Geek Cruise - Linux Lunacy 2 - Day 8 - Disembarkation and the Everglades

We were up very early. Our bags were gone. Had a quick breakfast and then grabbed the last of our gear and headed for the Rembrandt Lounge to wait for disembarkation. The Maasdam docked at Fort Lauderdale, and we eventually got to leave. Headed through a very informal Immigration Department and were pulled up short. We didn't have Green Cards or American passports so we had to fill in a form. Bugger. We hadn't been told anything about any forms form, but I should have known that we needed to fill one out. They gave us one, we filled it out, and were quickly pushed through the line. We were rushing because we had a tour of the Everglades to meet.

Grabbed our bags and Customs was a doddle. Made it to the bus and it was full. Absolutely full. One spare seat at the front, which Anne took, and one spare seat way down the back beside the toilet which I endured. We had a one hour bus trip to the Everglades.

Our destination was the Sawgrass Recreation Park. So first we looked at big alligators and small alligators. Here's a small alligator waving hello and hissing at us. [Small alligator waving
  hello]

This baby alligator was like a cat. Our guide propped it on his shoulder while he chatted to us and talked about the habits of the alligator. [Alligator as pet]

After the alligators, we wandered around the park for a bit. It was small island in the Everglades. There was a recreation of a Seminole Indian village, a bit rundown, and we watched a brief video of the history of the Seminole Indians and Florida. Then we walked around waiting for our turn on the airboats. [Lilypads]

They had a small zoo there, and I got to see my first prairie dogs. They also had a Florida puma, a young one. He was like a big cat, all drowsy in the heat. [Florida puma]

Finally it was time for the airboat ride. After the cruise, we were inured to being photographed at any opportunity. It's a way of maximising your profits. Look at me. Hideous, isn't it? I was sunburnt from Half Moon Cay and I wanted to keep the sun off my face. I had a straw hat with me, but it didn't have any straps to keep it on. Once we got on the airboat, I had a choice of clutching my hat the whole time, or taking it off and letting the sun get at me. I chose to buy a hideous floppy hat with straps. That did the job, even if it made me look stupider than normal.

One thing did annoy me. They used a digital camera to take the photos, and then they printed it out with a low quality inkjet printer. The end result was not startling in quality. Hell, they did a better job at Jamaica at Dunn River Falls, where they used a real photo printer with good quality paper.

[Getting ready for the
  airboat]

This is the airboat before us. I've seen these things on TV for many years. Now we get to ride one. The airboats are really really loud. So we all had earplugs. And our guide had to bellow at us when he cut the engine to look at something.

[The airboat]

And this is the Everglades. It's shallow water, with grass growing through it. Occasionally there are small islands. At a distance, it's like a sea of grass, but up close, it's all water.

[]

We drove around and looked at the grass and the water and got a feel for what the Everglades are. And then we went looking for alligators. There were plenty of them. This was the first one we spotted - just eyes and snout.

[First sighting of an
alligator]

There were plenty more, and we got close.

[Plenty more alligators]

At one stage we got caught in the middle of an alligator rumble. Two were fighting and more were heading their way. This one decided to leave.

[Alligator leaving the scene]

It was pretty. The water and the grass made interesting patterns.

[Grass and water patterns]

At one stage, they tried to dry up some of the Everglades by planting melaleuca trees. Those trees suck up a lot of water. But when they changed their mind, they tried to get rid of the melaleuca and found that it spread rapidly when they tried to cut it and burn it. Now they are going for the slow approach and slowly ring-barking and poisoning the trees. So there are lots of dying melaleuca trees around.

[Dying melaleuca trees]

The tour soon ended and we headed back to buses. Picked up our cheaply-printed photo and got on the bus. I was back with the toilet again and Anne had the front seat again. We headed for the airport. An hour later, we arrived at Fort Lauderdale airport. We couldn't even check in we were so early. We hung around for hours until we could get out bags in the system. And then we hung around for hours more till the flight left. We had another rush through Atlanta, but it wasn't quite as bad this time. And we finally got back to Norfolk at about 11pm, grabbed the car from long-term parking and headed home. A cup of tea, I unpacked, and tidied up, and then it was a normal day at work next day.

We had a great time. The cruise was fantastic. Next year, the Linux Lunacy Cruise goes to Alaska and Anne and I will be on it.

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