Chokoloskee to Key Largo (Florida) / January 7 - 17, 2015
January 7, 2015
This morning, Pierre went to meet with the Ranger in charge of the Everglades Park, located in Everglades City. Mr. David Mangun generously offered to drive Pierre this morning and also took us to do some errands.
When Pierre met the Ranger, he hit a wall! Jasmine is not allowed to land on any of the park's islands! Pierre proposed to cross the park from Chokoloskee to Marathon (located in the Keys) in 28 hours, and therefore not to use the islands to sleep, but only for small stops along the way (for basic necessities). But the man told us that it was impossible to paddle more than 15 miles per day. He does not know what we're used to paddling in a day! ... he was convinced that no one can do more than 15 miles per day. There is only 70 miles to cover from Chokoloskee to Marathon. He threatened to send the Coast Guard after us if we tried to cross the park. On the way home, David offered to drive us to Key Largo the next morning. A huge thank you for the offer David and for your generosity.
In the afternoon, things improved for the better. Pierre spoke with Sonny, the manager of the Chokoloskee Island Park & Marina, we agreed that we would stay until Saturday morning as we will do a presentation on Friday night for the campground’s residents. As for transportation to Key Largo, David cannot help us on Saturday because he has commitments. Then our great friends, Danielle and Denis, told us they we will help. They will rent a car to pick us up along with all of our gear. They will drive us to Key Largo! Again Denis and Danielle have our backs. A thousand times thank you!!!! :)
January 8-9, 2015
We spoke with several people here on the campground. Everyone is really nice. Chokoloskee is a small village, not very wealthy, but very friendly. At the campground, several people were fishing and every night, we sit at the end of the dock and chat with all the fishermen. The atmosphere is unique.
On Friday night, we gave a presentation about our expedition. There were many people, more than we expected. The evening was pleasant and we enjoyed a dynamic interaction. The facilities were very good ... Pierre even had a microphone. A big thank you to Sonny (manager) and Carmen (office) who allowed us to share our story with all those people. When we have the opportunity, we love to talk about the positive aspects of our trip, the encounters that we made, the landscapes/smells/feelings, that we have seen and experienced.
January 10, 2015
After a good lunch prepared by the campground’s residents, to benefit the local school, Denis and Danielle arrived. We were really happy to see them. Jasmine was uncontrollable when she saw Danielle. She had not seen her since June, just like us. It was a very nice reunion and we talked all the way to Key Largo. We also received a nice gift from our good friend Charles. He sent us, through Denis and Danielle, Chocolat Favoris chocolate, coffee and a new coffee maker. What a great and pleasant surprise! To your health and Charles a big thank you!!!! :) We would like you to be here with us now to paddle!
In the afternoon, we set up camp for the week as we have booked until next Saturday morning.
January 11-16, 2015
We spent a wonderful relaxing and entertaining week. Everyone is nice and we met good people. The week was social and pleasant. We met with Andrew, our neighbour, who is here to dive. Interesting fact, Andrew also sold his house. He has a car and personal belongings in storage, but today, just like us, his home address is where he pitches his tent. He has plenty of ideas for travel and adventure. We talked a lot about our lives, our ideas and future projects.
In front of us lives Phyllis. A very friendly and charming lady. She loves animals and we have formed a bond with her. She has a big heart and is sensitive and caring.
Then we met Annie and Pierre, from Montreal, and their little dog Chichi. We were able to speak French this week! ;) What a small world ... Annie’s father and Pierre know each other. This encounter was so unexpected! We love Annie and Pierre and they are really nice. They are funny and easy going. We had a great time with them.
Earlier this week, we also met Thad and Jamie from Florida Bay Outfitter ("FBO"). They came to visit us at our camp site. Tuesday we met FBO’s owners, Frank and Monica, and went for dinner with them. We have so much in common. It was fun to share our stories. Monica and Frank are great people and very generous. We are happy that our paths crossed. They also helped us a lot this week. We had to go to Key West to the Border & Customs office to make a request to extent our stay in the United States for another six months without having to leave the country. Thad drove us in the FBO’s truck on Thursday. It was not a successful trip, but the staff at the customs were very nice and helpful. We learned that it's not two weeks before the permit expiry date that you must make a request for the extension, but at least 6 weeks before because the processing time takes at least 5 weeks. We had to think of the different alternatives on our way back. We wanted to spend 4-6 weeks in the Bahamas, but it is very costly and the means to get there more limited now given that we have to leave quickly. By Monday, our decision will be made. We have to leave within the next two weeks before the due date.
Denis, Danielle, Anne-Sophie (their daughter) and William (Anne-Sophie’s boyfriend) also visited us on Friday. Jasmine received more surprises from Danielle and Anne-Sophie. She was very spoiled this week!
January 17, 2015
We left the campground today because everything was booked for the weekend. The island is crowded. There is a festival, a sailboat race in Key West and Martin Luther King Day coming. Frank and Monica (FBO) have very generously offered for us to come and camp in their backyard. In the morning, we said goodbye to Phyllis & Andrew. Pierre and Annie, who also had to leave the campground for the same reasons, have offered to transport our equipment to the park where we are going in the afternoon, before we get to Monica & Frank’s home. Therefore, we would only have to paddle with a bit of gear.
Around 1 p.m., we went by canoe from the beach campground. It blew hard at times and there were waves coming from the side. Nothing compared to what we've experience on Lake Superior, Huron and Michigan. In the beginning of our navigation, Jasmine, seeing fish jumping and being able to see the bottom of the shallow water, jumped off the canoe into the water. This is the first time in this trip that she has done that! She swam about 200 feet away from us before she decided to return to the canoe. She managed to jump back in the canoe by herself!
When we arrived at the park, we reunited with Annie, Pierre and Chichi. We talked a little, then they helped us carry our equipment to Frank and Monica’s home, where we were welcomed warmly. Frank and Monica have a very nice house in a little corner of paradise. There's a lot of wildlife around. It is beautiful! They also have a charming couple staying in the apartment below: Jean and Julienne from France. We talked with our hosts before having a very good dinner prepared by Monica. In the evening, Jean, Julienne, Annie and Pierre joined us around the fire. Frank and Monica were joking that there was a French invasion taking place at their home. We spent a very pleasant evening. We like to thank, again, Annie and Pierre for their help and Frank and Monica for their great hospitality and generosity.