Another Amusement Park

Marineland swingsBeluga WhaleWith my Father heading south of the border for the day, my older sister and nephew had the urge to go to Marineland with Forrester’s friend Ryan. So if we wanted to spend the day visiting with my oft-not-visited family, it meant going against all my urges of supporting a Zoo (of sorts), that housed large marine animals in small close quarters, with my entrance fee. Although I adore animals of all types, especially the aquatic kind, I have a hard time justifying the ethicality of training and housing such animals in zoos and enclosed parks, especially as their home is as vast as the oceans. After watching the movie “The Cove”, seeing dolphins enclosed in such facilities is heartbreaking. Dolphins by the way are probably my favourite animal, their intelligence & beauty admiral and breathtaking. Here’s a unique tidbit of trivia: Did you know that dolphins sleep with one eye open? By keeping a one-eyed vigil, this highly gregarious mammal can keep alert for predators with an open eye, and the closed eye allows for their brain to rest.

What I didn’t expect to find at Marineland was a love for the Beluga whale. I adore whales of all kinds, and never having witnessed a live Beluga, I fell fast and hard for their pristine white pureness. The Mama and babies played a tug of war at my heart, as sets of at least ten Mother whales swam and bonded in unison, dancing playfully with their newborn calves.

With our visit to Darien Lake only last week, both slaDE and I were curious about the funfair rides here at this park.

Marineland Sky Screamer

What I discovered about Marineland’s vast grounds is that the rides are spread out over a vast territory which meant large jaunts between the really cool pleasure thrills and coasters.

sKY Flight

By far, my favourite adrenaline spin was on the ‘Sky Streamer’: a freefall tower that offered incredible views of Niagara Falls, the burgeoning Niagara River and the surrounding natural beauty. I live for intense free-floating negative G-force surges such as this! Pure exhilaration. A skydiving exit from a balloon is very much like the drop on the Sky Screamer, albeit with a parachute on my back, the leap of faith is much longer and within my control.

The day ended with us enjoying a luscious meal at the ‘Smokin Buddha‘, listening to live music on the patio, carefree and loving life!

Return to Burnaby

DaisyAlas, all good things must come to an end. We were fortunate to have 3 whole days on the farm midweek. A treat considering slaDE~ is the full-time Tandem Instructor during the week at Skydive Burnaby. Seems that the rainy weather was on our side :). penicillin shotBefore leaving, Dad had to give Lady a penicillin shot for a laceration on her hind ankle that wasn’t quite healing (she keeps licking the Boron spray making it raw and open to flies, infection and such). I’ve never seen such a huge needle! But Lady took the shot in stride.

Packed up and ready to go, we made our way back to the drop zone, enjoying a few photo ops along the route. On our way through Kitchener, we stopped off at the Best Buy store to see if we could get a warranty replacement on our Garmin 765WT. We’ve only had it for 6 months, and the GPS charger is already broken. Very sucky, considering that Best Buy wouldn’t replace or fix the unit … bought in the USA and it needs to be returned to the manufacturer (Garmin) rather than to the BB store.

Mennonite buggy

Ho hum. Might buy the extended warranty on our next unit. The GPS as well has already give us difficulties and keeps rebooting for no apparent reason, at least 2-3 times per week (when we’re heavy travelling on the road). However, we find that the GPS is a useful tool for our lifestyle, and

Mennonite boys cycling

Garmin seems to have the best GPSs out there on the market. Any experiences with a GPS that you’d like to share??

Pedicures of the Equine Kind

trailer loadinghoof trimmingAlthough I absolutely adore going home, returning to the farm usually means a shift in my daily routine and sleeping schedule. Ever since returning to a ‘life of luxury’ (aka no official job title ~ outside of my freelance meanderings ~ with set start times), we’ve seldom had to use an alarm clock and we’ve pretty much been able to sleep in until we’re ready to start our day. However, when returning to the farm, around 7:30 or 8 am, the day starts whether we like it or not! Dad is up and in motion, with jobs ready to be accomplished, racing from project to project, conquering the world with each and every breath each takes! Regardless of whether I went to bed at 2:30am (like I did last night), there is no sleeping in for me. Ugh. I don’t do so well on less than 7 hours of sleep. However, this morning I was really excited to bolt out of bed, like a kid on Christmas morning. Today we were taking the horses, along with Daisy the mule, to the local Mennonite farm, where the animals would have their hoofs trimmed and cleaned. I’ve never had such an adventure before, and any opportunity to visit with the Mennonites is a rare moment indeed.

hoof trim

So we rounded up the team, loaded them on the trailer, and made our way just down the road to Elias’ farm and shop. Along the rafters, a string of horseshoes stood proudly on display. But today, no horseshoes would be attached. They’re basically for road geldings, used to protect the animal’s feet from wear and tear. Our horses are field horses. And it was time to give them their pedicure!

