Ocracoke, by the way, is an island on the "outer banks": a stretch of sandbanks along the coast of North Carolina. It takes quite some effort to get here, perhaps more than the average tourist is willing to make - not to mention the welcome that is received when you do arrive. But the place is worth the ferry trip and possibly even the blood-sucking critters. The first towns that you hit as you reach the outer banks from Williamsburg offer the usual selection of franchise restaurants and motels and are, in all honesty, pretty hideous.
The only place that is really worth a stop there is the dune above Naggs Head where the Wright Brothers made their first flight. A memorial stands on top of the hill and if you climb the slope and stand next to it, you can look out to see and admire the full tediousness of the resort town that stretches out in a long, straight line in both directions below your. There are displays in the visitor centre, films and talks to enjoy if you come at the right time and feel like learning more, and some stone markers to show the distance covered in each of the four successful test flights.
When we had seen enough, we drove on through the town to the southern end of the penninsula, where things were already much improved and the franchises made way for tall, stately holiday homes overlooking the ocean on our left and the inlet on our right. Another quick stop to admire "the tallest brick lighthouse in America" (it is quite tall, and stripey which is fun), we drove aboard the ferry that connects the penninsula to the next main sandbank south, Ocracoke Island. This is a free ferry that slaloms its way slowly between the sandbanks that were hidden below the water's surfact, reaching land some 45 minutes later on the northern reach of the island.
From there you can drive the 12 miles to the southern tip and the much more quiet and quaint resort town of Ocracoke - the peace and tranquility disturbed only by the odd plague of mosquitoes.
Today Mark continues his journey alone. Laura fell victim to the local wildlife last night and was eaten alive in the picturesque seaside town of Ocracoke. Well ok, not quite eaten alive, but certainly sucked dry. As we sat, enjoying a meal and watching the breathtaking sunset at the harbour in Ocracoke, a veritable plague of mosquitoes descended. While Mark was also a target and felt many of the little devils sucking his blood, Laura was clearly the preferred flavour. Oh yes, and the overly friendly ducks also found our toes quite delectible. By the time we had finished our meal - and I must admit, we ate faster and faster as it went on - we were well and truly ready for the mad dash back to our motel and to the sanctuary of a room fortified by mosquito nets. An inspection of the damage done revealed hundreds (and this really isn't an exaggeration, much) of red and swollen blotches spread over Laura's feet, back and bottom (oo-er) - basically everywhere she had failed to cover with the anti-mosquito spray. Quite a price to pay for a gorgeous sunset viewed from a picture-perfect spot.