4 March - Miami Beach
Upon return from Santo Domingo, I stayed the night with Ellen and Beth, whose household had increased by 4 at the arrival of a group of senior cyclists who had cycled from Jacksonville to Miami. The next day I ended up the Everglades Hostel in Florida City, with the idea of cycling along the Everglades road in the National Park to Flamingo, camp there, return to Florida City, thence to Miami to continue my trip. However, the hostel runs tours to the Everglades, which seemed a much more interesting option than just cycling there and back.
Monday morning found 5 others and myself, plus Graham, our driver and guide for the day, arriving at our first port of call in the National Park, to walk along a boardwalk across the water, close up and frontal to alligators and loads of birdlife: ibis, wood storks, pelicans, turkey buzzards, little green heron, great blue heron, purple gallules, cormorands, buzzards. Further into the park, we ate lunch sitting on the river bank just 10 feet away from a big alligator, followed by a canoe trip in the mango forest, with, not just alligators, but also a very large crocodile. We stopped off at Flamingo for ice cream and a visit to the small, interesting wildlife museum. The final activity was way out of my comfort zone: wading in knee-high water through the pre-historic-looking cypress forests, apparently snake-, spider-, alligator-infested and, maybe, a few leeches thrown in for good measure. But, do you remember in Alaska, if you don't want to see any wildlife, go with Astrid? Well, I am very glad to say that the same adage was applicable here in the Everglades' river. Yippee - no snakes or spiders dropping from the branches or swishing through the water, and only the one alligator at the end of the walk, who was more interested in ducking down into the culvert that would take him to the other side of the road. I forced myself to have enough presence of mind, during the walk, to look around and appreciate the beauty of these ancient forests. The whole trip was brilliant and truly memorable.
The hostel was a great place to stay: relaxing, interesting, enjoyable. Ohwn, the owner, bought it 13 years ago, with just a building on the land. The grounds she has created herself into a peaceful haven, including a soothing waterfall and pool, outdoor (hot-water) shower, hammocks, gazebo common room. I stayed in a dorm bed the first night and then in my tent the subsequent 2 nights. I lost in Scrabble to the I-don't-mind-losing-to-such-a-nice-guy, Paul. I had long chats with Jerry about one's future path in life. It looks like I shall have to wait for a YouTube video to hear Colleen sing. I left the hostel reluctantly - but the longer you stay anywhere, the more difficult it is to say goodbye.
I have now returned to Miami. On Saturday I begin the final, short leg of my wonderful trip: the freighter (I might be the only passenger!) departs from the Port of Miami on 6 March, arriving in southern Spain 13 days later. I .shall be incommunicado for that time.
I have clocked up just over 18,000 miles.
5 March - Miami
What a shame, my last day in the States has been somewhat marred by a falling out with the freighter travel cruise agency, through whom I booked my trans-Pacific voyage (which was such a wonderful experience) and my trans-Atlantic one, departing tomorrow. I think the most I can say is that it is a prime example of the importance of having some personal contact with customers, instead of relying on the vagaries of email that risk misunderstanding and, in this case, rudeness and incivility. Just as well I'm not planning on any other freighter voyages in the immediate future.
Having spent the previous 2 nights with yet another warm showers host (thanks heaps, Jaelanne and Ken), and the last couple of days avidly sorting photos and putting loads onto my website, today has been cycling leisurely along the Miami waterfront, watching the array of boats go by or moored: freighter, cruise, tourist, sailing, gin palaces, water taxis.
I hope you will stay with me whilst I cross the Atlantic, so that we can meet up again in Algeciras in Spain. Blessings and joy.
6 March - Miami
Just a quick entry before I am transported to the ship.
I had lovely last evening, not only in Miami, but on the North American continent, thanks to Ellen and Beth, who invited me to stay with them for my last night. How lovely was that, to be in a home sweet home.
By the way, I love the grid system of roads that exist in some American systems; so easy to find your way around.
Finally in Florida, it' hot, sunny, hot. xxx :-)
Must go. XXX
20 March - Gibraltar
Well, then, here I mm back in Europe; and in Britain, in fact; that is to say, British Gibraltar. Having arrived in Algeciras, I could hardly not make a small detour to here, as it is so close.
I enjoyed immensely the voyage across the Atlantic. Being the sole passenger was a mixed blessing: yes, I could plan my day exactly as I wanted (working on the computer sorting photos and doing trip stuff, resting when I wanted (it's surprisingly tiring doing nothing physical for such an extended period and coping with losing an hour every other night), reading, writing; but sitting at meal times on your own doing Sudoku ain't too thrilling and being unable to experience the adrenaline-rush of competitive Ludo games, as of the Pacific crossing, was a definite drawback. :-( :-) I think also that 13 days is a tad too long, confirmed to me when I spent the last 2 days playing hours (yes, hours) of solitaire on my computer and taking an hour and a half to catch up on celeb's lives by reading People magazine (from the ship's library - not, I hasten to add, bought by me) from cover to cover (yikes, have I really gone public with this? maybe I need to go into rehab!). I did also read Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, which was hilarious (where it was supposed to be) and ecologically informative at other times.
The highlight of the trip was watching a load (how many in a school?) of dolphins plying at the bow of the ship. It was magical, which you will see (and hear; I emitted rather high-pitched shrills, whilst filming them) at some point when I put the filmed clip on my website.
