1 February 2014
This morning we had to reign all of our belongings back into our suitcases(with way more organisation that our departure from LA though – that’s for sure!!!) and head over to meet our airport shuttle we met a Canadian woman who was asking us about our trip. I was staring at the ground because all I could think of was food or coffee and how the heck was I going to go driving on the other side of the road, two years after I had done it last time. Jemma however has a very open and welcoming face and people want to talk to her ;). The woman had just come from Tobago and was stopping in South Beach briefly before heading back home to the crazy (seriously) sub-zero temperatures in Canada. When we mentioned t we were heading to Peru, she told us it was OK but you can’t see Macchu Pichu before midday, that Peruvian food was disgusting and that we should go to Uruguay (or another country we aren’t going to instead). Which is always super frustrating when a stranger basically shit cans the place you are going to and you should “just” change your trip. Thanks, but kindly go away.
Soon enough our shuttle rocked up and we went around to each of the South Beach Hotels to pick up passengers. One lady left her purse at her hotel and actually asked the driver to turn around when we weren’t half way to the airport. Forgetting that most of us had planes to meet etc. we got to the airport and lined up for our cheap-as hire car. We had originally wanted a jeep but decided that $270 was probably a waste for only three days. So we had booked a micro or compact car for only $70. However once you add the tax and the mandatory toll pass and then the extra driver and the tank of fuel it came to about $250 which is still pretty good. We were a bit bummed out that our jeep had turned into a compact car but then again we aren’t overly large people and we only had one suitcase each.
We got down for our compact car but ended up in a Mazda sedan which is most excellent because my car at home is a Mazda and it makes driving on the other side of the road and sitting on the other side of the car a little more bearable!! We hit the road and it went nearly as terrifying as the first time I drove overseas back in 2012. Our last GPS was named Susan but this time we decided to call her Juanita – for a little more flair. Juanita was a bit hit and miss with her directions. She would either give you 50km notice or 1m notice.
First up! The swamp tour! We had already done a really awesome swamp and gator tour in New Orleans but we also really wanted to go on a fan boat in the Everglades. We drove out towards Florida City where the Everglades Alligator Farm is near and the sky was looking pretty dark and scary but hey, humans are water proof and it really was not that bigger deal. Heading down the South Dixie Highway, we passed Walmart and Jem’s eyes almost teared up she looked SO happy! (let us for a minute acknowledge that even with the help of Juanita, we could not work out where we were going or where South Dixie Highway was…it was..in front of us.
Oh, and we almost got killed when the most interesting example of overtaking occurred in the middle of said highway).We made it to the Alligator farm, paid our cash, bough little pellets and wife’s the baby alligators and then went to the gator show, we really only wanted to hold ‘Snappy’ and then go on the fan boat and head on our way to Walmart. Jem and I have worked out express tourism pretty well. When you fly all the way from the Southern Hemisphere you don’t really have time to kind of stand around and take three hours to do something you can snap out in one. However America is a pretty hard country to do that in because the pace (aside from the cities) is pretty cruise. So we watched the Alligator show, jumped in and got our Snappy photos and then ran to the fan boat ride. We jumped on and they told us that we were likely to get a bit wet. However the rain turned into a torrential downpour once we were out there and we were not at all prepared and got so soaked. It was so fun though, it’s just water. One woman took her iPad on and they guide told her it wasn’t a great idea and she ignored him. Suffice to say she was saturated and seemed so pissed off her belongings had gotten wet. Jem and I were soaked through and looked like we had gone for a swim.
Next step was Walmart and we stocked up on child size ponchos and snacks for our few days in the keys, we also scored whipped cream vodka for $12 (it’s $49 back home), peach juice and soda water – come at us peach pie / chupa-chup drinks! We out our child ponchos on and my large head immediately tore right through it. Kids ponchos are made for children, you know, in case you didn’t know that. Idiots. We had no hotel for the night as we figured we would just drive along and see what happened. We had stayed in Key Largo last time so we we keen fora. Change and maybe make our way to Islamorada. We had a hotel booked in Key a West for the following night so we really could stay wherever we wanted.
Turned out to be much harder than we initially thought. We drove all the way to Marathon and stopped for an amazing dinner at this little shack on the water. The hostess was crying and really surly and I might be speculating here but she had break up face. Seminole who had just been dumped. She was only 16 or 17 and it was written all over her face. It was hard to not stare at her actually because she was kind of rolling her eyes whenever she had this it someone. She just did not want to be at work. There was a hens night at the table next to us and quite frankly the bride should reconsider her friends. She wanted to dance and they all sat around not dancing and staring at her. Like cheerleader / sorority friends but without the actual love and appreciation of your friend. Jem was pretty close to going and dancing with her because it was so awkward. It was also only 5pm on a Wednesday. Worst hens night ever.
We jumped back in our car and went in search of our hotel for the night. Most of them said no vacancy and it was getting later and it was getting darker and we were starting to worry. We pulled into four or five hotels which looked bearable but none had vacancy. We started to swap looks like oh shit we may actually be in some trouble here. We passed some which we absolutely were not going to be checking because they looked absolutely terrifying. But then it was almost 8pm and we still had no hotel so we tried one last one which looked dodgy but beggars can’t be choosers. Jemma ran in and ran out two minutes later with two thumbs up.
