Parallel parking in the creek

By | Category: Travel rumblings
parallel parking

as good a park as you will ever see!

Who said women can’t drive? I saw two do the best parallel park that I have ever seen. In a space only millimetres wider than their vehicle, they performed this most difficult of tasks that would make any male pause in admiration.

Except that the vehicle was a kayak, the “street” was a creek and they managed to park between four cypress roots in the backwaters! All this was accompanied by laughter, yelps and yes, some ribbing from the rest of us

We were all trying a new attraction called the Paddling Center which is at Shingle Creek, one of the waterways in Florida’s Kissimmee. Don’t be put off by the name. We Brits might think of a paddling centre being for under 5’s sloshing around in a plastic circular pool. This is completely different. And yes, I know the main attraction in this area is Disney and Universal and Sea World but sometimes the most appealing thing is just a quiet day out and the Paddling Center provides just that.

Pausing to chat. Who cares what the outside world is doing.

Pausing to chat. Who cares what the outside world is doing.

On a few miles of water you can either be taken out on a boat where someone else does the steering and the work whilst you watch the egrets, the herons and the surrealist figures of cypress roots erupting from the river or you can – well – paddle your own canoe. In single or two seated kayaks you can skim up the creek where the water is just inches deep, manoeuvre between roots and trees which open onto shielded ponds or just lazily let the creek’s natural flow take you downstream until you decide to turn back. Then, even against the current, it isn’t tiring just paddling back

photographing the creek

snapping me, snapping you!

I was in a two man kayak with Mark – one of the creek guides who could steer the kayak through the smallest spaces. Which is what Nori and Veronica were managing to do as well. Except as often as they squeezed through gaps, they hit trees. But who cares? That was the fun of it for this is an afternoon out when absolutely no experience is required. Like the old song, it’s messing about on the river. There is no rush to see everything so take your time. Follow the water up any untold number of little creeklets (is that a word?) and just watch the birds fly by and the fish dart at insects.

tree roots emerging from the water

Cypress trees and their roots shimmering in the afternoon water

Over much of the creek is a tree canopy so when the heavens opened and the rain pelted down as it often does during Summer in Florida, we were largely protected. It was still refreshing though to cool down after the unrelenting sun burnt down on us whilst we got the briefing of where we could go and fitted on lifejackets. You can still drown in a couple of inches of water and, in the wider stretches of the creek it can be as deep as eight feet so the company provides ever kayaker and canoeist with jackets.

The afternoon was so peaceful, only broken by laughing as other kayaks nudged each other or decided whether you could paddle through trees. (You can’t but they had fun trying!) It took a leap of memory to realise that we were within a few miles of some of the busiest theme parks and attractions in the world. Here you wouldn’t have known they existed.

Shingle Creek

venturing into tranquility and leaving the bustling world behind

Shingle Creek was the antidote to all that fanfare, exuberant bonhommie and noise at the theme parks. And the humidity and heat that caused normally decent people to become fractious and children covert to devils rather than humans was nowhere to be seen. Even the mosquitos left me alone in my bliss.

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