It just so happened that last year I visited quite a few countries with plenty of mountains. Morocco, Lebanon, the south of Germany and the east of Turkey. I enjoyed the sometimes hair raising drives through deep ravines and over narrow tops, but mountains are not my favorite landscape.
I thrive on endless horizons where eyes and soul can rest but still discover subtle movements, real or imagined. Nothing better than the wind shifting sand dunes or bending what ever scarce vegetation there is or to contemplate waves kissing white beaches and dreaming about the other end where they came from. And planning how to get their on a future voyage.
And then, there are the Everglades. Every time I return to Miami, one of my first trips is hitting the Tamiami trail and visiting yet another part of the vast, wet and always fascinating landmark of Southern Florida. One tends to think of the Everglades as a swamp, but in reality they are one huge slow flowing river which emanates from the waters of Lake Okeechobee and makes its way, 60 miles wide and over 100 miles long to Florida Bay.
The wetlands are a vast ecosystem with vegetation ranging for saw grass to mangrove forests to hardwood hammocks. Just a few miles out of the vibrant metropolis which is Miami, you enter a world which still is a wilderness.
The first herons appear by the side of the road and the first alligators laze in the grass or try to cross the road. Don’t even think about stopping and inspecting a log- it’s bound to bite your hand off.
Many are the attractions of the Everglades and a must is an airboat ride. All along the Tamiami trial you will find airboat rides advertised, so just chose one and get ready for fun. Step into the flat boats and bring your own earplugs, because when the drivers really let rip, the noise is deafening. But first, they idle along, asking you to keep your hands out of the water and meandering through the boughs of saw grass. These guys are a sight to behold, seriously dedicated to their job and in love with the gators which they call by name! And they come.
Then they open up the throttle and the boat skims over the water at full tilt, soaking you in the process, but it’s a unique experience. Ride over, they will guide you to an enclosure where you can watch their performance of gator wrestling and even hold baby gator yourself if you are so inclined.
Native Indian population and the Everglades are inseparable. Seminole and Miccosukee have their reservations and they are licensed to run resorts and casinos.
I love to visit the Miccosukee Indian Village at marker 41 on the Tamiami trail. The guides are natives and the village reflects Indian culture, crafts and art. You can watch the women making their famous beadwork, wooden carvings and, in a small museum, an exhibition of contemporary Indian painters.
I haven’t yet driven the entire length from Miami to Tampa and Naples, but one day I will. With many stops along the way just watching the herons and listening to the wind whistling through the grass. I am so taken with the Everglades, that they inspired me to a small poem. Here it is.
Mysterious smells, mysterious sounds,
Mysterious rustles on the ground,
Lost Indian souls are all around.