St. Pats, a zoo, and no drinking.
i thought i'd do something interesting this St. Pats, something i'd not usually do on this day of institutionalised alcoholism. ah! i could go to Calgary Zoo!
plan made, i set off. in what has to be a groundbreaking occurance on this trip, i didn't get lost! granted, there was a specific station entitled "Zoo" and there were only three train lines to choose from, but it was an achievement nonetheless.
the zoo was pretty good. there's only so many ways you can design a zoo, after all. my first port of call was the Canada exhibit.
that was cool, right enough. moose, deer, Forest Bison, porcupines, all were cool. it was the musk oxen that struck me the most, though. i turned a corner and came face to mornful face with the most depressed-looking ruminant i've ever seen. it looked a lot like my former dog Mungo, now that i think of it...
anyway, i moved on through the Canada section, past elk, golden and bald eagles (who looked less 'majestic' and more 'bedraggled'), grizzly bears, timber wolves (who looked a little ticked off at the many tourists whistling at them), prairy dogs and many, many mallards. as i left the canada exhibit i passed a school group on an outing, and for the third time in two days, my appearance was compared with that of Indiana Jones. i'm hoping that means i look rakish and adventurous, rather than looking like a sixty-year old actor, but i'll take a compliment where i can get it.
the rest of the zoo was interesting, but much of a muchness. the Australia section was a little dissapointing, being about the size of a good sized living room. there was one kangaroo visible in the field (not suprising, really, given it was about seven degrees with snow on the ground), but the rest was mainly a few birds, two wallabies, many blue-tongued and bearded lizards and three cane toads. i was very tempted to take the resident zookeeper gently aside and explain that cane toads are not, in fact, native to Oz (and that it was a bad idea to put them in the same tank as a frill-necked lizard), but managed to restrain myself.
i then went into the "Creatures of the Night" exhibit. cool, i thought, bats and the like. i like bats.
alas, the key point of the exhibit was nocturnal animals. that being the case, the exhibit was kept in darkness. can you see the problem with this situation as regards the viewing public?
right! once i got in there, i couldn't see a damn thing. for all i know, they just recorded assorted squeaks and rustlings and played them through a PA system. i'm pretty sure they didn't, but it could have been...
i found the Africa exhibit rather more impressive. big old porcupines, warthogs, giraffes and a hippo or two. cool! there was a meercat sitting on top of a log and barking at passersby. "He's barking!" said a fellow pushing a stroller. "He must be happy!" how tempting it was to say "actually, it's more likely he's telling you to bugger the hell off, mate". fortunately, my will is strong, like Forest Bison.
i also made it in time to see the baby elephant having it's afternoon feed. for a huge, grey, wrinkled beast with a prehensile nose, it's amazing how cute it was. this attitude was shared by thoose around me, if the steady chorus of "Awwwwwwww!" was any indicator.
there was another exhibit in the same building that confused me a little: Stingrays. stingless, diamond-shaped stingrays.
now, it's not really PC to like stingrays in australia (the whole Steve Irwin thing and all), but i do. there's something cool about a flat fish that can move that fast.
anyway, the zoo had about thirty of these rays in a circular tank, and they were ALL swimming in the same direction. ALL of them. i asked the keeper about this, and he told me that it might have been because of the water jets. i personally thought it more likely that the rays were having a game of 'whirlpool', like kids in a circular pool. i reacon the second everyone stops watching, they all turn around and swim on the other direction. that'd freak the keepers out.
after i headed back from the zoo (after seeing rays playing Whirlpool, not much else really impresses you), i decided to grab me a meal and head out to a pub to hoist a few for St. Pats. grabbing my (increasingly less) trusty 'Lonely PLanet', i looked up a resteraunt (a thai place famous for its noodles) and an irish pub (Ceili's). i found the resterant easily enough (to the suprise of my readers everywhere!) to learn it was closed. ok.
i went to the one next door and had a meal noteworthy because of it's cheapness. still, it lined the gut well enough. on to the Pub!
i set off, gaining directions from a transient on the way, to find...a giant bloody hole in the ground. it would seem that, since my edition of Lonely PLanet went to press, two thirds of that block was torn down and dug up.
i'm starting to suspect a conspiracy...
"Ok" i thought, "I'll just find another pub and have a Bushmills to compensate".
i could not find ONE pub or bar that a) didn't have a cover charge, and b) i would willingly go into. i thought i had found one, but it turned out that the doorman and the ticket seller had different instructions. in response to the question "is there a covercharge?", the doorman said "No", and the ticket lady said "of course there is". it wouldn't have bothered me, except they were about two meters apart. you'd think they might have talked...
eventually i deemed it too much tyrouble and headed back to the hostel. spending st. Pats cold sober. now that IS out of the ordinary.
until something else interesting happens, stay tuned.