I had come into Miami after roaming around Haiti which I will write about a different time. It’s not the first time I have been to the United States but this was the beginning of three cross county adventures that I have chosen to write about, it was May 2012.
As an Australian I have been bombarded by American tv shows such as Miami Vice and Dexter I had certain expectations as to what the city would look and feel like, nevertheless therewere a few surprises, some pleasant and others not so much.
I’d booked myself into a“party” hostel at South Beach, one of many places to stay within the area, South Beach is the tourist area where people from around the world descend upon for night clubs, food and drinks. The hostel itself was booked out and full of international travellers whose focus was to go out and have a good time. This was not necessarily what my adventure was about but it was difficult not to get swept away with the atmosphere of the place so I was happy to join in.
The not so pleasant was the atmosphere first night while talking with some travellers over a few beers we heard a series of gunshots which were possibly a few blocks away, the noise was loud enough that all the conversations stopped and we were alarmed after a few minutes however everything returned to normal. It was only an hour later when a hostel reception worker came out and informed us that the Miami cannibal had been killed, like an episode of Dexter. Briefly, the Miami Cannibal was shot by police after a brutal attack on another person, this included eating the victim’s eyes and parts of his face, the shooting gained world notoriety due to the brutal nature. I was jet lagged so after the cannibalism shooting, I thought it best to head to be for the night.
Early the following morning I’d booked on a tour of the Florida Everglades, Gator Park, an airboat tour of alligators, crocodiles, birds and reptiles. After the previous night, I thought what a perfect way to spend the day with large vicious reptiles. The tour was excellent, the guides were very knowledgeable on the local wildlife and pointed out many of the attractions (gators, crocs, snakes)the highlight, however, was the boat itself, a large tin boat connected to a fan on the rear that was almost equal in size of the boat itself with the boatmen sitting perched a metre in the air. The boat was fast, sounded like a plane andalmost glided over the water, Id not been on anything like it before andenjoyed the experience, if I had any hair on my head it would have been swept away. The wildlife was amazing but not scary but then again, I am an Australian and its not the first time I’ve seen crocodiles. The only negative I was not aware I should have brought some bug spray to protect me from the mosquitoes, I came off the boat covered in bites including my face temporarily swelling up. I was however introduced to key lime pie, so very tasty.
That night I attended the NBA playoff final game 2, Miami Heat vs. the Boston Celtics. One of the backpackers at the hostel asked if I wanted to join them for the game, I am not a basketball fan but readily agreed as I love sporting competition and what a better way to experience an iconic American event than a playoff final. The ticket cost $220 and was ordered off an application called Stubhub from a mobile phone, not a big deal today but at the time I had not come across such an application in Australia before.
The game was at American Airlines Arena, downtown Miami on Biscayne Bay, a modern shopping district on the water and would later learn very different to South Beach which Id not made to it to just as yet. The stadium was at capacity and the game went to extra time with Miami managing victory at the end. The crowd involved people dancing and music coming over the PA system to put them into a frenzy. As an Australian Rules spectator this was not typical behaviour for me and I could not bring myself to “dance”, I found myself feeling sorry for the few Boston supporters sitting next to me who lso found the crowd to be comical.
The following day I went on a tour of the Florida Keys, a 15 hour round trip from the hostel to the town of Key West.I probably should have stayed there for the evening but I was running out of time to experience Miami’s famed nightclub scene. The drive itself involved a series of bridges connected by small sand islands and small towns intermittently being driven through, the towns themselves were small and appeared to be surf shacks.
The town of Key West is the most southerly point in the United States and approximately 50 miles from the island of Cuba. It’s a tourist town, lots of shopping arcades, outdoor bars and triple story wood panelled houses painted in bright colours lining the streets. Three famous attractions include Harry S Truman’s Whitehouse, Ernest Hemingways house and the Souther most Point. My time was short so I joined the queue to get a photo with the Southernmost Point, I spent an hour at the beach and then headed back to Miami. I regret not spending at least a few evenings there but it was time to experience the South Beach nightlife.
South Beach itself is a series of art deco building, multi-storied, very bright colours and the majority of which are nightclubs with outdoor beer gardens, each with sound systems playing various forms of dance music. Over the other side of the road is a series of parks before walking onto the beach itself, there were people scattered everywhere, bright in colourful in various alcoholic states. The hostel arranged nightclub evenings which involved arranging SUV Limo party busses and going to three venues per evening, a quiet bar to socialise and drink cheaply, the second a disco / bar where the drinks were not so cheap and then if still standing, a super club with priority queuing and very expensive drinks. The last club would have a self-pronounced world class DJ and was fantastic music and great for people watching, the drink prices reflected thisand after a few hours I headed back to the hostel to socialise. I did this for three nights and my total time in Miami was five days
During the last three days, I spent time at South Beach (no tours), largely empty in comparison to what I experienced in the evening. The sand is crystal white and the ocean flat and bright blue, it’s quite calming. There was also plenty of retail therapy if the need for new clothes becomes necessary, Miami considers itself very fashionable, not my taste however which is tattoos and checked shirts. I enjoyed my time there, mostly socialising with tourists/backpackers and I was quite comfortable with the activities I’d participated in, 5 days was about the right the amount of time for me and after a serious lack of sleep and possibly too many beers I was looking forward to my next destination, Montreal Canada….