Manatees, monkey island, and synchronicity at its finest…
Upon arriving in Homosassa Springs I was faced with a tough decision: pay a small fee to climb into a giant fishbowl and see manatees and other fish swimming all around me or pay a large fee and take a tour to go snorkeling with wild manatees. I decided to roam the streets for a while and let the decision marinate in my mind.
While walking through the town center I stumbled upon an old mill and was able to read all about the sugar production process conducted mostly by slaves at the time. It turns out that waaay back in the day Homosassa was a huge center for this. From here I crossed the street and slipped into a quiet little museum ran by James “Boe” Anderson. This was a print museum with a variety of antique presses. After exchanging a few stories he was kind enough to give me a post card with a beautiful colorful leaf imprint on the front that I would later gift to my brother and sister-in-law.
On the other side of town I found a small marina with a few restaurants and bars. One bar, called The Monkey Bar, overlooks an island inhabited by a handful of monkeys. The monkeys natural fear of water has kept them on the island for generations. This feels cruel in my mind, but it is an attraction the town has to offer nonetheless. *
I decided to sit at a small bar overlooking the water to have a beer and munch on some cajun boiled peanuts- a HUGE thing in the south. A worker decided to sit and keep me company. (Apparently he thought I looked sad and came to comfort me. In reality, I was really frustrated with the difficult time I was having trying to crack the shells on boiled peanuts without spraying juice everywhere! He sure got a laugh out of this realization.)
We got to talking and I mentioned my manatee debacle. As luck would have it, workers get free boat access and he knew of a spring nearby where manatees flocked during winter! He offered me to come by that night to chat about a time we could take a ride out to the springs. I ended up camping in his mother’s front yard for three nights and am still close with this loving family to this day.
The son, Cameron, has quite an electric personality. He is always singing, dancing, and spewing stories. Cameron’s mother Eileen is one of the sweetest souls you’ll ever cross in this world. You can tell within the first thirty seconds of conversation that she is just full of love for everyone, human and animal alike. She included me in family meals, let me do laundry and charge up the battery on the van, and it was here that I took my first real shower of the trip. She even allowed the cat to come in and get some play time outside of the van.
The best part of this story in my opinion is that right down the street from this household is a mural an artist in Cedar Key told me to be on the lookout for. And I just happened to end up sleeping less than a block away! Synchronicity at its finest.
When the day finally came to swim with manatees it was unfortunately too windy to take a boat out. We decided to sneak into the springs from a location up the road and swim down to where the manatees usually congregate. However we had no such luck, and so the manatee debacle continues.
While on the topic of luck…. I should mention not everything has been smooth sailing in my journey so far. By this point I have lost my license, my gas cap, and still have a broken sink blocking my access to the water tank and my ability to do dishes and laundry in the van. Laundry mats for clothes and park bathrooms for dishes will have to do for now.
*The locals believe that since the monkeys have plenty of food and toys and live a life free of predators that it is not cruel in the least. An interesting perspective to consider.