We arrive at George Bush Intercontinental airport on time, but as with my first holiday trip to the US almost 30 years earlier, the queues for immigration are long and slow. The automatic entry clears me but refers the Webmaster to the desk. It is a good excuse to moan. He'd forgotten to remove his glasses. Was that why it didn't recognise him as the same person in the passport photo? In the end it doesn't make any difference. There is apparently no fast track exit for those who get the all clear and everyone nearby in the queue has at least one member of their party referred to the desk.

It takes the best part of two hours before we are through the formalities. The student's flight from Phoenix will be arriving soon. We may as well go to meet her and travel to the hotel together. She won't be as tired as we are after her shorter flight and as she has all our holiday money in her US dollar account and a US SIM in her phone, she can make the arrangements for getting us to the hotel.

She arrives in a fluster. She had left her passport in LA when she set of on her three week long camping trip because she had been worried about losing it, forgetting she would be flying from Phoenix to Houston and then back from New Orleans to LA. She had panicked before she realised that she had other ID and no passport was needed for a domestic flight.

She phones the hotel. They have a shuttle bus. We arrive and although tired, order pizzas.  Our body clocks are telling us it is 3am, but we are hungrier than we realised. The pizzas are good. 

8th August 2017

Next morning the shuttle bus takes us the the car hire depot. We had already booked a car. The lady persuades us to upgrade to a larger model. She says we may need the clearance of the extra height because there are still flooded areas. We also add the student to the insurance. It all goes smoothly and before long we are setting the satnav, avoiding toll roads, for Lake Charles, just over the Texas-Louisiana border. Our plan is to spend our first full day driving round the Creole Nature Trail and make our way to Lafayette for an overnight stop.

The satnav directs us down this and that parkway and on to the US90 East then, continuing east, onto Interstate 10. The roads are wide and the journey uneventful. At first we see some evidence of the recent flooding, but nothing to impede our journey. By lunch time we have crossed the state border into Louisiana and are turning off the highway onto a side road where we hope to find the Creole Trail adventure centre for a quick comfort break, some lunch and, with any luck, information on the trail.

Suphur to Lafayette

Comfort break and a trail map, but no lunch. We set off on the trail road. For the first few miles it doesn't look much like a nature trail. In Hackberry we stop at a small supermarket and buy things we can eat for lunch. It isn't as easy to get picnic food as I had expected, especially gluten free. We get fruit, tomatoes, cheese and crisps, oh and a large crate of bottled water.

Our first stop is the Blue Goose Walking Trail. We park and eat our picnic food before setting out in the afternoon heat to walk the trail. It is as hot as it looks. It is not comfortable smothered in sun protection cream and insect repellent. Especially as not all the insects are repelled. The walk is flat and not particularly long. We see only one other family walking and very few of the birds and animals mentioned in the guide. Either they are not here at this time of year or they are hiding away from the heat. But it is a chance to use our new camera.

BlueGooseTrail 3

A few minutes down the road from Blue Goose is the Wetland Walk.  Time is ticking and we are already much later than we expected to be. At this rate we will never get round the trail in day light and jet lag is beginning to catch up with us. We shouldn't have taken so long over breakfast and, although it went smoothly, getting to the car hire, filling in the forms, collecting the keys and navigating the huge parking garage had taken well over an hour.  We are only going to get more tired and may as well see as much as possible as soon as possible, so we decide to take a look at the Wetlands. Maybe we will see more wildlife here.

There are more insects, and we see a pair of double crested cormorants, but not much else. Maybe we are too impatient, but tiredness is getting to us and we have a long way to go. We agree that the scenic drive, through the marshlands, is interesting enough and that we don't need to stop to walk the trails. 

WetlanWalkway 1 

At Holly Beach, the southern most point on the trail, we turn east again to head for Cameron.  Dotted across the marsh are numerous oil and gas derricks. It gives the impression of many small, rural businesses, after the manner of the old gold prospectors, but the reality is somewhat different. No obvious heavy industry, but I wonder about the pipelines and the environmental impact. The land is so low, it looks fragile as though it could break up and disappear into the sea at any time.

While waiting to cross the Calcasieu Ship Canal, the guide tells us to be on the look out for porpoises. We scan the waters and ... we see one!

CalcasieuShipCanal 1

At Creole we take the eastern spur rather than heading back North to Lake Charles but the rest of the journey is a blur to me. I keep nodding off and waking occassionally to see the flat landscape, sometimes buildings sometime marshlands or fields, nothing here is crowded. My head begins to thump. I am vaguely aware it is going dark. Then I hear voices asking for details of the hotel. We are nearly in Lafayette. The satnav doesn't seem to be able to find the hotel. The student uses her phone and starts giving instructions.

"Turn right there, and turn left at the next lights. It's somewhere over there."

"How do we get across the road?"

"You should have turned left there. Now you'll have to turn round."

I think we drive up and down the road a number of times before we finally find the entrance to the hotel car park. We check in. I take a shower and collapse onto the bed. The Webmaster and the Student go out for something to eat. By the time they return I am hungry but feeling a little better. 

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