Page 9 of our daily Tour Journal   

24th May 2004
We got pretty confused finding our way out of Savannah but finally found the low key highway we'd selected for our journey up to Charleton SC.

It's probably time to mention that although we have been travelling for three weeks and have covered over 2,000 miles we haven't been on a single hill. Not one! We're not counting some of the long concrete bridges which rise steeply to their azimuth then drop steeply again to the other side. Seriously folks, not a single hill in 2,000 miles through six States. We don't mean mountains, we just mean hills.....there aint any!!

Our entire journey has been through what is generally called the "Low Country". No hills, very hot and HEAPS of mosquitos. Even though it is only May the locals are saying we are currently experiencing conditions which are more typical of July. Oh well, thanks a lot!

We stop at a small and elegant resort town spelt Beaufort but pronounced "Boofort". It's on the Inland waterway so not truly on the coast in the Australian fashion. This means that the water is a greyish green at best. We've found the water colour to be quite disappointing right along the south eastern coast of the United States.

Grand old waterfront home in Beaufort

We were referred to a good place for lunch and it turned out to be very good indeed with prices that were quite reasonable. Earlier in our trip someone had recommended that we try "She Crab Soup" when we got into this area and seeing it on the menu we didn't miss the opportunity. It's apparently made exclusively from female crabs when they're full of roe and this gives a particularly rich flavoured soup even if it is less beneficial to the propagation of the species.

During the late afternoon's driving we made several side trips down minor country roads and whilst it was pleasant to admire the wonderful lime green trees lining the roads we didn't turn up anything particularly remarkable otherwise. One of our side excursions was to view "The Angel Oak" an oak tree alleged to be a "knock out" but search as we may, it completely alluded us.

Typical marsh-side shed and boat landing

So much of this lowland country passes through saltwater marshland with thousands of small streams and rivulets. It's not surprising that prawns, crabs and fish are in such abundance hereabouts.

We eventually reach Charleston and found our self contained cottage in the old historical section of town. We have this place for three days.

Late afternoon in Eastern USA is early morning in Eastern Australia and as usual Brian connected to the web as soon as we'd unpacked so that he could address any issues affecting clients' websites. On this occasion his mail contained a nasty shock regarding the future of an upstream provider, one which could have a catastrophic negative impact on about one third of Brian's clients' websites.

Brian was faced with a very difficult decision. He could do nothing and hope that things would somehow muddle through.... but this would be courting a potential disaster involving lots of client websites and email facilities. Alternatively, he could be very pro-active and move lots of websites out of the danger area and on to another of his upstream providers. The second (much safer) option involves an enormous amount of extremely laborious and stressful work.

25th May 2004
After a sleepless night Brian rose from bed with a determination to bite the bullet. He will disappear from this narrative for over 40 hours whilst he works his way through all the complex issues which flow from his decision.

Lynn went sightseeing in Charleston by herself. It looks to be a much bigger city than we imagined and has a fair amount of industrial activity along the harbour front. Our two bedroom rented cottage is the former servants' quarters and cookhouse located in the garden of a moderately grand home in the historical section of Charleston. Unfortunately the owner's home is being renovated at this time and there are always ten or so workman (and their vehicles) on site. Getting in or out of the driveway involves asking multiple tradesmen to move their vehicles. Some of them have shown their ire at these interruptions but hey, what are WE supposed to do?

26th May 2004
Brian is still chained to his laptop computer. The job has turned out to be much bigger than expected but fortunately it is proceeding quite smoothly without any nasty surprises or major problems. He's thanking his lucky stars that his disaster recovery preparations prior to leaving home are basically working like a charm. "but I didn't ever want them to be put to the test", he moans.

As Brian is hopeful that he will have largely concluded his work by late afternoon, Lynn takes the initiative to book a 2 hour Harbour Sunset Cruise aboard the 84 foot sailing schooner "Pride". Lynn also booked into an apparently classy historical Charleston restaurant called "82 Queen".

Sailing out of Charleston Harbour in the schooner "Pride"

Charleston Harbour is surrounded by a completely flat shore and also has greyish water (surprise surprise). It is hardly a scenic cruise in the expected sense but given the nice sunset it wasn't too bad. Brian enjoyed just being unchained from his computer and out on the water with a light evening breeze on his face.

Lynn checks our course and waves to passing trawler

Arriving back at the wharf at 9.00 pm we jumped into the car and drove to "82 Queen" for a late dinner. We entered a walled courtyard and discovered an outdoor dining area amid trees, gardens and tinkling fountains. All this was softly lit by a thousand tiny white fairy lights in the tree canopies and a number of flickering flares strategically placed amid the shrubs.

We were given a table in the absolute prime location but the bugs soon attacked Brian so we reluctantly had to move to a table inside the mansion house. We were given a complimentary cup of "She Crab Soup" which was one of the restaurant's signature dishes. It was different to our previous soup encounter but nevertheless very nice indeed.

27th May 2004
Goodbye Charleston, we're off to Camden, South Carolina today but not before we get several tradesmen to move their cars and pick-up trucks. It's clear that they are VERY pleased to see us on our way.

