New Orleans, part 1

I did not get a Kindle for my anniversary as I had hoped.  I got something better.  My honey surprised me with an all day excursion to New Orleans.  Just the two of us, it was like we were dating.  I’ll leave the sappy stuff out.  We had a great time.  I thought I would share a little of our trip.  Some of you may be interested in writing about swamps, plantations, or the French Quarter.  I have a ghost story I’m working on set on a plantation near a swamp so I had fun with a little research on our trip.

I plan on a series of 3 posts on New Orleans and surrounding areas:

  1. This post will deal with swamps and the geography surrounding New Orleans. I still can’t figure how people decided to settle here to begin with.
  2. A sugarcane plantation on the Mississippi River.
  3. The French Quarter.

I live 2 hours from New Orleans, it is one of my favorite places to go.  As a kid we would take day trips in the summer.  There is an unbelievable amount of things to do there, not counting the Quarter.

Tip:  Summer in southern Louisiana is hot.  I spent the entire trip with a light coating of sweat covering every inch of my body.  I would go inside and cool off a little, the sweat would dry and leave my skin sticky.  Take sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, light weight clothing, and good walking shoes.  Water is also a must.  You will dehydrate quickly in the heat.

The geography.  New Orleans is surrounded by water and parts of it are 5 feet below sea level.  There’s a reason it floods.  Here’s a map. Lake Pontchartrain is to the north, the Mississippi River runs through it, and wetlands are everywhere else.

My WIP, Dead in the Water, has an alligator that mauls a shooting victim.  I thought it would be great to take a swamp tour.  We went with Jean Lafitite Swamp Tours.  It was amazing.  We took the air boat tour. If you don’t know the difference between a swamp and a bayou, check my post called Lay of the Land We have swamps in lower Alabama, but I haven’t been to any of them.  I grew up in the bayou.  This tour was in a swamp.

The swamp is not very deep in most areas, we’re talking 4 inches of water.  But if you try to stand, you’ll sink down because of the mud.  Other areas can be very deep.

The coolest thing about the vegetation of swamps is it has the appearance of a solid surface. It looks like you can actually walk across it.  Until the wake of the boat sends small waves across and the vegetation moves with the water.  It looks like carpet after a flood.   Then of course there are areas that are firm enough to walk on.

The main attraction:  Gators

I did not take this tour just to look at the scenery.  I wanted to see gators in the wild.  Most of the gators around here hide.  You catch glimpses of them as they sink or swim away.  Sometimes you hear the dog bark in warning before they are eaten, but for the most part they hide.  Not here.

Big gator

Big gator

Now, in all honesty, I will say these guys are wild, but trained.  Trained in that they know when they hear the air boat, they will be fed snacks.  So they literally crawl, or swim, from everywhere.  That does not mean they are pets.  One guide was bitten yesterday when he was distracted by a tourist.

Alligators are huge.  Don’t let their size mislead you.  They are very fast.  Usually, when you see them they are sunning or slowly gliding through the water.  These massive animals can hurl themselves a foot and a half out of the water.  There jaws snap quickly as well. We saw that first hand as our guide tossed marshmallows  and pig tails at the gators.

Gator being feed pig tail.

Gator being feed pig tail.

If you go to the zoo you don’t get a close up view of a gator.  They have reptilian eyes (with 3 eyelids), extremely sharp claws on webbed feet, and very long, powerful tails.  Their skin is more like plated leather.

I know this is photo heavy, but you don’t normally, get this close to the swamp.  I have one last photo to share.  This made the boat ride worth it.

100_9187

I wanted to take this little guy home.  I have to admit, I did not expect him to be so soft.  The belly and side are almost like suede.  The top of his skin is bump but smooth.  Odd I know.

It was a great trip, very educationally.  I hope you can find this useful.

CK

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