Kiss of the Swamp Angels

Trip Start Mar 11, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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What I did
Canoeing on 9 Mile Pond

Flag of United States  , Florida
Friday, August 19, 2011

It's cheaper than hiring them in the park, they said. 

You can have it all day as opposed to 4 hours, they said. 

You can launch it anywhere you like, they said. 

"They" were the hostel owners. They were right but neglected to mention the cons (no pun intended). It was a hassle to attach (and keep attached!) the two canoes to the car. The bottom canoe goes face-down on the roof and the top canoe goes face-up on top of the other. As a result the driver's view was obscured by the bottom canoe's tip. The canoes were precariously perched on Alex and Flo's car, at the best of times. 

We slowly made our way to the Everglades National Park nonetheless.

But what's that weird sound? Vuvuzelas? Nope, they are packed securely in our backpacks. Or is it a huge mosquito following us, waiting to pounce? Phew! It's only the straps... constantly... hum... humming in the wind. It's when the humming stopped that we should have been concerned because that meant the straps came loose! We had to stop every 15 minutes and retie the canoes in the pouring rain. I swear I heard that hawk laughing at us! (see pic)

Are we having fun yet?

We finally got to 9 Mile Pond with canoes and windscreen in tact. It was raining worse than ever. I guess that's why they call it the wet season. We debated to still venture onto the lake and into the swamp. It was 1pm already and the lightning storms start around 3pm. You can pretty much set your watch to it. And everyone knows, water and electricity don't go well together!

But we'd come so far to just sit on the shore and play connect-the-dots with our mosquito bites. Maybe later!

When we decided to brave the elements (and the parasites), that's when it stopped raining. The water was disconcertingly warm, probably rife with bacteria. The pond was serene. The rowing was easy. The water-based plants and trees were like nothing we'd seen before. As the water level rises in the wet season, the animals disperse making it difficult to spot them. So we were lucky to spot a big white bird as it flew across our path. We later learnt that it was a royal heron. 

There was one other creature that made its presence known. We had come to a crossroads and couldn't find the next marker on the path. So we rowed closer to the edges to get a better look at what looked could be the path according to the map. As we sat debating, we heard and saw a huge SPLASH! Alex and Flo saw what made the splash. It was an alligator clearly marking his territory. He decided our next move. To get the hell out of there!

And then, of course, there were the mosquitoes. Aaargh! They are known as swamp angels in these parts and there are 43 types. We were after all in their natural habitat during the season that they are most active. We were bound to bump into them... in their thousands! So we came prepared: long sleeves, trousers, multiple layers of insect repellent. Enough DEET to strip paint!

Need to go potty? Forget about it! There are no toilets. Behind the bush and in the shade is mozzie HQ. Your best bet is to pee next to the car on the tarmac. Unless you don't mind bites on your bits! Ouch! 

I've never met mosquitoes like these before, and believe me, I've had more than my fair share of encounters. I even got bitten in the winter in Auckland! So this was looking for trouble. Swamp angels are evil, tenacious and intelligent little buggers that take no prisoners! They hover over your repellent-coated skin and clothes looking for a spot that you may have missed. It seems we missed quite a few! They bit right through our clothes and we ended up with clusters of bites that we nursed for days :(

Moral of the story: Avoid the Everglades in mosquito season or get someone to cover your back, literally! 
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I know the feeling, mosquitos, just love me too and I hate the buggers!

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