Congaree National Park
Still wanting to refresh ourselves in Alex Springs, we said bye to Wardie and continue our journey to Georgia towards South Carolina. Driving in these highways is really boring, the speed, lack of curves and view invite to sleep. But everything changed as soon as we got off the highway and onto a secondary road, among farms and cultivated fields, with curves and slopes, exactly the kind of roads we liked. Our destination: Congaree National Park, but to get there we had to go through some a little bit “strange” and spooky towns. We counted more cemeteries than houses and we didn’t see a soul in the streets, just a few cars. When we stopped at the only General Store to get some snacks, the lady at the register closed the door on our faces, even though their sign said that they were open, and let me tell you about the other two people we saw on the parking lot, one seemed the bad guy on a movie and the other looked like a serial killer…we started to wonder if we were on the right road. After a while, almost at the park, some thunder made us wonder how will we be able to set camp and cook amidst a storm, so we decided to look for the nearest hotel to sleep and eat, because we only had eaten breakfast and it was already 10 o’clock at night.
Any Days Inn, a hotel I wouldn’t recommend anybody ever! It was the nearest to the road we found, a spooky place as everything in the surroundings, a pool full of dirt and plants, 16 rooms but only one rented and so dirty I don’t want even to remember it. The beds were full of hairs, the towels had old spots, let’s not mention the shower curtain and the missing tiles, the microwave with the hotel name written in yellow with finger-paint! The rug had some spots that look like blood, something really disgusting, but at least we weren’t drenched by the storm. We used our sleeping bags and inflatable mattresses (so we didn’t have to touch the hotel’s bed sheets!) and cooked in the room. Even though, we slept well because we were exhausted.
The next day we got out of the hotel as soon as possible and went to the park. We were received by a volunteer with 10 year experience, who cordially explained us all the park’s details and oriented us about all the places to visit. One can visit almost all the park walking on a wooden trail. There are many trails, but due the lack of time we decided to take the shortest one, around two and a half miles. This “path” made a zigzag around very high trees, almost no sunlight goes through their lush leaves, but the heat can still be felt. During the rainy season, the zone gets flooded and becomes a swamp, this we saw on the pictures displayed on the park and the humidity we felt. While walking on the boardwalk we saw some squirrels, birds and even a snake, but our constant companions were millions of mosquitoes and some kind of red flies which bit us all over. Something that we admired was the ecological awareness of the people in charge of this place. For example when a tree falls down and damages the boardwalk, the repair it but without taking out the fallen tree, they simply build around it. This is a peaceful place where you can have real contact with nature, I really recommend it, but don’t forget your mosquito repellent!