Gator Nation | Week 1

Transitioning from Wellington to Gainesville has been relatively easy. It helps that Gainesville is only slightly bigger in population, and there aren’t any crazy sky scrapers, big neon signs, or roads with never ending rows of yellow taxis with loud angry taxi drivers.

Much like in New Zealand, people are more than happy to help strangers, and they immediately form an interest in us when James opens his mouth. So far James is either English, Australian, or he’s from one of the Northern US states. It seems Floridians take joy in guessing, and it works favourably for us because it’s an immediate conversation starter.

Gator pride

Gator pride, UF campus

Gainesville is a college town, and UF is huge. Like, seriously. HUGE. The entire campus is 2,000 acres (8 square kilometers – still having issues with the imperial system here, we’re always converting back into metric in our heads), and for any Wellingtonians reading this, that’s just a little bit further than the annual 7 km Round The Bays fun run/walk that starts from Frank Kitts Park and ends at the Kilbirnie needle. And that’s only if you’re going in one direction.

Centennial Tower on UF campus

Century Tower, I used this as a landmark when walking around in the immediate area, UF campus

No idea where this is, UF campus

No idea where on campus I was at this point, Century Tower not in sight, hah! Navigation fail, UF campus

There are a couple of tourist sites on campus that we’ve cycled to, and that’s the Bat Barn and Bat House, and Lake Alice (the one that’s supposedly filled with alligators).

Currently in Summer, sunset happens around 8.15pm, so the bats don’t emerge until about 15 minutes after sunset. When we visited the Bat Barn and House, it was 6.30pm, and they were still fast asleep. I took a photo of their abode anyway, just for fun.

Bat House, Gainesville FL

Bat House, and some banana trees! (Bat Barn not pictured), near Lake Alice

Lake Alice is beautiful; one thing we noticed with regards to the flora in Gainesville, is that most of the trees are covered in a type of air plant called Spanish Moss. It kinda reminds us of willowy marshlands and the bayous, and then True Detective season 1 comes to mind, but without the creepy Carcosa at the end.

Spanish Moss-covered trees at Lake Alice

Spanish Moss-covered trees; if you stayed still long enough, Spanish Moss will probably start growing on you. They’re everywhere! Lake Alice

Clear water reflection, Lake Alice

Clear water reflection, Lake Alice

We spent about half an hour following a pair of beady eyes that watched us from a safe distance in the lake; spot those wee eyes near the top right of the water reeds.

Little eyes watching us, Lake Alice

Little eyes watching us, Lake Alice

We were so excited that it was a baby gator! And eventually, it swam up closer… and we saw that it had a shell on its back… Sadness! Such trickery! We were lied to by an inquisitive soft shell turtle, who probably just wanted food. Dejected, and gatorless, we rode back home.

We shall visit Lake Alice and the bats again, maybe at sunset next time.

Later, gators.

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