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  • Day16

    New Orleans, LA

    November 2, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Gators and Po' boys, that's the word.

    At last a stop long enough to catch our breath! Have thoroughly enjoyed this city and it's culture. The effects of Katrina almost 11 years ago are still vivid and the city breathes it's lessons learned. The Mississippi is largely invisible, due to the tall levees which constrain it's flow - a weird feeling given the significance it has for the city.

    Two (of many) unique features of this city took me. The first is that the majority of the city is built below sea level. It sounds ridiculous but you rarely see the river as the levels are several stories tall and most of the buildings aren't. Built on a delta created by the river itself, there's literally not a hill in sight. The bridges are probably the highest points in town, built that way to allow giant supertankers to pass underneath. Instead of free draining storm and waste water, all of these are directed to pumping pits which pump the water back up to the Mississippi. I needn't paint the picture in heavy rain, or worse; a levee breach.

    The second is above ground cemeteries. Due to the relatively high water table, burying bodies below ground was not a viable option. Instead, bodies are buried in above ground tombs, 2-12 feet high. Each tomb can contain multiple corpses, which are entombed individually in coffins and decay in approximately one year. When a relative dies, the tomb is reopened, coffin removed, bones layed in a hole at the back of the tomb and the tomb shelf restacked with the 'new dead'. So what happened during Katrina when the cemetery was in flood? Floating tombs. Ew.

    We managed to book ourselves into a swamp tour at Honey Island, just on the outskirts of the city. Until now I struggled to see the interest in a swamp. The word itself just wreeks of awful connotations; mosquitos, mud, flies, gators, stench...I'm sure I could go on. Zapping around on the boat in the wider stretches was actually really pleasant. All the wildlife cane out to party - alligators, turtles, and a myriad of birds and the scenery was unique. Little fishing are vacation homes dotted the rivers edge to make just like the movie sets. A great way to blow out the cobwebs from the night before.

    We also visited the WW2 museum which came as a surprise in two ways. One - it was in located in Luisiana (significance still unknown), and two - it was top pick on trip advisor of over 50 museums. Needless to say it was impressive! Three buildings big with a few more to come!

    One thing I couldn't get over the whole time we were there was the infrastructure. The current population is around 450,000 people which is slightly less than that of Wellington. It'd be fair to note is was about 650,000 before Katrina but we'll keep that aside for some hyperbole. The roading network is absurd. Two to six lane freeways extend in every direction leading out of the city - almost entirely suspended. To put it simply - their whole freeway system is a network of really long to really freaking long bridges. One of the lake Pontchatrain bridges was the longest in the world until Macau surpassed it. Where these freeways converge, roads tier four levels high in numerous locations. Yet public transport is close to non-existant, and public rail IS non existant (save for the trams which have 2 short lines). It absolutely baffles me how this system stacks up, especially with the evidently large low socio economic areas.

    Such a unique city. Go figure.
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