How we got lost - twice!

On our second day in the States, we decided to visit the Ocanaluftee Village just outside Cherokee. The village demonstrates how the Cherokee Indians lived around the 1750. We found it very interesting, not least to see the various exhibitions and listen to stories about the Cherokees, their story and legends and the rituals of the tribe. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians living in the Qualla Bondary in North Carolina, is the smallest of the three federally recognized groups of Cherokees. The boundary is all that is left of the more than 135.000 square miles large area, that the tribe controlled. Cherokee land covered parts of moderne day states of Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, but a series of treaties with England and later the U.S. reduced the area to virtually nothing, and in 1838 most of the tribe were forced to move west on what is later known as Trail of Tears. Between 4,000 and 6,000 cherokee died en route to Oklahoma. A few escaped the move (most were living on land belonging to William Hollland Thomas, known as "The White Cherokee") and those few became the ancestors of modern day Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

If you ever visit Cherokee, NC be sure to visit the village and also the Museum of the Cherokeee Indians and maybe if you got time watch the outdoor performance "Unto These Hills" as well. The show tells the tribe's history from the whites came to the area and until the Trail of Tears.

After visiting the village we drove south together with my parents in law. Dortes brother and his family had to go to Asheville to pick up the suitcase, that was lost on the flight from Amsterdam to Chicago, but now finally had caught up with them.  We decided to drive straight to Hendersonville, end goal of the day, but taking the southern part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This road that runs from near Charlottesville, Virginia to Asheville is very beautiful, and certainly much nicer than the freeway. Most of the way we drove above the low hanging clouds of the Great Smoky Mountains and we had some nice views, but otherwise the trip was quite boring. All we saw was a signpost, telling us that bears had been sighted in the area, but we never even saw the shadow of a bear. Neither did our overnight stay in Hendersonville generate a lot of excitement except that we could get a beer for our dinner, a nice ice cold beer after a rather hot day's driving.

The following day our goal was the small, very small town of Santee in South Carolina (population 681). This was to be the starting point of our visit to Charleston. Before we turned south though, we wanted to see The Natural Chimney, which is a rock in a park! When we got to the park however, it was so foggy that the other participants in our company (all three cars were together at that time) decided that it would not be worth the money to enter the park. We on the other hand wanted to see the place now we were there - fog or no fog, so we visited the place on our own while the rest of the party continued to Santee.

And it was foggy. When we left the lift on top of the 300 feet high cliff next to the chimney, 2,000 feet above sea level, we read on a sign, that on a clear day you can see the mountains 80 miles away, but we could barely see the mountain slope 350 feet away. But it was still an experience, not least to walk down from the cliff in the fog, as Dorte and I did. The kids chickened out and took the lift back down. The park is located in a small village called Hickory Nut Gorge. It is owned by the Morse family, the park that is, not the village. The area was bought by Lucius Morse sometime in the 1800s and has belonged to the family ever since.

After our visit to Chimney Rock Park we were finally going south or so we thought, but for the first time on the trip, we navigated completely wrong, so we got farther and farther out in the North Carolina wilderness. In a small village, we found a post office, but unfortunately it as well as anything else in the village was closed. Luckily a gentleman stopped in his the car and we asked him for directions to the motorway. He gave us the directions and and in return he would like to know where we came from? We told him, and he told us, that he actually had a friend from Denmark.

With the help from the friendly guy, we found the highway, and then it was no problem to find Santee and the hotel where we found most of the family in the pool when we arrived, and the remainder at the poolside. After having carried our luggage to the room, I changed and jumped in the pool as well together with the children. The day before we had discovered that we had left Dortes swimsuit in Denmark, så she had to stay at the poolside. Next day we tried to remedy Dortes swimsuit shortage, but it would prove to be a bigger challenge than we had anticipated.

While planning our trip back home, someone mentioned that Boone Hall Plantation outside Charleston was open to the public and everybody agreed, that we had to go there. In 2000 the television series North & South was rerun for the umpteenth time, and the series was very popular, and Boone Hall being used in this series, was the reason we liked to see it. Unfortunately we just could not agree on when, so while the rest of the family went to Charleston and then later to Boone Hall, we chose the opposite approach, and visited the plantation before going to town. Once again we paid a small fortune to enter, and then yet another fortune ($ 5) to get on a guided tour on the premises with Bob! When we drove up the live oak avenue, it felt like being a part of the show, only the main characters were missing.

Before we took the guided tour, we walked around and looked at the plantation, and just as we were as far away from the main building and the parking lot as possible, the sky opened its gates, so we took refuge in the cotton dock, where several of the scenes of the the series are unfolding. When it rain slowed down we ran up to plantation house, and took a guided tour inside the house. When that was done, we took the prepaid guided tour of the plantation. The guide and driver, Bob Jensen told us of his Danish ancestors, but we had to disappoint him by telling him that we didn't knew his relatives, as Jensen is the most common last name in Denmark.

After the visit to the plantation we went to Charleston. Again it was a pouring down and this continued while we parked the car and went to the city's Visitor Center. Here we bought a day-ticket to the local buses. But before we went any further, I moved the car from the street where I originally  parked it to a parking lot at the Visitor Center. And then we took the bus down to the historic part of Charleston, located on a peninsula between the rivers Cooper and Ashley. Charlestonians says of their city, that it is situated where "The Ashley and the Cooper Rivers come together to form the Atlantic Ocean" Modesty has always been overrated :-)

There are a lot of antebellum houses in the city, especially around The Battery on the tip of the peninsula. From there you can view the harbor and  Fort Sumter, which I would have like to have visited, but we didn't have the time on that occasion.

