Swamps and hot sauce
I have on more occasions visited the swamps south of New Orleans, Louisiana. A couple of times with Dorte and a couple of times with Tim. We have been cruising the swamps in fast, noisy airboats with only room for a few pasagengers, and large tourboats with 50 or more passengers. The airboats can go into narrow canals and pass some obstacles like low levees, but the noise scares away wildlife. The larger boats do not scare wildlifte, but have to stay in more open water. This year we have decided to combine the small boat with the quiet boat. We had booked a tour in the swamps around Lake Martin, near Lafayette. This is a different kind of swamp with very shallow water, a lot of wildlifte and interesting plants. The boat we were going out in, was rather small (only 15 passengers), narrow and with a flat bottom, that alllowed entry to the shallow waters of the swamp.The owner and guide was a trained botanist and zoologist, and also a native cajun, having lived in the area for most of his life.
Our tour was to leave at 9 am, so we got up early and made outselves ready. A little past 8 we left the hotel, and drove the app. 15 miles to the departure point near the small town of Breaux Bridge. We were received by our guide, "Buck" Guchereau, who tried to keep track of the people, that were going on the trip. At 9 everybody was there and we boarded the crawfish skiff, that would take us out on the tour.
Lake Martin is a rather small and very shallow lake. The swamps strethches the perimeter of the lake and are also very shallow. Because the boats a small, narrow and flat bottomed, and the outboard engine very quite, we could get very close to wildlife, without causing disturbance. Birds of different species were abundant, but also insects and of course alligators. Along the way Buck entertained with stories and information about the wildlife, the ecosystem and the people of the area. The trip lasted for about two hours, and in that time we got all around Lake Martin and back to the starting point. Every alligator we saw, was sunning on the banks of the swamp or on floating logs except for one, very young alligator (about 20 inches long), that was swimming around near the bank, trying to hide itself under water plants. Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons were the birds we saw most of, but we also saw anhingas, ospreys, and lots of smaller birds like swallows, redwinged blackbirds and more. Unfortunately flying birds are difficult to photograph, when you are in a boat, so I only managed to take pictures of resting birds.The most abundant insects were dragonflies which were a good thing according to Buck, as the great number of these large insects, were the reason that there were no mosquitoes in this particular swamp, as the dragonflies simply ate them. And he was right. We didn't see a single mosquito on the whole trip. and we had even prepared by spraying ourselves with insect repellant, before leaving the car.
Out on the lake were som small buildings, which we were told were duck blinds for the duck hunting season. These are left out in the lake all year. Unfotunately the area is a protected area, so no permanent buildings are allowed while temporary buildings are. As a large amount of work is invloved in raising and removing the blinds (they can be removed though), the creative cajun hunters have invented a new concept, "temporary permanent structures" for the blinds. That way the ycan keep them up all year, without violating the rules of protected areas. When we got back to the departure point, we paid for the trip, $ 20 each for a fantastic experience, the best swamp tour I have been on so far. And far cheaper than the $ 50 we paid last time on the big swamp boat and $ 70 that we paid for the airboat tour. And all these tours were only 1½ hour or at best 1 hour 45 minutes.
From Breau Bridge we headed sout on small roads to New Iberia through fields of cotton, rice and sugar. Our goal was another visit to Avery Island, where we also ad visited two years ealier. From home we had gotten the idea, that the Tabasco factory and Country Store were closed as it was 4th of July weekend, but the Jungle Gardens park were to be open. When we crossed the small bridge to "the island" and paid the $ 1 fee, we discovered, that we were wrong. The factory as well as the country store were open, so we decided for a visit. Not at the facory, We had been there before, and there is acutally not much to see, but at the country store and like the last time, invested quite a sum of money on a variety of hot sauces, tabasco chocolate and other edibles to bring home for ourselves and for gifts. After our visit to the store, we headed for Jungle Gardens, entered and drove the loop with a few stops along the way to watch alligators, egrets and different plants. A visit to "Bird City" is mandatory when visiting Bird City I think, and even Tim who suffers from ornitophobia to some degree enjoyed it once more (he is primarily afraid of small birds because of their flapping). Unfortunately the beautiful roseate spoonbills were hiding themselv behind a tree,but we admired the egrets and herons instead.
From Avery Island we headed back "home" to Lafayette. On the way we visited a Walmart to get some more water for next day's trip, as we had used all we had - and also some fruit to eat along the way. We also passed (and I stress passed) Borden's Ice Cream Shop, the last of it's kind in USA. Back at the hotel we wanted to do hour laundry, and we rembered from 2012 that the place had two machines which would make it faster. Unlike most other motels, that we have used, they didn't sell detergent neither in the laundryroom or at the reception desk. None of us wanted to go out again before dinner, so we decided to leave the laundry for the next day in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. This was another motel, in which the promised free internet access in the room was absolutley none existing. The room was much smaller than the one we had two years earlier (ony room for the bed. No table or chairs of any kind, so this was probably the last time we stayed there. But besides from the room it was a very good and entertainig day.