It all started on Miami Beach… an afternoon jog and a sunny walk down one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Our peaceful stroll was rudely interrupted by the discovery of what I at first thought was just a little leaf stuck on my hip. It turned out, I had been bitten by a tick, and it was now firmly attached and enjoying itself!
A little bit freaked out, I went to ask advice from the life guard who was on duty at the beach. He said we had to be careful as we removed it, (his wise advice was: “google it”!) but that we shouldn’t worry too much about it. Relieved, we started chatting about our journey and mentioned that we were heading down to Everglades National Park to camp out. This time, his wise advice was “Watch out for the mosquitos. They’re big, and they hurt!”
Having lived in tropical Philippines, we thought we had plenty of experience with mosquitos, and so we weren’t too worried about the bugs in the park. We headed back to the car, carefully removed the pesky tick, and headed south.
The road was peaceful and we drove towards a stunning sunset, ready to set up camp for two nights. As we got out of the car at dusk, our peace was shattered as literally thousands of flies, mosquitos, gnats, moths, and goodness knows what else jumped on us! It was like a biblical plague. It was relentless. The noise, the bites; on our faces, legs, arms, feet… So we covered up as much as we could, put on bug spray, and determined to cook our dinner and get to bed, hoping that in the morning it would all be better. We sealed the doors and windows of our Defender, spent 20 minutes killing all the bugs that had snuck in as we got inside, and then settled down for a very sticky, humid night’s sleep!
I woke up with the itchiest feet I have ever had. The small gap between where our shoes had ended and our trouser legs had begun had provided ample space for some opportunistic mosquitos, and we had literally hundreds of bites in that small gap. I looked like I had some sort of skin condition, there were so many bites.
The morning provided some relief from the swarms, but not much… we were constantly swatting, moving, (occasionally cursing!) and trying to stay one step ahead of our constant companions. But determined to enjoy the beauty of the park, we resolved that we would move to the campsite nearer to the ocean, and try again that night.
It was worse… as well as the usual suspects, we were also greeted by swarms of even smaller flying bugs, that didn’t seem put off by any amount of bug spray, and were too small to kill even though they were big enough to bite! The best part of the day was when it was very hot, and so we were able to take a walk around the park and did see some beautiful wildlife. But the heat, the bugs and the humidity had taken their toll… we were ready to leave early the next morning.
We were a little apprehensive about heading even further South… our plan was to make it to the Southernmost point of the 48 states – Key West. We had planned to spend five days there, but if it was going to be more of the same, we knew it would be unbearable!
But thankfully, as we pulled into the parking lot of a waterfront restaurant, we stepped outside and all that we felt was a warm sea breeze and the late afternoon sunshine. Peace at last!