Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Another Day at Betty’s: Bryan Champagne’s Swamp Tour

On Tuesday morning we left Betty’s RV Park at 10:40 am, and arrived for our noon swamp tour at 11:45.  I’m being specific on times here for those of you who are thinking of visiting Betty’s and taking this tour.   Even following Betty’s very detailed printed route and not stopping it took us slightly more than an hour.  And, I’ll caution you that there are no restrooms at the swamp landing area so you really should stop for a bathroom break before heading out on the 2 hour tour.  Even with Betty’s instructions we did lose one of Betty’s visiting couples on the way and they didn’t make the tour.

I also suggest you make your reservations in advance since Bryan Champagne’s Swamp Tours are the best!! – and from what we saw they get filled up.  We were the only people reserved for this particular tour on Monday morning and by Tuesday noon the skif was filled.

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Just before noon, Bryan pulled up to the landing to drop off the folks he’d taken on the 10 am tour.

 

 

It’s not long before Bryan has the noon tour loaded and we are off in the swamp.  Because the swamp cypress drop leaves that cause tannic acid in the water, there are no mosquitoes.  This makes our little cruise even more comfortable since we aren’t swatting or covered in sticky bug spray.

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Bryan, a native Creole, who grew up here did an excellent job of explaining the environment.  Since we had several French people on the tour he even did the explaining in two languages.  It really added a nice touch to hear how easily he switch back and forth between the two languages and felt very right in these surroundings.

It was interesting to understand the differences between bayous and swamps  to learn the names of the plants, trees and birds, and understand the seasonal cycles of the habitat.

The cypress particularly caught my interest with the ability to live for hundreds of years, keep the swamp clear of mosquitoes and even offer up these neat little structures called cypress knees.  These are actually part of the tree root structure and will not become trees themselves.  They may look familiar since they are very popular with wood-carvers who love to carve whimsical wizards and Santa Claus’s from them.

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This area is home to the largest number of  species of wading birds in Louisiana including this large blue heron and snowy egret.

 

 

 

There are quite a few duck blinds built out on the lake.  They are built so that the boat can be hidden inside the blind.  What surprised me was that since this is public land, just because you build a blind, doesn’t mean its your blind.  Once built, since it is on public property, it can be used by anyone.  I don’t think I’d want to be here when the guy who built this shows up early the first morning of hunting season to find it already occupied!

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The rest of the tour group were really excited when they spied a bald eagle hunting over the lake.  I guess Ken and I are spoiled since in our hometown seeming these beauties along the Mississippi River is a common occurrence.

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Of course, that’s not to say that it still isn’t a wonderful treat to watch these majestic creatures in action.

 

It was about this time, that we got a phone call from Betty.  She wanted to be sure that we knew that her favorite shrimp fisherman had just brought in a big catch and was sitting in one of the small towns on our way back selling fresh shrimp at $2.50 a lb.  I have to say, this is an example of what makes Betty’s special.  She really wants you to get the full ‘taste’ of this area and goes out of her way to make that happen for you.

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Closer to water level, with us it seemed that almost every log had at least one yellow-belly turtle sunning itself.

 

 

That is, except for the logs that were occupied by the alligators!

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Often, there wasn’t more than a few feet between one of these huge pre-historic reptiles and our boat.

Bryan indicated that they have no problem here with alligators going after humans since they have plenty of their preferred food, fish, in the water.  Of course, if you were to bother one of their nesting sites that he showed us up on the levees you could expect trouble.

Did this one appear to be chuckling as  Bryan said they weren’t interested in ‘people food’?

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I know this one and several others certainly put out a creepy 'hiss when we came close!

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Bryan had told us that most of the time we would be in water less than 4 foot deep so if we did fall out of the boat we should simply stand up.  You know I think stand up might be an understatement on what I’d be doing here.  I think I’d probably be able to set a record for high jump to get back in that boat with these guys around!

The tour was 2 hours long and cost $20 per adults and $10 for children.  It was money very well spent and I can’t imagine that anyone does a better job of this than Bryan.

After the rest of the group had left, Bryan came over to us with a package of deer backstrap that he told Betty he’d send back so she could fry some for her guests tomorrow night.

By the time we got back to shore it was 2pm and we were definitely ready for lunch.  Jim and Lourie, fellow Betty’s guests had been to the famous Mulate’s many years before and suggested that since it was only about 5 miles away at Breaux Bridge, we might give that a try. 

In line with our increasing inquisitive and explorative attitudes in this lifestyle, Ken and I decided to take a ‘backroad’.   Ok, so it took us about an hour to get there.  We’re glad we hadn’t committed to Jim and Lourie that we’d be there since they already had there food when we arrived but then that gave us a chance to see what they were having before we ordered.  Since it was so close to dinner, Ken and I decided to share appetizers rather than have a full meal.  We did the fried crawfish and the gumbo.  While the food was fine, I don’t think any of the four of us, after all the other great food we’d been experiencing were really blown away but this food.  However, I can imagine that in the evenings when the place is packed and the live Cajun music has the place jumpin’, well then I’m thinking it probably makes the food taste better too!

Apparently not having learned our lesson yet, Ken and I decided to take, yet again, diferent roads back to Betty’s RV Park.  Actually this was so that we could be sure that some of the smaller state roads around Lafayette were ok for the motorhome since Ken preferred those over going back through the middle of the city.

And so, Happy Hour was well underway by the time we got back to Betty’s.

Betty had bought many, many pounds of fresh shrimp, and was busy cleaning the shrimp IMG_0177 while we all shared snacks, drink concoctions and variations of the shrimp that some of the guests had already cooked.

After all of this, no one was interested in doing yet another evening out at a restaurant.  Since I hadn’t planned for cooking, Ken and I waited until later in the evening and then went up the block to the Pizzarama which does a really good thin-crust pizza. 

Ken and I were both so tired after the day out on the lake that we were off to bed soon after back at the rig.

Hugs, C

PS.  You may notice that we were so close behind Molly and Bob at Betty’s that even their blog post today looks very similar to our’s.  I think they were the same alligators!!  The RVers world becomes very small when we all get ideas from each other about where to go and what to see!!

4 comments:

Margie M. said...

Wow, those were great gator photos. I loved your tour and your narrative of what you saw and learned. I think swamps and bayous are fascinating places, filled with all sorts of interesting and scary things. Thanks for sharing your day.

Jesse, Ginger, Bayer, Buddy, and Mr. B said...

We went on Bryan's tour in Feb. With the weather being cooler then and the gators being sluggish he pulled an 8 footer in the boat by its snout and held it half in the boat for a few minutes before it got too hard for him to hold. He said he would never do that in warm weather cause the gators are too fast and strong.
Enjoy and be safe.

Happytrails said...

Sounds like Betty's is a exciting place to visit. The tour you all took sounds like a fantastic one. I would be a little nervous around the gators though.

When you all leave Betty's you will have really experienced the area. I like that!!

Have fun!
Mike & Gerri (http://freedom2roll.blogspot.com)

Making Memories with Mark and Dortha said...

Thanks to all of you that have been to Betty's. It is a place we are going to some day, when we have time to stay and really enjoy it.