woman who seemed super excited. I don’t know what she was saying but it amused me how happy she seemed. Almost everyone was wearing hats, hats that all went flying when the boat was turned on. My bandana stayed on my head almost until the very end. Bobby pins are amazing. The boat was ungodly loud and the other passengers all seemed to have earplugs but I didn’t mind it so much. For some odd reason I’d entered some sort of Zen state and was fine with everything, completely relaxed. Life was good.
I saw lots of birds, cranes and little duck like creatures who were stout and didn’t run too fast when they saw the boat headed at them. I boated past many many birds until I ended up at a mock Indian Village in the middle of the swamp. The whole place was on stilts. I don’t know how anyone managed to build it but there was only one woman there selling beadwork and various Miccosukee made jewelry. I took some time to stare at the water off the sides of the village. There were all sorts of odd little creatures, mostly tiny fish and storks. Then I saw a fish that was maybe eight inches long for a split second. It darted off into the muck so fast that all it left behind was a trail of mud clouds. It was likely a baby gar. I’m still vibrantly freaked out by large boney fish… alligator gar are one of the biggest growing in the US.
So ten minutes loitering and I was back on the boat. I sat quietly and just enjoyed the ride. I went into what I can only call an alligator nursery. Here alligators up to half grown ones were swimming around in a swarm. Some were sunning themselves. Many darted away from the boat coming at them while still others hit the bottom of the boat rushing by when it was lying still. Those suckers were strong! The driver riled them up as much as he could to drive more of them to the surface for photos. They seemed mildly annoyed. There were signs everywhere not to try petting the alligators as if this was a common concern with them being so damn fluffy and cuddly! Funny enough our driver didn’t yell at anyone attempting to do just this. He was a real laid back guy, probably figured if the dumb white boy gets his arm gnawed off by a pissed lizard it’s their own damn fault.
I was still so incredibly chill. I was lathered in a tube of sun block and despite the fact it was one hundred degrees that day I was still so happy to be there. Life just made sense here. I was with my kin – hundreds of baby aquatic lizards. I could be their queen!
When I returned I loitered on the bridge overlooking a canal that was full of life. I were very happy to see an absolutely enormous alligator snapping turtle emerge from the deep, break the surface of the water, and retreat back into the darkness. I wasn;t expecting that! I got a photo too.
On the way out I desperately needed the bathroom so I stopped at the nearest convenience store. It was empty and quiet and had no bathroom. I tried buying some ice cream just to avoid being awkward but it turns out the freezers had croaked and the candy ice cream bars were soup.
Onward I went until I found a gas station, which I know is not a great pit stop. I was wearing my long hippie skirt which very quickly got completely sopping wet with the flood of water on the bathroom floor I didn’t notice. I came out not so happy. I was two buildings away from the Jeep and Ruud was again distracted, loitering on the swamp banks taking photos of an alligator who was panting for some reason, or at least it had its mouth open. To make matters worse I had just discovered Aunt Rosie had come to me three days before her usual arrival. I was abruptly snapped out of my relaxed haze and was instantaneously cranky. I changed my skirt in the car, in an unladylike manner as we were driving. Better.