In the morning we were up as early as we could bear it, considering the frost and we were packing up with enthusiasm , but it was a real delight that the local Blue Heron came to see us off.
I pursued him/her around the lake, but he just seemed to say ‘Meh’ and I managed some great shots. We managed to pack up and be out of the campsite before 11 and then drove south, looking for a campsite about 3 30. We chanced upon a place called Camp Creek, just south of Jacksonville, still in North Carolina, which seemed OK and was only $20 a night. The RV park looked very civilised but the tent part is way out back in some woods, miles from the showers. They have two ‘porta potty’ sheds that looked awful (but they turned out to be clean flush toilets) and a communal electricity socket (which we commandeered), so it was not so bad. I got Tim to ask if there are bears here, so we knew if we had to be extra careful with food. I wondered why he ended up doing a bear impression (very funny, wish I had managed to get a photo), but it turns out that she could not understand what he was saying. It turned out that there were no bears, so we could relax for a change. There were hods of lizards, however, including this one, which started off on our orange tent, looking bright green
and then became so well camouflaged among the leaves, that it was hard to find him
they were everywhere, in the loos and in the electrical junction box
totally harmless and kind of cute. This monster insect also popped in
The really nice thing was that anyone staying at the campground was invited to the Thanksgiving lunch the next day. Everyone we had met so far had asked what we would be doing for Thanksgiving and we had assumed that we would be the ‘Billy Nomates Brits’ cooking up something alone by our tent. I, of course said thank you very much, free food is not to be dismissed! We were meant to bring a desert or side dish, but with no warning and no idea what you should take, we were somewhat scuppered (the nice girl on reception said not to worry). The next day, after exciting things like doing the laundry, we headed off with a rucksack containing beer and Pringles (we didn’t think twelve oz of beef mince would go down too well). Luckily we didn’t march in with open cans of beer, because it was a TT event. The food was lovely; there were beautifully moist, tasty and tender turkey and ham, proper mashed potato, loads of side dishes and fabulous array of deserts. Some of it was a little sweet for our liking, but we stuffed ourselves silly. We met some lovely people.
Roy had worked in the UK with the American air forces, servicing planes. He and his wife Debbie had been living in the campground in their RV while they were waiting for their house to be completed. They had hoped to be in there for Thanksgiving, but it looks like they will be in there next week. Ray had spent six years in the UK and absolutely loved it. He said that UK beer had ruined him for the American stuff He and Denise were great fun. Ray had mentioned something about letting us try his Irish whiskey and we assumed he was just being friendly but and as we were sitting by the tent later on, enjoying the sunshine, they turned up with seats, glasses and a bottle of Jamisons.
We had a lovely time, chewing the cud and swapping granny photos and really being made to feel welcome (yet again). It was a lovely afternoon and just reinforces what a hospitable area this is.
Next morning we managed to be on the road by 10 am (amazing what happens as the temperature goes up). We drove south along the 17 into South Carolina, missing a turn and getting caught up in the snaggle of traffic along the very commercialised coastal strip and sitting in a traffic jam for ages, until I worked out a better route. We thought we might like to stop near Charleston, as it sounded interesting Tim wanted to vista the place where the American Civil War started and it has been voted one of the top cities in the world to visit. We found a campsite some 10 miles ouside the city and were not too optimistic about how good it would be as it was a KOA, and they can be very utilitarian. We drove in, booked in, were surprised that it was not anywhere near as ex
We were lead to our pitch by a nice guy on a golf buggy and the outlook…. The only thing that temporarily concerned me about the campsite was…. Having got away from the bears were we going to be eaten by alligators? Having talked to some locals since, I am less concerned; a) alligators prefer water that is a bit more salty than here and b) they are probably all huddled under the mud because it is too cold for them. I personally love the temperature at the moment. It stays between about 18 and 23 degrees c and it feels like a nice summers day in the UK. Even in the evening, when we sit out, the air is lovely. Unfortunately the downside is that the Mozzies are very active around here and they are able to bite you on the bum through the three layers of a loose weave seat, trousers and underwear (I counted six bights after the second night in the campsite)
On Saturday we drove into Charleston to get a feel for the place and to see what we wanted to do. We ended us having a delightful lunch of locally inspired food; we found out that grits are the rough milled centres of maize and that proper southern fried chicken is way tastier than Kentucky fried chicken. Afterwards we went for a nice walk, but it didn’t turn out well. Towards the south of Charleston is a lovely area, with a beautiful park and beautiful old buildings, but if you go too far THERE ARE NO PUBLIC LOOS. Let me just say that our tour of the south of the city occurred at a very high speed and we had to sneak into a friendly looking bar.
On Sunday we decided to cycle to a local plantation, one that had been in cultivation for three hundred years and also promised to give us an historical perspective of the slave trade. The house looked wonderful and it was full of antiques, but it turned out to be about four years younger than our house in Bognor Regis. That being said, it has been so beautifully made that it has been used as the filmset for several films. The grounds were beautiful, despite the fact that they neighboured on a swamp. One room in the house (the loggia) had originally been open to the environment, but, as the guide pouted out, there were so many things that crawled, slithered, flew and bit that you would be mad not to put in the rather fetching windows. We were taken for a tour of the plantation on the ‘tram’ and were shown where they used to grow cotton, make bricks and where they were only now planting out the strawberry plants for next year. Apparently there was a huge flood in the area that wiped out many of their crops.
We than went to listen to a presentation by a very charismatic black lady, who told us all about the local Gullah culture, a result of the slaves being brought into Charleston and then being moved onto the many islands, each of which was both isoted from the city, but were so infested withmaleria that the white folks could not survive there. That meant that, no matter how hard they like was, they own culture has survived to this day, one facet being the weaving od ‘sweetgrass’ baskets. The baskets were beautiful and it saddened me to not be able to come up with a single reason to buy one. Or, I probably didn’t actually want one, but I felt guilty not to support a local industry. On Monday we took a bot trip out to Fort Sumter, the place that kicked off the American Civil War. It was, yet again, interesting to see where battles commenced and the effects it actually had on the local people. On the ferry trip over, we found out why South Carolina is called the Palmetto State. We thought it was because there are so many Palmetto palms here, but no! Apparently, early on in the Revolutionary War/ War of independence the locals built a wooden fort with (you guessed it) Palmetto trees and they managed to thrash those nasty English. They do not, however, hold a grudge and nobody has said nah nah nah nah nah once!
The campsite has ben constant source of delight for me, with beautiful views across the lake and ever changing skies. Our last neighbours were a lovely little family with two beautiful white blond sons. The older of the two was five and he was here with his daddy, having a great time fishing. It was amazing to watch this small chap cast really effectively, although he hated the local turtles coming in to nick the bait off the line. His dad said he ended up chucking rocks at them, which probably scared the fish away, anyway. I loved the relaxed manner of parenting going on. When said lad decided to climb the tree, really high, his parents didn’t turn a hair. He cried ‘Mommy, aren’t you worried about me’ and she said ‘No Honey, I trust you’ I was having kittens, but he climbed down with no trouble at all.
As our time at the Charleston campsite wore on, we ended us as the only people in our area and the wildlife started to return. There was one annoying cat that decided it wanted to come in our tent and it even swatted back at Tim when he bashed the tent door to make it go away. We had heard the coyotes howling in the distance and there was a very weird noise outside the tent during the night, which we thought might also be one, and we were heartily relieved to realise that it was up in a tree later on, so it had to be a bird. No sign go any alligators I am pleased to say.