Bikers of the Southern Wild

6/1/17. (With apologies to the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild.)

From New Iberia we have headed off into a more remote area along the coast which was badly hit by Hurricane Rita (just a month after Hurricane Katrina) in 2005 and which has been only partially rebuilt and reinhabited. And we have been joined by the next cold blast from Canada.

There have been long stretches where we are riding along roads with water on both sides – either rivers and canals or swampy, marshy country. Most of the places round here are called something Island. They are not actually islands – just areas slightly higher than the surrounding swamp.

The above description may not sound particularly appealing but we are loving it. In fact we are loving Louisiana full stop. It is just how we imagined it would be. Different to elsewhere. More “history”. Interesting countryside. French.

Leaving Will & Kathy’s home we went through the centre of New Iberia which had many old buildings – in fact it felt the most historic town we have been through other than St Augustine or, maybe, Pensacola. Then we headed towards Abbeville which claims to be the centre of Cajun Country along a fairly major highway (State Road 14) which had a wide but bumpy shoulder.

Just before reaching the town we turned off towards the state park at Palmetto Island which was another gem – a swampy hardwood forest with an understorey of (believe it not) palmettos. At the ranger station there was a sign that made us a little nervous “Black Bears Active Here”. Apparently we would be safe provided we didn’t have food in the tent so we stored it in the laundry room.

The weather forecast had been saying that a cold front would be moving in from the north on Thursday for the weekend but it must have been delayed because it turned out really quite warm and with a south easterly wind – which was a bit of a pain really as we had long stretches heading south on our way to Pecan (pronounced “Pah-khan”) Island.

We knew there was not much in Pecan Island but Christine had seen references to a campsite so we had our fingers crossed. Will and Kathy had told us that there used to be a WarmShowers host there but, unfortunately, the lady had passed away recently.

As we approached town Stephen spotted a sign saying “Warm Showers” in a front garden and stopped to point it out to Christine when she caught up. Whilst waiting a man and a lady came out of the house and invited us in for a drink and a chat. It turned out that Chris was the husband of Juanita, the lady who had died, and Heather was a friend of hers who was visiting.

Chris is bearing his loss amazingly well and said that he had been thinking of starting to do WarmShowers again when he saw us on the outskirts of Abbeville the previous day. He asked us if we wanted to stay the night – an offer we were delighted to accept.

He and Heather talked about what a lovely person Juanita had been and the cyclists who had passed through their home – which included Heather – that is how their friendship started. Chris also tried out his long unused culinary skills with shrimp (caught by him) and pesto on pasta – new dish for him but one that we can heartily recommend he repeats!

The bad weather arrived overnight with us waking on Friday to frequent rain squalls blown horizontal by a strong north wind and temperatures only just above freezing. It was not a day for cycling- at least for two aged Brits who have got used to warm temperatures over three consecutive summers and so we have holed up with Chris for another night. We continue to be blown away by the kindness of the people we meet!

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