|19th May 2004
We are rather late leaving Monticello given that we have a long
drive ahead of us including a significant stop to explore the
Okefenokee Swamp in Southern Georgia. To catch up some time we
took an Interstate Highway for part of the distance and somehow
managed to get unwittingly involved in a duel with a large semi
trailer. Deciding that discretion is the better part of valour
we dropped back to bide our time.
Sometime later we saw our
"adversary" get locked up in the outside lane and we
chose that moment to charge down the inside lane behind another
desperado in a big pick-up. This is the first bit of road
excitement we've had in almost 2,000 miles but we can do without
We reached the Stephen Foster
side of the Okefenokee Swamp around 3.00 pm and the sun is
boring down big time. It's really hard to leave the comfort of
our air conditioned vehicle to brave the outdoors. Nevertheless,
we totally lather ourselves with sun block-out then follow it up
with the same amount of insect repellent. Upon reporting to the
Rangers Office we discover that all swamp tours are cancelled
due to very low water. However we can rent a tinny with outboard
motor and do our own thing. This we elect to do but we quickly
receive several shocks.
The first shock is that every
surface of the dark camouflage green painted aluminium dinghy is
as hot as a wood fired stove. The second shock is that as soon
as Brian steps into our dinghy a six inch stream of water gushes
through a 3mm hole low down in the side of the boat. As this is
not an auspicious start to our voyage into a mosquito and
alligator infested swamps, we ask for an exchange boat.
The pained expression on the face of a very disinterested Ranger
plainly signals "another over reacting, pain in the butt,
tourist and a foreigner to boot". However she reluctantly
consents to check our complaint, then hastily changes her
manner. "Oh, I guess we can't send you out like that, can
A change of boat and some
additional blister burns sees us finally on our way and we see
our first alligator within a couple of minutes. The Okefenokee
Swamp lives up to its romantic sounding name and if you're ever
nearby you should definitely give it at least a couple of hours.
Hey, haven't these
girls heard about the mosquitos?
There's thousands of swamp
cypresses with large buttress root systems, lots of flowering
water lilies, various lime green leafed trees we do not
recognise along with hanging vines, spanish moss and lots of
Trees and sky
reflected in the mirror swamp water
In the wildlife department we are
treated to at least 50 alligators, many turtles, ibises, large
fish, a few deer AND mosquitoes by the squillion! It's really
hard to photograph the wildlife however because the outboard
motor's din spooks them before we can get really close. The
vibration of the boat also spoils any photos we take using high
Most gators were
between 1.5 and 2.0 metres long
A few times we got within two or
three metres of an alligator at a time when the camera wasn't
activated for a shot. Disappointing. And as our outboard motor
had been quite hard to start back at the dock, Brian was
reluctant to stop it completely to take a photo. It was getting
late in the afternoon and we didn't feel like spending the night
in the swamp should the motor refuse to start. It wasn't the
alligators which scared Brian so much.... it was the mosquitos.
Eventually the mozzies became too
ferocious. We decide to call it quits and return to the haven of
our air conditioned capsule parked back at the dock.
An hour's drive later we arrived
at Kingsland Georgia where we checked into a so-so Motor Inn for
a one night stay. We found a place nearby claiming to be a
Japanese Teppanaki Restaurant. What a travesty. It is best
forgotten and deserves to sink without a trace.
20th May 2004
Our plan is to visit Jekyll Island and St. Simons Island today.
These are just a couple of the many sandy offshore islands which
face the Atlantic Ocean in an almost continuous line along the
Florida, Georgia and Carolina coasts. These barrier islands
guard the "Inter Coastal Waterway" which allows even
small pleasure craft to make relatively safe and long passages
along the eastern seaboard of the United States.
We once researched this area in
preparation for a planned voyage from Florida up the Inter
Coastal Waterway to New York, up the Hudson into the Great
Lakes, thence into the Mississippi and down to New Orleans. We
had intended to ship our boat "Sovereign" to Miami on
a freighter for the purpose. After doing the big loop our idea
was to then try to get across into the Caribbean and the Virgin
Islands. Various health and other obstacles put paid to this
dream but researching all those books and magazines was fun and
romantic whilst it lasted.
Anyhow, what we're leading up to
mention is that we're no longer disappointed that our dream was
thwarted because today we discover that the Inter Coastal
Waterway is quite bloody brown! It may be ocean water but it
looks like coffee and apparently stays like that most of the
time. The other week we also discovered that the Mississippi was
much browner than we had imagined. So if we had have gone ahead
with that old dream we would have ended up spending nearly a
year on brown water and that is definitely NOT our idea of
We quite liked Jekyll Island. It
is very low key and has a nicely serene feel about it. We spent
some time looking around the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, once the
summer vacation home of many multi millionaires. For more info
go to www.jekyllisland.com
Island Club recalls a bygone era
We were very much less impressed
with St. Simons Island. By contrast it seemed extremely
commercial with lots of traffic, busy intersections and traffic
lights. Not our idea of island living.
By mid afternoon we were ready to
head off to the small town of Darion where we easily located
Open Gates Bed & Breakfast. The proprietor was out but had
left us a note, some cold drinks, wine and hors d'ouvres in the
We were also delighted to discover a large clear swimming pool
in the garden and we wasted no time plunging in for
refreshing relief after a very hot day of sight seeing.
Talking about the heat, each of
the last few days have been around 90 F or a little more during
the day and 70 F at night. The same type of weather is predicted
for the rest of the week. Luckily all of our accommodations have
been air conditioned and most have ceiling fans as well.
