USA ’22 #15: Marshmallows and swamp ’gators

USA ’22 #15:

Tuesday 17th May 2022

One of our top priorities on our first full day on the American Queen was to get some laundry done. Since we have found hotel laundry services to be expensive everywhere except India so far, we had found out in advance when we would be able to do washing for ourselves during this trip. We then worked out approximately how many pairs of trousers/shorts and tops we would need to reach these keys points and by packing sufficient underwear accordingly [and with Robert kindly putting a pair of shoes and one of Matilda’s toiletry bag in his suitcase] Matilda could manage with a cabin luggage sized bag.

Making a ‘guesstimate’ about the size of the machines, Matilda had divided the dirty washing into a light and a dark load before we went to bed. When we woke quite early, she swiftly went up to put a load on, realised both machines were free and went to get the ’dark’ wash to put in too. She had just done this when another woman appeared and was clearly disgruntled that both machines were in use. If Matilda had been a little more awake she would have dissembled and denied that she was using both machines to avoid the disapproving looks. However, as the woman was carrying barely an armful, Matilda felt her need was undeniably greater.

When all the laundry was clean and those items which could be tumble-dried had been, those which could not . . .

. . . had been hung strategically around our room to dry we went for another stroll around the paddle steamer.

Rather archaically it has a Gentlemen’s Card Room and a Ladies’ Parlor beyond the Mark Twain Gallery.

Mark Twain Gallery

The rocking chairs give the deck a real old world feel.

We had booked to go on an afternoon ‘Swamp Tour’ and spent some time on the Front Deck after lunch.

As Robert says, ‘This blog doesn’t write itself, you know’.

While we were waiting for the tour to depart we witnessed an unfortunate woman fall off a bike as she reached the gravel by the jetty and heard her break her leg. The onboard medical team attended swiftly and staff leapt into action, moving the gazebo which had been erected for people waiting for tours to protect her from the blazing heat.

We assume many people on this trip will, like us, have had to postpone their booking and will therefore have been planning and looking forward to this for many years. We had not met the couple who we were told lived in Surrey but it seemed particularly harsh to suffer such an injury on the first day.

Leaving for the tour, the coach drives over a levee: one of the many man-made flood defences necessary in this area which according to our Cajun guide are good for sliding and rolling down as well as preventing flooding which was previously an annual event. Initially the levee was eight foot tall but following serious flooding in the 1920s the defences were strengthened and it is now 47.5 feet high. 

Having spent the night travelling up the Mississippi River, the coach took us by road back almost as far as New Orleans where we boarded a boat to travel into the swamp.

The first wildlife we spotted was our first and only turtle.

Our guide/captain for the day was Brandon who pointed out various sights including a gaze of raccoons.

The alligators have learnt that there are benefits to following the tourist boats.

Brandon took his shoes off, folded down a platform on the side of the boat and fed the alligators marshmallows from a spike on a stick so that tourists like us could get good photographs.

Matilda worried about the alligators’ dental health.

Brandon was very charming and good-looking so she also worried about his fingers and toes.

Temperature is critical in alligator reproduction: males are hatched from eggs which are incubated at 90 degrees and above so essentially this means those at the top of the clutch. Eggs which are kept at 85 degrees and below will develop as females, which in practical terms means that the eggs at the bottom of a clutch as these are closer to the water and therefore cooler. Global warming means that currently more males will hatch in the wild than females. Brandon explained that alligator farms can control the temperature of the eggs precisely and therefore manage the number of males and females which are born. The survival rate is also much higher for farmed alligators than for those hatched in the wild and a percentage of those bred are returned to the wild. He rather glossed over the fate of those not fortunate enough to be set free in the swamps.

Once Brandon had finished destroying alligator teeth with an overload of sugar, with a flourish worthy of a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat, he suddenly produced Jimmie the baby alligator, from a cool box. Jimmie had been rescued after a road traffic accident and was being nursed back to health to be released back into the wild.

Jimmie was then muzzled so that he could be handled by those of the passengers who wanted to make his acquaintance. Robert was reluctant to, but Matilda, whose brother Nick had a snake when they were children, was up for it.

However, Jimmie may not have been very impressed by all this as his instant reaction was to relieve himself over Brandon, just as Brandon was finishing advising people to hold the alligator facing away from the water and themselves and not to squeeze him too hard. Matilda was careful to follow these instructions carefully.

After the coach journey back to the American Queen we could enjoy the sunset before our evening meal.

This evening we decided to eat in the main restaurant – we had a permanent reservation for the 20:00 sitting on table 21.00.

Video of the day:

Selfie of the day:

Route Map:

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