We had agreed to take any room at all, we would share a bed if. Had to. Luckily there was one room left and it was the family room. Two beds, a lounge rooms and a couch and we scored a laundry as well. The guy who checked us in was asking Jemma a lot about New Zealand, if they spoke English, what was their main food (I had a typical Aussie giggle when she said lamb). He was the nicest guy who has ever checked us into any hotel. It was meant to be. So we had a night of snacks and delicious peach whipped cream drinks and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
We woke up this morning in no real rush because we were only an hour away from Key West anyway. Went driving and found the Dolphin Research Centre which do the dolphin tshirt painting but for $65 on top of a $28 entry feel it didn’t really seem worth it so we headed down to Key West. Driving the keys is fun. The rain from the previous day had cleared up and the weather was a absolutely gorgeous so we were having a good time. We made it to Key West and got our car park permit and decided to look around. The last time we were in key west we only did a day trip and I was really sick so it wasn’t very fun. We dropped our bags off, grabbed the camera and the money and were all prepared for an afternoon of sight seeing. We walked approximately 30m and saw a sign which say 2 margaritas for $5. So obviously the walking stopped. There was a cool band playing and the pla is covered in bills which have been written on and then stapled to the ceiling and walls etc. Jemma was saying that if you tried that back home people would be ripping it off and be attempting to buy drinks from the pub. I agreed with her. Scungey bastards ;).
We decided to get on the conch train which drives around but for $29 no. So we walked to the southern point monument for photos, walked back through town, found the famous key lime pie, split a slice because in less than a week we had just about split our stomachs on delicious American food and went back to the hotel because we could check in and it was absolutely boiling. Not at all temperature which is appropriate or favoured by the two shade hunters which we are. Turns out the bar on our level also opened at check in time so we decided on a couple of beers on the roof too while looking down on the Main Street. We started to realise that we were almost done with our ore vacation vacation and in fact we were heading to South America the day after tomorrow. Which was when we realised that we had learned zero Spanish and we were in some serious trouble. Jemma had “Dos (insert alcoholic beverage name here) por favor” down which was a good start but other than that. Not Spanish. We both had every intention to learn but just didn’t. We knew we would be fine once the tour started because we would have our Spanish speaking guide but. Did have two full days on our own and we were going to be on struggle street.
We went on a bar crawl that night with a pretty fun host, some of the people in the group were pretty cool and the bars we went to were alright. The first bar Jemma was pulled up on stage by the singer to sing along to blurred lines but when he told her to twerk he was met with a pretty “no effing way” stare. There was a free drink at each of the bars we went to and the drinks were strong. It was actually a pretty fun night!!
This morning we made our way back to Miami, the weather had turned again and we figured the sooner we dropped our cars off and made it to our hotel, the sooner we could organise our bags and get our washing and get mentally ready for our trip to SOUTH AMERICA!!!
While we were doing our laundry, this guy that was the only person while we were in there, stole not only our money for the machine but stood there and made out like he hadn’t. It was so painfully pathetic and just because he was too,say to go get his own change, doesn’t mean you steal off two girls who were in there before you. So there were a lot of choice comments made by us about those who steal and to be honest I don’t know if he was actually bright enough to realise we were talking about him. We ate at IHOP and enjoyed our delicious American serving sizes and our iced teas.
This morning we had a late check out from our Miami Airport which was excellent – seeing as Jemma and I are trying our hardest to get as many sleep ins as possible under our belt, knowing full well that sleep ins and Contiki tours are not exactly best friends. So we. Hacked out at 12, had our suitcases and backpacks and handbags perfectly packed and gels and liquids in baggies and perfectly weight distributed luggage. Getting better at this!!
We got to the airport at around 1pm, our shuttle driver showed us a picture of his gorgeous daughter with perfect Ariel Little mermaid hair and my jealousy went through the roof! Or envy ya be a better word for it actually. ANYWAYS we made it to the airport and checked in after much confusion over the self check in passport swipe, dropped our bags and made our way through security. The nerves had set in because we were actually going to South America and we had not learnt Spanish and we had no idea what we were going to come across.
It was our first American Airlines flight which boarded and left on time but not before we saw that Philip Seymor Hoffman had died, I would have thought that the frenzy in the TV would have been reflected in the crowd of people but I think we were the only ones who reacted. It was weird!! We realised almost immediately once we got on the plane how far out of our depths we were with everyone speaking Spanish. We were in the second last row and had the pleasure of smelling toilets the entire flight and Jem copped a whiff of child’s shitty pants 3/4 of the way through.
My neighbour kept staring at me and reading anything I wrote which had always freaked me out. Mind your manners and maybe try to be discreet when you’re gawking. Jem’s seat belt wouldn’t really tighten up and she found a very suspicious gooey oozey looking substance all over the seat-belt and I found a dirty latex glove shoved into my seat. Do NOT want to know what had happened in our seats. I had a guy in front of me who was quite openly sneezing without covering his mouth and I knew, I knew I would be catching his cold. Ah the perks of flying!!