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Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Road Trip Day 12: Congaree to Montgomery Montgomery, AL, Thursday, 28 July 2016 9:41pm

We got up surprisingly early, made some oatmeal, and hit the road. It was a pretty drive and we were treated to a Possum's Promenade (rain falling in the sunshine). We stopped for lunch in Macon, GA, and then drove on through to Montgomery, AL.

When reading through the Alabama Welcome Center's material on Montgomery, we realized we've accidentally been doing a tour of state capitals: Austin, Nashville, Richmond, Columbia, Montgomery. We may hit Jackson in a couple days.

We're in a cute B&B now. Being able to shower again is a nice change of pace.

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Road Trip day 13: Montgomery to Marathon Lake Marathon Lake, MS, Thursday, 28 July 2016 10:04pm

Our first stop today was the Civil Rights Memorial Center. It gives a very powerful look at the struggle to get voting rights for blacks in the south. It really underscores how hard it's been to get as far as we have as a nation, and how far we have yet to go. We drove along US 80, the path of the Selma to Montgomery march, and stopped at the interpretive center at the Selma side of the Edmund Pettis Bridge, which has some interesting interactive exhibits with interviews of participants in the marches, and even some opponents.

From Selma we hit the road for Mississippi. We're now camped at the Marathon Lake campground in Bienville National Forest. It's one of the nicest campgrounds I've ever stayed at. We have a lovely lakefront site with water and power, and the bathrooms here have flush toilets and hot showers. We had a short swim and did a 2 mile walk around the lake and spotted some birds. After dinner, we lay on our picnic blanket and looked at the stars. It's dark enough to see the Milky Way, at least vaguely.

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Road Trip day 14: Marathon Lake to Pitkin Pitkin, LA, Friday, 29 July 2016 9:02pm

Our original sketchy plan for this trip had us camping one last night before heading back to Austin, but we decided to take it a bit easier and stay at a B&B instead.

After having one of the best meals of the trip at the Jackson Mississippi Farmer's Market (there's a restaurant there even when the farmer's market is not open) and indulging in some popsicles (lime buttermilk, goat cheese honey fig, and cherry cheesecake), we spent most of the day driving, first along pleasant little state highways and then on a section of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

We stopped for a couple of the historical attractions on the Parkway: a cotton plantation-turned hotel, and the second largest earthen ceremonial mound north of Mexico. The mound was impressively huge, especially when you consider what simple techniques were used to build it. It reminded me a bit of Newgrange.

We made another stop at a winery that makes wine from Muscadine grapes. They were pretty unusual wines. Very sweet, but with a strong grape-skin note that reminded me of grappa.

After was crossed into Louisiana, we stopped for dinner at a tasty cajun place.

We're spending the night at Allen Acres, a bed and breakfast surrounded by elaborate plantings designed to draw in birds and butterflies. In addition to the resident dog, cats, and guinea fowl, we saw hummingbirds and hummingbird moths.

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Road Trip day 15: Back to Austin Austin, TX, Saturday, 30 July 2016 6:43pm

After a nice breakfast at Allen Acres, and a last little bit of hummingbird, butterfly, and guinea fowl viewing, we hit the road for home. We stopped in at a few National Forest campgrounds along the way to scout them out for future trips and made it back to Austin in good time.

Overall: 3891mi Map

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To Grenada St. George's, Grenada, Wednesday, 28 December 2016 12:02am

This is the first time that I've arrived in a country and been escorted directly from the airport to the police station. It usually takes a bit longer for things to get to that stage.

Adrienne's sister Carly was kind enough to drive us to DFW, where we waited in lots of lines, but eventually got our scuba bag checked. For some reason the airline let me select really nice seats on the flight from DFW to Miami, so we luxuriated in lie-flat loungers for the first flight. It made the second flight seem extra-cramped, but it was uneventful.

It seems that Grenada's airport used to hold the record for longest runway in the world, so we got to see a former record-holder. The customs agent was amusing. It seemed like she was trying to think of questions to ask us, but after three or four questions she gave up and waved us through.

We were greeted by two young guys from the rental car company. We had a quick chat with one of them (the drunk one) about what to do for New Years, and they gave us a ride over to the police station, where we paid our $24 each and got temporary driver's licenses.

Checked in at our lodgings (Cool Runnings), and then walked to the place that both the drunk guy and the security guard at Cool Runnings recommended. It was a bumping club with an attached pizza & burger joint. Adrienne was disappointed that nobody was actually dancing.

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Around St George's St. George's, Grenada, Wednesday, 28 December 2016 9:39pm

We spent the day getting our bearings and puttering around the capital. Checked in at the dive shop, so tomorrow should be easier. Adrienne drove us around the capital and began to get a feel for the driving style here. It's Right Hand Drive with lots of roundabouts and frequent microbuses stopping whenever someone wants to be picked up or dropped off, so it's a bit chaotic.