We took a walk and passed by a lot of old buildings, among those the old Custom House. It was at the Custom House in Charleston, that South Carolina declared itself independent of England back in 1774, two years before the official Declaration of Independence,  It was also in this building that South Carolina, in December 1860 seceded from the Union, and it was in Charleston that the American Civil War began when Confederate troops under General Pierre Beauregard, on April 8th 1861 opened fire at the union forces at Fort Sumter. It was also in Charleston harbor that a submarine (CSS Hunley) for the first time in world history, sank an enemy ship. Unfortunately the sub sank on the same occasion, and was only rediscovered more than 100 years later. The basement of the Custom House used to be a prison. In this jail the so called genteman pirate, Stede Bonnet were incarcerated twice. The first time he escaped disguised as a woman, but he was caught again and the second time, he was taken to a sandbar outside town and hanged along with his men.

We also visited the old market buildings on Market Street. At Market Street we found a restaurant called Wild Wings. It proved to be just the thing for the kids. With wings with names such as Chernobyl, China Syndrome, and Braveheart the menu indicated that the food might be "slightly" spicy, but we enjoyed it anyway.

At this time it had stopped raining, but it was still very damp, and also quite hot. Somewhere on Market Street, we found a weather station, that told us that the temperature was 110o Fahrenheit, which corresponds to just 43o Celsius and the humidity was 98%, so it was no wonder that it felt damp. The 43 degrees would also be the hottest temperature we experienced on this trip.

When we finally got back to the car park, we discovered that it had closed half an hour earlier. Fortunately, there still was a guard in the guard house, so we were allowed to redeem the car so we could go back to Santee. We decided that we would not take the highway, but instead take the minor roads along the lakes Moultrie and Marion back to Santee. The route we took out of Charleston led us through some of the city's not so nice neighborhoods, but eventually we got out of the city, and then we tried to find a place where we could get a swimsuit for Dorte. But no luck - swimsuits were not in season in june.  We stopped at a supermarket, but still no luck so we agreed to wait and make a new attempt the following day in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Finally out of town we entered the countryside. We were armed with our trusty Rand McNally Road Atlas, and we could see that we had to follow  U.S. Route 52 north until we met a small road called South Carolina Route 6. This would take us up along the lakes. We succeeded in finding and following Route 52 until we got to a T-junction which was certainly not shown on our map. On the map it looked as if we were to continue straight ahead, but since it was the cross line of the T, we came to, there was no "straight ahead". As the road we got to had no number, we decided to turn right, as this seemed to be in the right direction, only soon after it appeared that right had been wrong.  When we passed a canal a few miles later, we were certain that we were wrong as the canal was shown on the map, and definately not in the right direction.

We then made a U-turn and returned the same way we came. When we got back to T-junction we considered whether we should give up and go back to the highway, but we chose to continue, so we ended up in what looked like a residential neighborhood, though some of the houses were trailers. Anyway we decided to ask for directions when we met some people. On a very small street with some fairly nice houses, we saw four African-American ladies getting ready to enter a car. The four elderly ladies were dressed in very nice clothes, probably going to church.  Dorte got out of the car and went to the four ladies, who looked somewhat worried by being approached by a foreigner, but they were very helpful and told us that we had to continue in the direction, we were already going. It was actually Route 6 but had no signs. We thanked and continued our way, and then it was our turn to get nervous, because suddenly we got an alarm for low fuel. At that time we had only driven the car for a few days and we had no experience of how much petrol were left in the tank when the when the alarm went off, so it could be anything between nothing and almost full. We however, decided to get some petrol if we should to happen pass a gas station.

Meanwhile we were getting close to Lake Moultrie, but someone had planted trees and other vegetation between the road and the lake, so we couldn't see the slightest trace of water. In return, we passed a number of churches. Apart from the churches were alternately nice big houses, and trailers. Suddenly we came to a store that had a single gas pump outside, so we decided to get som fuel there. In this store credit cards were not an option, only cash were accepted. Fortunately we counted around $ 20 in cash among us, and it was roughly what we needed to fill the tank. Outside the shop stood some African-American men in overalls and baseball caps, and they did not look like someone who would lend money to white tourists. While I filled up the tank and tried to adjust the volume, so we did not exceed our $ 20, Dorte walked into the store to pay. The guy at the cash  register was an African American, 7 feet tall, and just as wide over his shoulders, bald as en egg, with only one single tooth in his mouth. This did'nt prevent him from smiling pleasantly at Dorte while she waited. When the fueling was completed and Dorte had paid, we continued in a somewhat relieved mood.

Now we passed Lake Marion, and again we expected to see the lake, but we were proven wrong. When the trees were finally gone, we were so far from the lake that we could not see anything at all. But water we did see, as soon after we were hit by a thundershower. It was around 9 pm when we got back to the hotel, so for the first and only time on our vacation, the kids were allowed to decide that we should just dine at the local McDonalds.

When we got back to the hotel after dinner, we found the rest of the family in or by the pool, so even though we had not yet found a swimsuit for Dorte I got into the pool as well, while Dorte settled on the edge. This completed a very interesting day.


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