On the tenth day of the voyage it was like Piccadilly Circus in the rush hour: up 'til then, not one ship in view, and then on that day, not one, but TWO ships on the horizon! Coo, talk about nail-bitingly accurate driving being required.
The sun shone every day, until the last 2 days, when it was mis (as in miserable, not mist without the 't') and sunless, a foretaste of things to come now that I am back in Europe. Hey ho. Yes, it has been overcast and spotting since arriving in Algeciras, cycling to Gibraltar and sightseeing yesterday afternoon.
A couple of British bobbies suggested, after they had told me I was cycling in a pedestrian area, that I go to the Gibraltar Chronicle about my trip; which I duly did and there should be an article some time next week. One thing I need to email them about is that I then met the organist at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, who had been married by my uncle 50 years ago this year, when he was a naval chaplain and doing a stint in Gibraltar.
Enough for now. Write more soon.
21 March - Tangiers, Morocco
Couldn't resist another (brief) entry, cos, in the last 3 days I have gone from a Croatian/Filipino to Spanish to English, back to Spanish, to French/Arabic speaking environments; tomorrow returning to Spanish.
I decided, at the insistence of my children (!?) to do a small detour to North Africa, well, they said, as you are in the area ..... go!' So I did.
I've had rain, wind++, fog and something I had difficulty recognising at first: hills? what are hills? having not encountered any for about 2 months. Well, today, I remembered exactly what they were. ooooh.
I also ended up today being obliged to go on a motorway (oh, not again, I hear a few anguished cries) because there was no alternative route. So, thirty-five sloooow kilometres along this, incredibly quiet, joy to cycle, motorway, I am pulled over by a couple of guys who are responsible for the safety of the motorways and all who have travel along them and so, having been informed by somebody who also works in some associated capacity and who had stopped me earlier, they came along to give me a lift to an exit off and a legal road for me to travel along. Very nice. However, the ensuing road was much busier and faster and made me feel far more vulnerable than when I was pootling along the motorway. Odd, eh?
Now it is late and I am whacked. Oh, those hills. Good night. :-)
29 March - Seville, Spain
This week in Spain, and particularly in Seville, is Semana Santas: the week-long festival of many daily processions during this Christian Holy Week, depicting different aspects of events leading up to the Crucifixion of our Lord. Yesterday, I spent 2 1/2 hours following one of the processions through the centre of the city, followed by 2 1/2 hours standing at the Triana bridge whilst that procession went by. During my trip I have experienced many religious festivals from different faiths; for me, this was one of the more powerful ones. The first procession, in particular, had a very good band, from which emanated hugely emotive music to accompany the shrines of the cross-bearing Christ and of Jesus' grieving mother.
I arrived in Seville on Friday, having taken a ferry from Tangiers to the extremely pretty port town of Tarifa, in which I passed a few
relaxing hours before sauntering along to a campsite a few miles up the road. The following couple of days, thereafter, were a bit of a challenge. The tourist office woman had said the
coast road would be flat and that, although there would be a 2 km stretch that would be closed to normal traffic, due to it being a military zone, I, on a bike, would be able to get through and
continue along the coast (otherwise it would be about a 40 km retracing detour). Hmmm .... . Well, to cut a long story short, I ended up pushing my bike up two long x 2.2 miles per hour
walking speed hills, only to find at the top of both that, no, there was NO road continuing on along the coast! and I was looking at the horrendous prospect of having to retrace my steps against a
strong headwind and an extensive hill to go on the 40 km detour to get 2 kms along the road!!!! I was gutted - to put it mildly; it was by now 3.30pm - and I was,, shall we say, a
notch tired. I'm afraid my tears were like a rushing torrent after a recent rainstorm.
Then .... on the way down this second, rubber-burning, hill, I noticed a sizeable compacted road on my right, at the start of which there was a helpful sign with a map on it indicating that it linked up to the next village along. It also mentioned a cycle route. Oh, joy! It started off great - although, after a little while, I realised that the sign had omitted to mention a small, but very useful word in front of 'bike route' - namely, 'mountain'. Even so, my wonderfully, reliant Raven surpassed herself and showed her to be an incredibly robust Raven - cos, we made it - intact. (I have been aware since about Austin, Texas, that I might need a new back tyre soon,a s it has a slash in it, which, has not yet caused the whole tyre to blow, but .... only matter of time? The last new tyre was in Dubai - let me see now, oh yes, a year and 9000 miles ago - not bad, I guess.
I have been camping every night since arriving back in Spain; until now in Seville where I am staying at a couple of hostels. The second one, the Triana, gives discounts - and a stamp - to pilgrims on the Santiago route! :-) And so now, yes, folks, I am officially back on the Santiago Camino. Seville is the start of the Silver Route, which heads directly north from here. I, on the other hand, shall be heading down to Faro in Portugal and starting the Portuguese Route from Lisbon. I am so looking forward to it.
In the meantime, I bought a new back tyre today and, now that the torrential downpour has stopped, I can finish this journal entry and go and put it on. If you have time, take a look at the Video page for a couple of new postings. I am also going to try and get some videos up from my trans-Atlantic crossing, as well as some photos, before I leave Seville tomorrow morning.
A thought for the day: everyone should be loved for who they are, not for who somebody else thinks they should be. :-)