We passed a number of famous plantations which we could have visited for an inspection tour, but as we have already inspected several such places we decided to skip these ones and press on, especially as the weather is so hot.

We haven't previously mentioned the heat of the last week or so but it has been quite oppressive with temperatures between 85 and 99 F, every day. Thankfully each of our accommodations has been well air-conditioned and fortunately the air conditioning unit in the car seems to be a particularly powerful one as well.

It's a stinking hot day but we are mainly driving on quiet country roads shaded by continuous forests of lime green trees. We do not know what species of trees grow in these forests but they are extremely beautiful, cool looking places with filtered sunlight generating a hundred different shades of lime. We keep expecting that Robin Hood and his merry men will suddenly emerge from the forest accompanied by a silent and stealthy party of Cherokee Indians (poets license).

It's worth mentioning that we've been extremely impressed by the marvellous trees we have encountered throughout our entire American tour. This admiration was further augmented today when we dropped into a low key attraction called The Cypress Gardens near Moncks Corner in South Carolina.

The Cypress Gardens is a meandering swamp with hundred of Swamp Cypress trees, acres of water lilies, alligators, bull frogs, butterflies, dragonflies and herons. Incidentally, dragonflies of many sizes and colours are extremely prolific throughout the entire south. We love them.

Lynn pestered Brian into placing his head into an alligator's mouth for her photographic amusement and he foolishly agreed.

After a brief stroll along the pathways through the swamp we boarded a tiny punt with a Ranger and six other tourists for a slow and peaceful paddle around the swamp.

Our photos do not do justice to the Cyress Gardens

Our fellow travellers comprised a couple, several teenage girls and a grandmother. "We live down in the Tennessee panhandle", they informed us, "where y'all from?" For about the thousandth time this trip we reply that we're from Australia. "How long did it take you to drive up from there?", asks the teenager's mother. Whist we are struggling to formulate a non humiliating reply the grandmother fortunately jumped in, "Oh Nadine, don't be acting stupid, these folks here came over the ocean!" Nadine is not phased by this revelation. "Oh yeah, I musta forgot".

Brian snuck up on this unsuspecting white heron

Following our punt excursion we visited the Butterfly House, then drove on into Moncks Corner for lunch at the local Taco Bell franchise. They were the worst tacos we have ever eaten and comprised little more than lettuce, salsa and a handful of cheese. The one micron thin taco shell exploded into a million pieces at the first bite leaving one with a handful of goo !

For weeks our car has been covered by grasshoppers and other baked on American bugs. When we accosted a black guy at a manual car wash station and asked for some directions he said, "why don't you folks go sit a spell and have a cool drink whilst my team removes all those love bugs on the front of yo cawr?" It's an inviting invitation but there are several cars ahead of us and we can't spare the time. However, freshly motivated we enter an automated car wash later in the day. Brian opts for the "Double Wash" which means we get two lots of suds and two all over scrubs. Emerging from this super buffeting trauma we immediately inspect the front of the car. It's still covered with thousands of "love bugs" as before. Ah well, what the hell!

Talking about our Ford Taurus, we were parked beside a Toyota Camry today and they are indeed of similar size so please forget some comments we made earlier on in this tour journal. Incidentally the Taurus has worked out reasonably well for us. It's no great performer but it's doing an ok job if you ignore the large turning circle. American cars have never been noted for their turning circles and if you want a tight turning circle I guess you've got to go to a tight country like Japan or Italy where it's absolutely essential.

After lunch we drove some distance out of our way to visit the town of Sumter, home of the famous Swan Lake Iris Gardens. It is well known for its fabulous displays of irises and the fact that it's lake is home for all seven species of swan found throughout the world.

Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter S.C.

We arrive at 4.00 pm, later than intended but we figure on having at least one to three hours to inspect the gardens (it doesn't get dark until at least 9.00 pm and the gardens are supposed to be at their prime during late May and early June.

We accidentally drive into the Iris Gardens via the exit gateway but a police officer soon intercepts us and gives us the dreaded news. The gardens have just closed early so as to aid preparation for tomorrow's opening of the "Iris Festival".

Try as we might we couldn't talk the officer into allowing us a mere 15 minutes to at least sneak a peep. The above photo was acquired from other sources.

Greenleaf Inn in Camden S.C.

In the late afternoon we reached Camden SC and found our lodging at the Green Leaf Inn. It's a beautiful 1870's mansion and our exquisite upstairs guest room is furnished with tasteful antique furniture, rugs and object d'art. The huge windows are shaded with plantation shutters. Wooden ceiling fans adorn the 14 foot high ceiling. The bedroom is  about the size of a tennis court and the bathroom is extravagantly spacious as well. As we happen to be the only guests tonight it is extremely quiet and peaceful. We have our waiter's total attention when we dine in the beautifully restored downstairs dining room.

Green Leaf Inn is surrounded by a wide open verandah complete with a dozen rocking chairs. Multiple overhead fans keep one cool and keep the mosquitos at bay as well. All very Southern.... where's our Mint Julips?



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