Day Twenty Six – Down On The Bayou

Blues Idiom – Gris-Gris is a French adaptation of the Sengalese word ‘grigri. Used as a noun, ‘grigri’ means charm or amulet. The verb, ‘grigri’ means to bewitch. Simply put a Gris Gris is an amulet or charm used to protect the wearer from curses. It may also be used to cast a curse.

We have a big day ahead of us. Yesterday we booked tickets for a ‘Cajun Encounter Tour.’ This will be my third visit to the swamps, Wendy’s second and of course Kate’s first. I have a feeling that this trip is what Kate has been looking forward to the most.

As usual I am thirty minutes early for our pick-up on Decatur Street. While the girls go in search of some bottled water I went over to (on the suggestion of the tour operator) to a little funky Creperie on Dumaine Street called De Ville. I ordered a cafe au lait & the ‘Lucy.’ A sweet crepe of fresh strawberries, powdered sugar and ameretto custard. Real tasty. Strawberry season is now in full swing down here in Louisiana.

The driver over to West Pearl River takes us around 35 minutes. The driver is very knowledgable and points out many interesting facts. We crossed Lake Pontchatrain and noted that this is a new causeway. The old causeway was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. This causeway has three lanes plus two emergency stopping lanes. If the city every needs to be evacuated again then there will be 5 lanes plus another five lanes inwards that will be used to escape. When the Gulf of Mexico storm surge pushed back the lake was some 18 feet higher than the norm. An unbelievable amount of water.

Captain Troy is our tour guide. I always learn something new on this tour. We all had to introduce ourselves and where we were from. Behind us is a guy from Sydney and his mate from Brunswick. Turtles up resting on logs. Captain Troy said there are 25 different species of turtle around here. The river itself turns from fresh water to brackish which in turn has an influence on the type of tree and plant life. Also to note is that swamps are fresh water and marsh is brackish. Bayou are in turn inlets off the river system. The alligators don’t mind either type of water. The weather is perfect, warm but not oppressive For every mile and a half of river there is one dominate male alligator with anywhere between 10 to 35 females. The dominant male will defend his territory. It is not long before we have sight of the reptiles Kate has came to see. Captain Troy coaxed a couple over by skipping some marshmallows close by. The alligators mistake them for turtle eggs. The gut of the alligator is so acidic that the sugar of the marshmallow has no detrimental effect. It was cool watching the smaller alligator leap out of the water to take a piece of hot dog off a stick.

We headed back up river (after Katrina the river was 25 feet higher) to a nature reserve ‘Honey Island Swamp.’ Many more ‘gators lazing on logs, a snake and bird life. The Cypress tree is much favoured for building in Louisiana. Termites are a big problem in this humid climate however they cannot harm the Cyprus. The wood is so enduring that it can lay under water for three hundred years and still by usable. Trees cannot be cut down here as they are protected. One tree we pull up alongside is anywhere from 800 to 1000 years old.
We pulled into the swamp and just took in it’s beauty. No mosquitoes to worry about as they can only breed in still water and this river and swamp is tidal. Next we heard the grunting of wild boars. I had heard there loud grunts on previous trips but never seen any. We were literally surrounded by as may as 30 wild pigs of all ages. They are not shy and have also taken a liking to marshmallows. In fact one huge boar had it’s feet up on the boats railing.

Ater we got back to town we were all a little hungry. We don’t want a big feed (3P.M.) as we are going out to dinner tonight with Pat. We called into the French Marker for a small snack.

I have always wanted to go to a seafood restaurant called Drago’s. It is reputed to have the best oysters in town. The restaurant is over in Metarie and without a car is not easy to get to. We were talking with Gentilly Jnr and Pat last Friday and I mentioned Drago’s. Pat has been there many times and she very kindly offered us a lift there after she finished her day’s work.
We were not disappointed with the charred grilled oysters. We shared two dozen (don’t include Kate here) and then followed up with a lobster cheesy mac, a real tasty dish of squid and a side of Collard Greens (like Kale). I had to get Wendy to taste the Collard for the first time. Very strong taste that you need to get used to. Don’t think she will give them another go. Kate had a chicken parma (again) Another great day and night in New Orleans. Our thanks once again to the lovely Pat for going out of her way to make our trip even more special.

Rob Rowe

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