(>Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator)
The days in the far south were soon counted, although the tourist offer leaves nothing to be desired and there would still be a lot to offer for a longer stay. But even the campsite in Key-West was a different price range for the budget than usual and was in another area already at hotel level.
We jumped from island to island back to the mainland and made a longer stop shortly before the last bridge in Key-Largo. Actually, down here in the Keys everything takes place outside on the water or under the water surface and is supposed to be a huge playground for every water fan. Beside all the many possibilities we decided for a longer tour to the offshore reef, where we could marvel at the beauty under the water surface, equipped with snorkel, diving goggles and fins. The return was more bad than beautiful and Chantal only remembered one sentence a sailor on the North Sea told her a long time ago: Always look at the horizon, then you survive the nausea!
Unfortunately the sea was restless on the day mentioned, which soon put our freshwater fitness to the test. The third snorkelling trip we both had to stop and get back on the ship. Further undersea observations did not bear our sense of balance any more!
For the further backtracking from southern Florida we took our courage again, crossed the Everglades and dared not only another night in the national park, but also a bicycle tour in the Shark Valley. Probably you can’t get closer to the big reptiles than there – next to the cycle path they lay comfortably in the sun. Actually, the alligators, in contrast to the crocodiles, are very shy and usually flee immediately; here they are so used to the cameras that none disappeared immediately into the next pond. But if one leaves the tourist paths, one only hears a splashing and from the alligator splendour, one perhaps only sees the tail disappearing in the water.
The last night in the Everglades we spent in a “primitive Campsite” a little bit away from the general tourist streams at the edge of some swamp. In the evening all other visitors left the place and – oh shaky – we were all alone with the big lizards!
Further on we followed some unusual roads and paths through southern Florida, where there are almost only wetlands and few forests. Sometime we reached Naples – the other Miami – and were very surprised about the big difference between the two cities. We missed neither skyscrapers nor the fast traffic and the many people, but found finest white sand and wonderful temperatures to refresh ourselves in the cool water.
Thanks to the later tourist development the west coast developed a little more positively than the sister cities at the east coast. Here the palm trees do not disappear in the shadow of the skyscrapers and holiday resorts. We even liked the true tourist centres and between the individual places one finds – in order to recover one’s eye from the kitsch – corresponding green areas.
During the drive from the south to the north we alternated again and again between the western coastal road and a few kilometres inland. Along the coast everything is really done for the bathing and sea tourism and also here there are many adventures to experience for corresponding dollars. In the hinterland, huge cattle ranches shape the general landscape, where the hunger for the evening beef is satisfied. Few areas were placed under state protection in time, where one can still guess today what the prairie looked like in the hinterland.
After so much zigzag from the coast to the hinterland and back again, we decided for a bathing break at the most beautiful beach of the west coast, where according to our Loney guide the whitest quartz sand should lie.
A little south of Clearwater (west of Tampa), the absolute party town on the west coast, we settled down in a state park for a few days and hoped for a few sunny days of peace and quiet. But already the next day a cold wind blew from the sea over the campground and instead of wriggling in the sun, we shivered in our four-wheeled dwelling.
Without a big tan we left the coast again to northern Florida, where according to our information more than 1’000 Springs, i.e. natural springs, rise to the surface and these inexhaustible water sources supply about 90% of the population with clean drinking water.
These Springs are almost all under government protection and protected by extensive parks, but all open to the public for recreational purposes. And this is used accordingly: From canoeists to cave divers, everything that somehow swims or can swim moves in these waters. Outside the actual springs, large signs draw attention to the fact that humans share water with other living creatures. When the hint “Beware of Alligators!” passed us, we suddenly had considerable respect for the further exploration of the wetlands and immediately became more reserved.
The temperature sank daily and also the clouds in the sky became more and more numerous. The Springs with their bathing possibilities were suddenly no longer at the top of our wish list, but also the landlords for canoes had closed their business due to the weather. But we turned over mud tracks through state forest areas towards the Panhandle and hoped again for somewhat warmer temperatures.
Then the absolute reality caught up with us while driving on the south coast of the Panhandle: Various people had already warned us. What we saw already in Georgia, we experienced here in a x-fold at destruction. Hurricane Michael hit the entire settlement area in Mexico Beach. Entire rows of houses were torn from their foundations by the storm and blown into the forest. Since then, the village has been virtually uninhabitable and those who are still in the village live in mobile homes or provisionally repaired “parts of houses”. Many people have been busy with cleaning up since that time and yet it still looks like a disaster movie from Hollywood, only with the difference that here everything was just real and without any direction.
We were very touched by what we saw and experienced and the whole situation moved us for a long time afterwards. And the crazy thing about it; one place further on and almost no damage is visible anymore.
Before the border to Alabama we visited the Blackwater River State Forest and wanted to drift on the river of the same name through the forest along the many sandbanks. Unfortunately, due to the weather, there were no more boats at the canoe rental and afterwards it was very good; shortly afterwards Petrus opened all his locks and the trip would have been a bit uncomfortable and very wet.
Our days in Florida were soon numbered and one last night we spent right before the border to Alabama, where a state park would almost invite us to linger, but the morning fighter jets and helicopters of the nearby military airport tore us very early from the feathers.
So we crossed almost at the same weather conditions as we arrived in Florida, over an offshore coastal strip the state border to Alabama and; here, in contrast to Florida, the few kilometers of coastline are filled with huge hotel complexes and the real great view of the Gulf of Mexico is denied by a lot of concrete. Instead, the low clouds distorted and the sun reflected wonderfully in the sea.
Mobile – Mo-biel speaks – we drove around far south and crossed the Bay of Mobile with the ferry far away from the urban happening. To our surprise the whole bay, but also outside on the high seas the sea is filled with drilling and production islands, where the black gold is extracted from the earth. In 2010 such an oil rig exploded and polluted the entire coastal strip with oil. The visible traces have been removed, but the further danger is accepted – for better or for worse. In the end, everyone needs this black juice to keep it rolling.
The coastal section of Alabama was very short, and already we crossed the border river to Mississippi. There was an extra stop for a photo at the new state sign, in the end everything should be nicely sharp.
Oh shock; I could not engage the gear for the continuation! With the clutch I stepped into the void! What’s going on? Shocked we both sat in the car and didn’t know what had happened. Somehow the clutch mechanism was no longer in order. Fortunately the jeep could be started in first and second gear with the gear engaged and the journey to the next camping site was almost guaranteed, if only very slowly.
Somehow we had once again found the “pin in the haystack” (pronounced “lucky”); already the reception at Presley’s Outing was very special. The owner, Lynn Presley, already wished us a warm welcome outside his restaurant and invited us to dinner.
What we experienced then was America live; a huge open heart and help for our problem that it was almost no problem anymore!
And for this evening “Switzerland-Day” was announced! To be continued.
>Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator