On the 7th day of our cruising through the south of the U.S, we reached Lake Charles (Louisiana) – the gambling paradise in the Gulf of Mexico. We skipped the gambling part (not our thing) and went for the ultimate Louisiana prize – the swamps.
Creole Nature Trail
After Austin and San Antonio, this was more my kind of sightseeing. Nature, wild animals and swamps. Creole Nature Trail starts somewhere in Lake Charles, where the personnel in a huge park info calms you down and assures you that the alligators are super friendly and don’t jump on everything that comes in sight. (Especially us – since we both put together don’t reach 130 kg, we are apparently not worth the chase/hassle.) If you are not used to meeting big animals, this should be your start point, otherwise just drive in.
The trail is full of swampy areas and very popular with bird lovers and fishermen. We didn’t do any of that, we just drove by in a car which was sufficient to see the beautiful nature and more importantly – how man and nature can live together in respect. I didn’t see any fences around the houses to keep the animals away – and this is the alligator paradise. People don’t harass the animals and they don’t seem to cause any problems for the people. How cool is that! – my part of the world is not so understanding.
I really wanted to see a live alligator and eventually a really big one did come our way. He swam by as ignorantly as he could and wouldn’t pose for a photo.
The whole trail was really scenic and the houses built in this area are sometimes incredibly tall – I’m guessing the floods come often here.
Our swamping tour ended at Avery island which really was a special treat. A spicy one. It’s a salt dome where the McIlhenny Tabasco company is located and you can take a tour of their factory. Beside seeing how Tabasco hot sauce is made, we got plenty of mini hot sauce samples to go – the “put in your purse” type little bottles (just in case you need some extra heat in this oven-like climate).
Right next to the factory is (in my opinion) the best part of this whole southern Louisiana area. The complete picture of everything to see in the south – in just a few square km. The jungle gardens. You have to pay an entrance fee but it’s well worth it. You can walk through the paths or just drive by with your car as we did – not because we were to lazy but because of the scorching heat. The AC in the car was a life saver. The gardens beautiful, full of old oaks and ponds where alligators are just laying around free and catching the sun. There’s a whole map of attractions to see in the park (bamboo, Buddha chapel …) and at the end of the park there is a huge bird nesting sanctuary (built by Ned McIlhenny – the son of the Tabasco sauce founder Edmund McIlhenny). The birds seem to appreciate it – it was packed full.