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Banbury Cross

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Post details: Gator Raid

Gator Raid

Everglades are the soul of Southern Florida. An immeasurable cobweb of sloughs and sawgrass marshes sprawling lazily in the heart of the ancient Seminole country; an enchanting tapestry that opens up for you if you can climb one of the Southern live oaks that take root in it. As far as your eyes can reach, you'll scope hundreds of acres of the most unique wetlands on this planet, deposits of peat and marl feverishly engaged in a pagan fertility rite; and where your eyes fail you, beyond the low horizon, you can still sense the natural wonders and tribal legends entangled in a mystical dance, their high heels skimping weightlessly over the cypress swamps and mangrove forests, spooking a puzzled heron here and there, and flailing their arms wildly while the restless wind whistles its Rhapsody in Green through the innumerable reeds. Technically, Everglades are a wide and slow flowing river, but in reality they are more a fusion of lakes and prairies, an illegitimate offspring lying low among the dense vegetation, a whispering voice embodying the fine balancing act between the silence and the noise, between the dry land and water. They are the moist skin of Earth sweating under the subtropical Sun.

Despite the fact that I lived 4 years in Georgia, I never visited Florida. I was about to several times, but something always got in the way. This weekend I finally got to break the curse and flew to Fort Lauderdale to meet with a friend. Obviously, one of the first things I wanted to see was the Gatorland. Observing the beasts in their natural habitat is much more thrilling than gaping at them in the controlled and demeaning ZOO cubicles. Everglades have no shortage of places where such encounters are possible. One of them is called the Everglades Holiday Park, a little outfit about 30 minutes from the airport, jutting into the Everglades from the end of Griffin Road.

The gators are nocturnal creatures and spotting them in a broad daylight is far from being foregone conclusion. When the captain huddled us into a small airboat, he warned us that we may come back empty handed. But even so, an hour long journey into the watery maze was breathtaking. The airboat glided smoothly along uninterrupted stretches of the elevation challenged countryside, took us behind the walls of tall grasses, over large plantations of sumptuously green waterlily pads and sometimes, guided by a maneuver that resembled a permanent skid, careened in wild turns into small alcoves filled with bladderworts and spatterdocks. As we coasted on, isolated islands of hardwood hammocks offered a fleeting glimpse of a raccoon or an iguana and also views of thick underbrush garnished with mosses, vines and parasitic filaments that looked like shredded veils, as if a throng of green brides just rushed through.

At the end, the captain found a small clearing and there we finally found them. Not one, but three large and one small alligators were swimming around us. We could have easily touched them, had it not been for the icicles in their mouths making it clear that there would have been chilling consequences. So we just looked at them in awe and tried to snap as many photos as we could. And they looked back at us equally lovingly, and some snapping was obviously on their mind, too.



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