Saturday, 18 February 2012
All our trips have a certain commonality, forbye the collection of mosquito bites and pedalled miles. It's a tick-off of iconic fauna, be it the grizzlies in the Rockies, the rheas on the Pampa, the bison by the Great Slave Lake or Nessie in the Loch. You've not completed a visit, gained your credibility tag, until you've scored that, sometimes elusive credit. There's a procedure to collection, one that has to be completed in the requisite order. No sightings can be made until: firstly, the valued fauna has been awarded tourist board status, to wit, it must appear at least three times in every piece of visitor propaganda. Mysticism and fabulism are no impediments to inclusion, which is why Nessie should be the Crest on the new Scottish coat-of-arms. Secondly, there must be the indirect confirmations of potential sightings. They come in varying forms: diners offering ''gator Po-boys", gas stations selling Grizzly chewing tobacco, roadside directions to the Official Monster Exhibition. Finally there's the evidence that officialdom believes in the icon's existence: the request that makes you wonder why would you want to feed or harass an alligator, or the more ominous newspaper headline reporting 'bear attacks jogger'. This visit being to the Deep South our quested fauna has to be a snake and an alligator. We've carried out all the due diligences, moved through the various stages, scanned the brochures, clocked the menus, looked over every bridge at all the part-submerged logs and trees trying to tick off a crocogator. All to no avail. So far the script is running to form. No serpents, no amphibians. So if they won't come to us, we'll have to go to them. It's time to canoe a bayou.