Everglades, to Key West, back to Naples, then last stop Miami....
20/03/2010 - 03/04/2010 28 °C
The trip to the Everglades hostel was a fun one, the weather decided to be the hottest day since I´d arrived and I only needed to catch a greyhound, train, metro and then another bus with the huge backpack. So when I turned up to the hostel in a sweaty mess it was nice to be greeted with open arms (perhaps not for them!).
The hostel was in Florida City and sits just at the top of the Everglades. So although its not right in the wilderness and actually near a fairly busy road - you´re none the wiser as the grounds are large and the relaxing waterfalls make you feel a long way from commercial civilisation (of course the Walmart is within walking distance).
There were several volunteers at the hostel, all very nice people each with interesting backgrounds and stories to tell. With a lot of people coming through the hostel it was interesting chatting to guests about their travels and getting tips on places I still plan to visit. Whilst staying at the hostel I was a volunteer and my main responsibilites were laundry. Although there was a constant flow, bed sheets, towels etc usual hostel stuff, it was not strenuous by any means and pushing a button, loading/unloading was fine by me.
Half way through the week my friends from back home (Nick & Mark) who I had met up with in Tampa came down along with a chap (Ryan) they´d met whilst staying in Miami the previous 2 weeks. We all signed up for the everglades tour for the following day and as I was a volunteer I benefited from it being free! It was only us four and a german girl who went on the trail, so we got a good personal tour, from the knowledgeable yet sense of humour lacking guide. He didnt like it when we made a joke (i suppose it was dangerous surroundings) but that didnt stop him from making several awkward comments towards our fellow german explorer. Don´t mention the war....Unlike Basil, he certainly didn´t get away with it.
Anyways, the tour was great and lasted most of the day. It included walking through swamp water up to our knees, a nature walk and best of all kayaking alongside the many alligators and crocodiles. They are huge beasts and extremely scary once you´re up close, especially when the guide pokes them with his oar and they go a little crazy. One came up and rocked Nick and Marks boat, scary indeed.... Until later we were speaking to a family who were staying at the hostel and the children said how they fell out of the kayak, which then sank when they got back into it and had an alligator chewing on the oar. But I still think we were brave!
I really enjoyed volunteering at the hostel and I met a lot of nice people. Another benefit of staying in the hostel was that the number of guests coming through the doors usually creates opportunities for sharing travel arrangements. We did just that and shared a lift down to Key West on the Friday (26th March) with a couple of people we´d met in the hostel. I´d arranged accomodation with a couchsurfer and he was kind enough to even let Nick and Mark come and stay. Eric was an extremely laid back host and actually had 9 people stay at his place during the 2 nights I was there. A real CS hostel - including guests from the US, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the UK. He works as a pilot and gets to travel for free, so it was great to hear some of his stories.
Couchsurfers United all descended upon Key West for the night and we went to a great cheap bar ($1 beers), me and Eric smashed the locals at 'Corn Hole' (basically chucking a bean bag through a hole in a piece of wood). The next day we headed to the beach and ended up with a serious volleyball competition on our hands with a friendly american family we met. I dont think geography was a strong point though, as they kept referring to friends of theirs living in England but when asked where abouts, said it definitely was not in Britain! You hear many stories like this, our island is very confusing to some.
We dropped Nick and Mark off at the Greyhound (who had a 24hr trip to Atlanta to look forward to), then went to get something to eat and watched the college basketball that was on TV (its playoff time). Eric was expecting 3 more cs'ers to turn up that evening so another busy house was expected. We just played cards until the early hours with the nice bunch of new surfers.
The next morning I zig-zagged on the greyhound across the state, up to Miami and then back across to Naples, where I was going to stay with Jessica and Anna again for a few more days. The weather in Naples this time was very nice so I got to go to the beach, play some more sports with Anna as she was on school holidays and eat very, very well!
Can not remember if I mentioned it last time but Jessica is a chef on a private boat, so certainly knows how to prepare a feast. Unfortunately for her (fortunately for everyone else) one of the dinner parties she had been preparing a long time for got cancelled, meaning there was a lot of nice food that just had to be eaten! So one evening Jessica´s brother and friend came over for some gourmet prepared salad, duck and specially imported salmon. It was seriously good, and not quite what I expected to be eating whilst on my travels.
The night before I left Naples, I layed down the challenge of some mini golf at the local course (where I learnt about the curious rule of the restart!) before being introduced to the troubles of american school kids as we watched ´Diary of a wimpy kid´at the cinema. It was great spending more time with Jessica and Anna and not only for the food, they are great company and fun to be around. They have their own trip to California to look forward to and i´ll be interested to hear the places they recommend.... Jessica is also a keen Southpark fan, this is usually a good indicator that I will get on with someone
Thursday morning I left for Miami, where I was going to be meeting up with some of the nice cuchsurfers i´d met in Key West. Aline and Nadine from Switzerland and Tanner from the US who was riding his motorbike on a huge circle of the US (very impressive). I met up with them at the beach during the day and then in the evening we all had tickets to see the Arctic Monkeys. As with most gigs I made sure we got down to the front. It was a great concert and nice to see them in a relatively small venue compared to what you would usually get in London.
The next day we spent most of the day walking around Miami Beach and watching the large amount of posers who frequent the area. I´ll never understand why some people like to sit in their huge cars pumping out music stuck in traffic just to look cool.... though my favourite was a huge muscle man struggling to walk down the beach due to his own rediculous bulk whilst his wife paraded along by his side in high heels and a thong (sadly no picture). There were many more perculiar sights that strangely became all very common, even in the short time I spent there.
As Aline and Nadine were also flying out from Miami on Saturday morning (3rd) we decided it was a good idea to spend the night at the airport rather than pay to stay in a hostel. We managed to have an extraordinary amount of fun during the 10hrs spent in the sterile airport environment . When 6am rolled around we went our seperate ways, me to Lima via a stopover in colombia and the much fun Swiss contigent to San Francisco. Again it´ll will be nice hearing their tips on the West.
My flight to Lima was pretty tiring, much because of the lack of sleep. So when I finally arrived at my hostel at about 7pm I was ready for a loooong sleep. I woke up the following morning and took a walk round the local area, then in the evening went to a water fountain show.
I was up early the next morning to fit in some breakfast before going to the airport to catch my flight to Cusco. My taxi journey to the airport was an interesting one, with a driver who had to sit in an awkward position so that he could see out of the non-cracked part of the windshield, whilst singing to Barry White on the radio (he also needed to stop enroute to splash his face). This combined with the heavy traffic meant I cut it very fine and checked in with a few mins to spare. This all worked in my favour however, as my sudden rise in anxiety when hearing ´Samwell Pre-or´followed by a spanish message was swiftly quelled when I realised I had been upgraded to business class!
I arrived to Cusco in class and that´s where i´ll have to leave it as I´ve typed enough. Needless to say i´ve been here for 2 weeks now and loving every minute.