Thursday, 14 January 2010

Florida - a trip surpassing anything I have imagined

Birdnut at the start of our trip
I left Berlin after a very sleepless night being very, very excited. Would I get a 6 months visa for the US? Would my luggage show up? Would it be undamaged? Would Birdnut be at MIA to pick me up? Loads of questions on a very cramped flight to Miami. But the answers to all these questions were: YES!

All flights were on time, the immigration officer was nice, all my bags and boxes were there and even Birdnut was already happily awaiting me. Very good start indeed!

Our bomb proof tent
And this is when things started to get the way I did not expect. Birdnut and I were planning on doing a flipflop on the Wilderness Waterway - one week going northbound and another week going southbound doing some sort of a loop. Birdnut had already booked campsites and checked everything out so we happily departed on the 7th with 6 days worth of food in a brand new canoe. The first day was only a half day paddle and the sea was as smooth as a baby's butt. It was a bit chilly but still much better than Germany. Even our second day was very nice and we found a nice beach campsite overlooking the sea and a glorious sunset while we were sitting next to a campfire barbecuing brats and sweet potatoes (I have to live up to my reputation of cooking 3-course dinners...). We went to bed expecting another glorious day in the sun.

I woke up at 4 am that morning in howling wind and bitter cold. The tent was not doing very well - even as it was Birdnut's 2 person free-standing bomb-proof heavy weight car camping tent. All stakes had come off and I realised that I could not get out of the thing without it blowing away!!!! I yelled: "Birdnut, I have a problem!!!!!!" Birdnut being a perfect gentleman came to my rescue and with a fully loaded cooler and two full 6 gallons water containers we could eventually secure my tent. His was still doing remarkably well. At that point it was already apparent that paddling that day might not be such a good idea.... We were in a canoe after all and the sea was full of whitecaps.

To cut a long story short: We were marooned on that beach campsite for 2 full days. The sea was too bad to leave. Luckily I found a sheltered spot in the mangroves out of the wind. It was freezing cold. I am not exaggerating here: Florida - also called Sunshine State - had a record low. The beach was full of dead fish, literally hundreds of them. We later found out that they died because of the cold - as did most of the crops we saw later. I was wearing my warm cap and warm jacket almost a week straight. I was surprised out water containers did not freeze. Having company was great. We kept each other entertained by telling each other trail stories and I (being a German citizen) taught Birdnut (an American) all the America states which I had memorized on some very long days on my CDT thruhike. Birdnut then lost a bet and had to do the dishes for the rest of the trip. He had bet that there is no American state starting with R..... (for those of you who are not so good at memorizing: There is one American state starting with R: Rhode Island.)

Birdnut in Florida outfit
On the third day we finally left. It was still freezing cold, but the wind had calmed down at least a bit. When we launched into the white caps I was so shit scared that I forgot to scream. But we made it back in one piece with all our gear. Unfortunately hotels here do not have central heating, so we were still cold on our "rest day" - not that we really needed one after being stuck in tent for over 2 days.

So today I am in Everglades City and we are heading out for another 5 day paddling trip. So far it is really warm. I might even wear shorts today, but I do not really dare to believe it.....

Well so much for Florida, where it is always warm, even in the winter....


Anne said...

Barbecuing brats??? I thought you didn't like children!

John Harwood said...

It was really cold in the north of Florida too. I heard all the farmers were collecting their crops as they would lose them all in the unusually cold weather. Hope you are a bit warmer now. I am in South Carolina now and it has warmed to 18c and I am back in shorts too, though I am sure it will not last. Take care.