Saturday, June 8, 2013

Everglades, Alligator country of Florida (USA)

The Everglades is a slow moving river in the South half of Florida (USA). It is a large watershed. The system begins near Orlando with the Kissimmee River, which empties into the vast but shallow Lake Okeechobee. Water leaving the lake in the wet season forms a slow-moving river 60 miles (97 km) wide and over 100 miles (160 km) long, flowing southward across a limestone shelf to Florida Bay at the southern end of the state. The Everglades are shaped by water and fire, experiencing frequent flooding in the wet season and drought in the dry season. Writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas popularized the term “River of Grass” to describe the sawgrass marshes, part of a complex system of interdependent ecosystems that include cypress swamps, the estuarine mangrove forests of the Ten Thousand Islands, tropical hardwood hammocks, pine rockland, and the marine environment of Florida Bay.
Everglades is a jigsaw puzzle of free-flowing channels of water, sawgrass prairies marshes, wet prairies (are slightly elevated like sawgrass marshes but with greater plant diversity), hardwood hammock patches, Pinelands, Cypress swamps etc.
At the bay are Mangrove and Coastal prairies.
A funny signboard in Everglades directing hikers to the side

Eventually the water from Lake Okeechobee and The Big Cypress makes its way to the ocean. The estuarine ecosystem of the Ten Thousand Islands, which is comprised almost completely of mangrove forests, covers almost 200,000 acres.
It is December and near Christmas, I and Harsh arrive in Everglades from Miami. Harsh made it very clear to me in advance that he will not risk his life at all – or well a little bit and in a very strict limit. He knows my intention to visit Alligator territory and he knows me very well. He also claims to knows that it is my life long dream to wrestle with crocodiles and he is wrong, I never had a dream to wrestle with crocodiles.
Along with me he got trapped into several near mortal troubles. He was always with me when we both almost drowned in several rivers including Amazon, Ganges, Nile, Satluj etc. He was with me when he almost slipped on ice and dived from a gorge in Rocky Mountains near Denver. He tasted many other mishaps with me.
But this time he says: No more.
One ran-over Alligator in Everglades
We have breakfast in a McDonald s near the town of Homestead, then we enter in the Everglades area. Anticipating my mischievousness he wants to go only as far as Long Pine Key Campgrounds because that is assumed as the safest stretch. He did his homework and concluded that in Long Pine, we may witness some wild Alligators and Crocodiles and also we would be safe in the designated campsite. But I have other idea as I always have other idea. I want to live in the wilderness of Everglades, I want to touch it and taste it to the fullest.
After we visit Royal Palm Visitor center and watch hundreds of wild Alligators and Crocodiles, we set off for Long Pine Campground. Luckily Harsh falls to sleep in the car as I am driving and I simply skip the access road to Long Pine Campgrounds but keep driving to so do camping around the marshes, near the crocodiles.
Sun Set in Long Pine Key Campsite Everglades
I have to make a screeching halt to let a seven footer alligator pass the road and this wakes up Harsh.
He asks, “If Long Pine access way arrived. ”
I tell him, “It has passed. ”
He gets angry but I ask him to come out of the car to look at the passing Alligator that is barely 20 feet from us. I convince him that Alligators are efficient only in the water; on the ground they are totally inefficient and helpless. To his dismay I run to the Alligator and try to catch it by the tail.
I grab its rough and scaly tail and try to drag it.
Crocodile in Everglades
Wow! This guy turns out the efficient one and like electric, it just turns to chew me up and I jump. Well I am saved by the bell but I still think I can wrestle with it like they show in the movies. As it continues to walk towards the marsh at the other side of the road, I try to grab its tail again but again with a swish it turns with open jaw.
Well, no more for me. I let it go.
Now Harsh is very sacred, he wants to go back to the Sanctuary of the campsite. I promise him that we should penetrate deeper in the park and then we will return to the campsite.
Alligator in Everglades
After some miles we see a crocodile eating some URP (Unidentified Road Pizza – some dead ran-over animal) on the road . I stop the car just near its snout and it gets upset and drags the whole deal animal and walks back towards the water.
After another ten miles of so we find a run-over crocodile whose tail and one hind leg is crushed under some vehicle and is wriggling and struggling in its own blood. Probably some sadistic car driver crushed it up intentionally otherwise these are slow moving creatures when they are on the ground. It is of my own size. I stop the car and want to drag it away to the swamp so other crocodiles and alligators may make him his lunch because he has no chance to stay alive in this shape. This will put an end to its miseries. Crocodiles are extremely dangerous and nobody plays with them even in the shows and circuses.
Burmese Python gobbling an alligator in Everglades
Nobody touches or trusts crocodiles. Alligator is like a Santa Clause if compared with Crocodile.
Well anyway I want to see it my self. Want to experiment with a crocodile myself. Want to drag it but I need Harsh’s help, it must be more than hundred pounds heavy. He is not willing to help me but suggests me to use rope. We have a small rope and I take it out form the boot of my car.
Road in Everglades
I and Harsh take both ends of the rope and slip it under the crushed tail of the poor beast and then tie it up. Staying far from it we drag it to the marsh successfully. Now the big job is to let him enter in the water where it can do something about him, on the land it has not much power. In the water it may swim away or …. whatever …
How to do this?