We got a good view of the town and its spectacular harbor from Fort George, browsed some shops in the harbor side area. We also stopped in at the National Museum, which had quite a bit of information on pre-Columbian peoples, the colonial period, and slavery. Upstairs, there was a room devoted to the events surrounding the 1983 invasion of the country, which I'd had only the haziest of understanding of before, one for carnival costumes, and another with technological artifacts, including a number of typewriters and three computer games for the Acorn Electron on cassette tape.

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Diving, Day 1 St. George's, Grenada, Thursday, 29 December 2016 8:41pm

A fairly easy first day of diving. Adrienne made us eggs in the morning and we drove over to the dive shop and got on the boat. Our gear was already set up, which is not my preference.

We did a couple of dives in the morning. The first one featured a spectacular octopus just sitting on a coral head. On the second, Adrienne spotted a bunch of arrow crabs and we saw a large French Angelfish around the wreck of a small ship.

We took a lunch break and went to a hotel 10 minutes away. We arrived at 1, but nobody took our orders until 1:20. We let the waiter know that we had to leave at 2, and asked if we would have time, and he said yes. It wasn't until 1:55 until we had food on the table (a burger and a burrito, nothing complex), and it took them another 10 minutes to get us the check. We got back to the dive shop after everyone else was on the boat.

Our afternoon dive boat was also carrying a load of snorkelers, which is not usually a recipe for good diving. The first half of our dive was in an underwater sculpture garden, with a depth of about 15 ft. I would rather have snorkeled it than had all of the gear on me. Happily, we did get out of the garden and onto the wall, where we got to see more fish. The highlights of that dive were a Caribbean Reef Squid and a Flying Gurnard.

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Diving, Day 2 St. George's, Grenada, Friday, 30 December 2016 8:28pm

We did three more dives today. There were a handful of spiny lobsters on the first. The second had a fairly aggressive current for this area. According to the GPS, we covered about 0.75mi underwater (an overall speed of about 1 knot), but it felt like a lot faster than that. I suspect that we may have puttered around a bit before getting caught in the strong current. The current was strong enough that it was hard to point things out to people, because if they stopped to come see, the rest of the group would be out of sight quickly (the visibility was only about 40 feet). I saw a Orange-spotted Filefish with a unicorn-like fin, some Scrawled Cowfish, a Sand Diver, a Balloonfish, a Spotted Drum, and some juvenile French Angelfish.

Our afternoon dive was much more relaxing. A slow, almost current-free trip around a coral mount. We saw some old friends that we hadn't seen here so far: a Flamingo Tongue, a Hermit Crab in a Conch shell, a Queen Conch, and a Sea Cucumber.

We'd originally intended to go to the Ramen Hut for dinner, but it turned out to be closed, so we went to the West Indies Beer Company instead, and tried 12 beers and 4 ciders. Some pretty good ones. Also good onion rings.

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Grand Etang Grand Etang National Rainforest, Grenada, Sunday, 01 January 2017 8:19pm

We had a relaxed New Year's morning, only getting moving around lunchtime. We cruised through town to see what was open (almost nothing), walked along Grand Anse Beach, looking for a place that would sell us some sunscreen (failure), had a decent lunch at a beachside restaurant, and headed in to the interior.

Adrienne drove us up some windy roads to the Grand Etang National Rainforest. The visitor center was closed, but we did a hike around Grand Etang Lake. Or maybe that's redundant, since "étang" means "pond". The pond is the remains of a volcanic caldera that's slowly going through the cycle from lake to swamp to meadow. Our objectives: to see some of the monkeys that live in the rainforest (success!) and to not slip and injure ourselves (also success!). The walk was fairly level and would have been pretty easy if the trail weren't quite so muddy. Almost the whole thing was slippery wet leaves or mud bog. Happily, we were both wearing ankle-high hiking boots, so even when we squelched through the middle of the trail, it wasn't too bad. As a bonus, we saw some hummingbirds and some doves that are almost certainly not the national bird.

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Catching up Sauteurs, Grenada, Thursday, 05 January 2017 8:45pm

Well, I've clearly not been keeping up with updating this...

After hiking on New Year's Day, we did a couple more days of diving. Conditions were generally better than on the first few days. Visibility has been improving. Some highlights: a Longsnout Seahorse, lots of Stingray sightings, several Hawskbill Turtles, and a reef in great shape at Flamingo Bay (in the Marine Park).

We checked out of our rented apartment and headed north, pausing in Gouyave to visit the Nutmeg Processing Collective. There was a short, but informative tour where we saw different grades of mace and nutmegs.

Our accommodation for the rest of the trip is a cottage overlooking the Caribbean. We did a whole lot of lounging on the day we arrived, and I got caught up on processing my underwater photos (mostly terrible, as is to be expected with a tiny camera and a flashlight for illumination).

Today we went on a short hike (1.5mi RT) from Concord Falls (a tourist trap) to Fontainbleu Falls (the local water supply). We passed nutmeg trees, sorrel fields, pumpkin vines, and banana trees. The pool at the end of the hike was nice, but the mosquitos were out in full force.

We had lunch on the Atlantic side of the island and returned to our cottage. We tried snorkeling, but the tide was coming in and the breakers were a little too much for a casual swim.

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