Feeling somewhat restored we go
looking for a Laundromat. Although Lynn has occasionally availed
herself of of these institutions during past travels, it's a
neglected part of Brian's education. The one we found in Darion
was a real eye opener. It was quite large with badly neglected
rusty equipment and spider webs all over ceilings and walls.
Ambience wise it was like coming in the side door of Hades and
almost as hot. It was over 90 degrees F out in the street and at
least 20 degrees hotter in the laundry. Next door to the laundry
was a package liquor store beside a hole in the wall shack which
sold soul food. Brian read the menu on the wall and was
instantly smitten with a desire to try "Deep Fried Gizzards
- 10 for $1.99". The interesting personalities hanging
around outside looked like they were gizzard eaters from way
back. In another town we might have felt a tiny bit threatened
but here in Darion we just took it in our stride.
After sitting in hell for 30
minutes Brian left Lynn to keep an eye on the tumble drier
whilst he browsed the air conditioned Liquor Store. In due
course he returned with two chilled 200 ml miniatures of Pina
Colada, passed one to Lynn and said "get this into ya".
Lynn only hesitated long enough to say, "this is supposed
to be poured over ice and we happen to have ice and some
drinking beakers in the trunk of the car". A couple of
minutes later we were toasting each other and having a high old
time. Just goes to show that there's an adventure waiting around
almost any bend if you look for it.
consider our dining plans and opt for "Mudslide
restaurant built out over the marshy banks of the Altahama
River, just out of town. Despite its obscure
location it's quite a large place and it's really pumping by the
time we arrive. In spite of the crush we luckily get a table
within 20 minutes. We settle back to enjoy the repartee between
many of our fellow diners. They obviously all know each other well and
there's plenty of backchat between the various tables and with the
The view from
Mudslide Charlie's Restaurant
We opt to start with the Crab
appetizer which turns out to be a very thick kind of creamy crab
soup. Delicious! Then we decide to follow with fried oysters.
"How many pieces to a serve?" Brian asks our waitress.
"We measure 4 ounces of oysters" the girl replies
"but I don't really know how many". Brian then recalls
that it is the American custom to measure shucked oysters by the
pint or quart rather than by the unit as we do in Australia.
Well, even though the oysters were a generous size, 4
ounces turned out to be a lot of fried oysters. They tasted
great in crisp fine bread crumbs. We then
shared a plate of super fat freshly boiled Snow Crab legs which
gave up thick cylinders of crab meat for dipping in melted
butter, salt and pepper. The
whole evening only came to about $50 including a couple of
glasses of Chardonnay. We were well pleased.
Kelly and Geoff were our hosts at
Open Gates B&B and they were the most hospitable Inn Keepers
we're encountered thus far. This antebellum establishment is
spacious, friendly and well maintained. We thoroughly recommend
it to anyone needing to rest their head in Darion Georgia. Check
it out at www.opengatesbnb.com
21st May 2004
It's only an hours drive from Darion to Savannah but being in
our increasingly slowed down vacation mode it's almost 11 am
before we hit the road. We make the mistake of stopping at a
WalMart to buy some stuff we need and by the time we exit two
hours have gone by and we're a few hundred dollars lighter. And
judging by what's in our shopping trolley we'll soon be a few
hundred pounds heavier!
Today is a bit of a red letter
day because we're starting a six day period in which we will be
staying in self contained apartments. We have three days in
Savannah then three days in Charleston. This means we can cook
and eat Aussie style and not have to face a never ending stream
of cafes, restaurants and fast food chains. Hallelujah!
Our one bedroom apartment turns
out to be reasonably placed in the historic section of town
amidst many old and picturesque parks and town squares. The
apartment itself has the size and layout we expected but it has
not been properly maintained and is quite shabby. There aren't
many windows so you need to have lights on all of the time. Some
lights don't work, some power plugs don't work and it's all
Reading the Guest Book we
discover that every visitor to this place has come with a couple
of dogs or cats. No wonder the carpet is such a mess. Lynn says
she remembers the website saying that this place was "pet
friendly" but the implications of that statement hadn't
really sunk in.
To top things off, the place is
full of mosquitos, there's no insect spray and precious little
other inventory as well. There's not even a broom, pot scourer,
brush or sponge. The only knives are some toy steak
knives which probably came as a bonus free gift with a pack of 4
hamburger patties. As the
owner lives over in Kentucky it's not much use seeking a quick
remedy to our woes.
We've also discovered that
several elephants live on bare timber floors in the apartment above. All this stuff
is quite disappointing but we'll just have to be philosophical
and tough it out for three days. We'll laugh about it in the future but we
don't feel like laughing right at this moment.
We took a walk around the historical
streets near our apartment and admired the many small squares
which were all grassed, surrounded by low hedges and shaded with
lovely trees. The streets are very quiet in this district and it
is most pleasant to sit on a park bench under the trees and
escape the heat.
Early in the evening we joined a
Georgian business associate and his family for a lovely dinner
at the "Sapphire Grill". Despite the restaurant's
rather pedestrian name, the dishes were quite in a quite
style and unlike typical American cuisine. Lynn had wild salmon
and Brian had a duck breast. Both were cooked perfectly, well
presented and served with delicious sauces. Furthermore the
service was absolutely impeccable. This was indeed an impressive
effort, especially given the huge size of this multi floored
restaurant which was full to overflowing on this Saturday evening.