December saw the Skeet family leave the yard behind and fly off to Florida to fulfill Mel’s wish that the family should visit a land he loved. The time was split between the peace and tranquility of The Everglades and the hustle and bustle of Orlando.
Alligator hunting was the first order of the day. Waist deep in swamp water, we followed our own Crocodile Dundee guide who cheerfully called to us, “Come over here – this is the place they like to feed” – and as we pushed through the water towards his voice, we were all praying we didn’t sound tasty. We crept forward nervously, secretly all hoping that we wouldn’t get to see what we had come to see! But see them we did – and brown water snakes, which basked in logs and swam in the water round our ankles. Mosquitoes bit our necks, water creatures stung our legs and sawgrass sliced our arms, but it was a great day out.
As the afternoon drew on, we moved deeper into the National Park until we reached the sea. Paddling canoes now, we set off against a head wind into the salt waters of Flamingo Bay. Here alligators swam freely around us, Lemon Sharks gently nudged our boats and huge rays swam beneath us. As the sun set over the water and we paddled back in the dark, we thought the day was over – but we were wrong. After we had loaded our canoes and settled into the seats of the warm 4×4, we traveled back through the deepest Everglades – when all of a sudden the vehicle stopped. In the pitch dark, our Dundee guide hands us red torches and indicates with his hands to be quiet, and to follow him. Back into the waist deep water we went – Alligator hunting in the dark – hoping (or not) to see the eerie red lights pick up the shine from their eyes, as they lay half submerged but wide awake.
The next day was also spent on the water. This time we spent hours on an airboat exploring the management area of the Everglades. Flying over water and grass, our boat was powered by an aeroplane engine that shattered the peace of this wilderness. Here we saw even bigger Alligators. Huge territorial males and smaller females protecting their young – and then it was time to move North by Amtrack to join the rest of the family in Orlando.
We visited the Kennedy Space Centre and followed the journey of the Saturn rockets and Apollo space craft, as they competed in the space race. Theme parks were visited and helicopter rides taken. We even got Simon on a Segway to tour the town of Celebration.
It was well deserved break for all the family. Just what Mel had hoped for. Everyone together in the evenings enjoying a game of pool in the sunshine state, laughing late into the night, aided by the odd splash of lemonade.