I take off my shoes and enter in the shallow water and drag it in the water.
There I learn my lesson to leave alone crocodiles. Never go near them no matter if it is alive, half alive or dead. With the electric speed it wriggles and then I see him landing right at my feet.
I fall down and it is almost over me – well almost because luckily Harsh is still holding the rope with its crushed tail tied up. In a panic he is pulling it away from me. Crocodile is trying to chew my foot but its snout is just a fraction of an inch from it. I am unable to get up in the fear of slipping within its snout’s range. It is jumping violently and making splashes to get to my feet that is pinned under my other leg in such a way that I don’t even know if my any movement will bring me closer to it or away from it. With all the power Harsh drags it a bit away from my foot and this gives me a chance to make a movement away.
Luckily I stand on my feet and begin walking away from it but meanwhile Harsh himself gets dragged in the water and crocodile jumps towards me and again it is in the fraction of an inch from me.
Via duct Everglades
I make a run out of water and it follows me to the edge and there it stays making a screeching noise. Its mutilated tail is violently waving in the water that is turning red with its blood. I ask Harsh if he wants to wait to see other crocodiles or alligators to pay a visit to our friend but he says that he has no apatite to watch this any further. Enough is enough and he want to go to the designated campsite at Long Pine Key.
We cut the rope to salvage as much possible and make a U turn and arrive at the Long Pine Key Campgrounds. At this season it is all empty and we are told to pick just any spot, except the last alley near the lake because two specific crocodiles are known to walk that far way from the water.
Second thing we are told to be aware of Burmese Pythons, these are becoming a serious pestilence and headache of Everglades.
A trail in the Everglades
These huge snakes just eat up anything including crocodiles and alligators. We are told to report any Burmese python sighting so a squad come come and eliminate these snakes.
I want to setup our tent there in the last alley but Harsh is not in the mood for any more encounters with Crocodiles.
He suggests me, “We will walk to the lake to look more crocodiles. ”
I reply, “But I want them to look for us …. ”
Harsh wins and it is already dark of the evening. Moreover camp ranger pays us a visit on his golf-cart to check if we are too close to the crocodiles.
Long Pine Key campgrounds Everglades
Since we didn’t bring any firewood so he gives us the numbers of many other campsites where we may find leftover firewood. Our campsite is in dwarf forest of pines and Sabal serrulata (Saw Palmetto) bushes. Unfortunately Sabal Surrulata are not in the fruit season, this makes a valuable herbal remedy for enlarged prostrate and many old people in our family spend a fortune to purchase the extract of its fruits.
We drive around in the miles long campsite and find lots of abandoned firewood and also many other things like Onions, one whole bottle of steak sauce, cauliflower, potatoes, tomatoes and what not. We return with our treasure and cook a superb dinner of allo-gobi, daal and rice.
Since we have so many potatoes, we throw our surplus under the hot ashes of our campfire and in the morning they turn into a feast.
After the supper we walk under the moon to the lake but none of the crocodile or alligator is around.
Alligator in Everglades
We see some glowing eyes in the water, those are definitely of the crocodiles because their eyes glow in the dark.
Next day after a breakfast of roasted potatoes with coffee we drive to the Key West islands and the farthermost South point of the USA.
Some words about Burmese Pythons:
Burmese pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) are native to Southeast Asia, but toward the end of the 20th century, they established themselves as a breeding population in the Everglades. A popular exotic animal that has been released or has escaped from people’s homes or outdoor enclosures, the first of these snakes was observed in Everglades National Park in 1979. Their ability to adapt aggressively to the South Florida environment has prompted authorities to name them as an invasive species. Between 2001 and 2005, more than 200 Burmese pythons were observed in park boundaries and National Park Service staff created a policy to remove and euthanize them immediately. They can be found in all areas of Everglades National Park.
Burmese pythons eat amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals that vary in size from small rodents to deer. Spectacular photographs of the snakes in struggles with native alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) have been released, directing international attention on the problem of invasive species in the Everglades. Authorities have proposed curbing the import of several species of snakes into Florida. A scientific study regarding the impact of Burmese pythons in the Everglades asserts that populations of mid-size mammals such as raccoons (Procyon lotor), opossums (Didelphis virginiana), and rabbits (Sylvilagus), all native to South Florida, have declined as the number of Burmese pythons has increased.
Sabal serrulata (Saw Palmetto) in Everglades
Sabal serrulata (Saw Palmetto)
Serenoa is a valuable remedy for male reproductive system, particularly the prostate gland. It is known as the ‘plant catheter’ because of its tonic effect on the neck of the bladder and on the prostate. It is prescribed for debilitated conditions of the male reproductive system such as testicular atrophy, low libido and impotence. It is also recommended for inflammation of the prostate and for enlarged prostate.
Dosage: Dried herb: 5-6 g. Tincture (90%): 15 -20 drops three times or 5-6 ml daily.Extract (solid): 160 mg, twice daily.Taking more than 320mg per day does not seem to produce better results in treating BPH.
Map of Everglades

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