Such an awesome experience, seeing the personalities of each horse shine through. Lady was calm and collected, patient while the craftsman tooled away at her hooves. Flossy was a bit more difficult and restless, whilst Stanley was downright stubborn and not wanting to be there in that moment. Daisy is too young for her hooves to be trimmed, but Dad took the opportunity to put a face harness on her. horseshoesSimple success! And this halter will remain with Daisy for her life’s duration. A bit of her innocence has been lost, but luckily, she still remains acutely affectionate and remarkably cuddly. Oh how I love having the team in Dad’s backyard. They add such character and warmth, to have and to love whenever we decide to return back to the country.

An additional bonus to our excursion was the ability to photograph the experience. Because Elias has a great working relationship with my Father, he was happy to oblige my whimsical wishes to take photographs. Fantastic! Hope you enjoy them :).steel wheels

Mules and such ….

Daisy and sKYIt was scheduled to be a quiet week for Skydive Burnaby, so slaDE and I decided to meander up to my Father’s farm in Teeswater. Returning home always has this magical healing effect that shifts and changes priorities, melding my soul deeper with nature, connecting me to the Mother Earth in no other way. The memories evoked by my return to the country transports me back to childhood days where I had:

  • developed a love for the environment, unattainable through town living (I spent half my childhood life between town and the farm)
  • revelations of discovery about the land and the hard, backbreaking work entailed to cultivate its essence
  • fresh country air filling every ounce of my being
  • a wealth of knowledge, education and appreciation for Mother Earth.

DaisyAs an adult, the healing nature of a journey home is no different. slaDE has discovered this true magical adventure as well. Blessed we are!

There were a few new additions upon our return … the horses had been moved from the other farm to Dad’s backyard in the grazing pasture, surrounded by the newly laid fencing from our last visit. And a newborn mule named ‘Daisy’ was eager to vie for our attention and affection. Such a sweet sweet personality!  The new stray cat was also in want of devoted admiration. We certainly had a captive audience in our return to the country. AWESOME.Horses and a MuleslaDE and Daisy

Walking and talking with the Animals

sKY & slaDE at the San Diego Zoo entranceHippo dreamsQueen of the HipposPanda-liciousSan Diego has a world re-known first class Zoo that I’ve always wanted to visit. With lousy weather back at the drop zone, it seemed like an ideal time to play tourist and navigate this city from the ground (read blog entry from yesterday where we explored San Diego from the air). Balboa Park and the Zoo seemed like a good location to start. The vast variety of animals housed here is extraordinary. For the most part, you name it and we saw those animals from around the world.

  • My favourites by far were the dancing ballerina Hippos, the pecking Peacocks and the Giant Chinese Panda.

2 Giant CatsHanging HubbyLearning something new everyday!Meerkat ManorDespite our awesome visit today, I’m still somewhat torn by the concept of zoos within the confines of an urban area.  Although incredible research and conservation efforts may take place, helping certain species to survive, the lack of freedom and space available for these creatures might be considered inhumane and even jail-like, with limited room to move around, flourish and grow freely and without restricted boundaries. And the larger the animal, the bigger the tragedy. For example, take an elephant or a killer whale. Only just recently, a female trainer was mauled killed by a 12000 pound killer whale at Orlando’s Sea World Shamu Stadium. When you take dangerous wild animals out of their normal natural environment, I wonder what affect it has on their psychological, physical and social well-being and needs?

Scary HyenaA not-so-wise OwlFlaming FlamingosPumba the WarthogThe array of colours, sounds and smells throughout the Zoo were enlivening and thrilling. We made an effort to witness the different feedings and shows where we could during the day. The bird show had us tickled with laughter and awe; so much so that we particpated in the second showing of “Take Flight: An Avian Adventure” (think Harry Potter-like giant Owls and incredibly colourful singing parrots mixing with exotic rare birds and birds of prey such as a Peregrine Falcon and an American Bald Eagle). However, the winners of my affection were the dancing Hippos thrust in chaotic mosh-pit maneuvers both above and below water. Hippos intrigue me (read about my wild Hippo Malawi encounter here) to the point of fanaticism. Pissed off PeacocksBeauty bountiful feathered PeacockBut with the experience I had in Africa, I’m thinking that you’ll understand my fascination :). An Arctic WolfAnd then the culmination of our day led us to the panda bear exhibit, with Mama Panda Bai Yun enjoying her lunchtime snack of bamboo. Did you know that Pandas, a true bear, will not eat the outer bark of the bamboo plant, so they tear off the outer green skin before eating the fibrous bamboo?

All in all it was a glorious day of discovery and delight intermixed with feelings of sadness and educated contemplation. Wanting to top the day with an ocean sunset, we drove out to Mission Beach, grabbed ourselves a frothy tasty hot chocolate and nestled ourselves in to a comfy sand dune for the sun’s ocean dive. Mission Beach sunsetSpectacular colours and rhythmic waves lulled us into peaceful silence and gratitude; we are so thankful for a glorious Californian trip thus far. Pods of seaweed everywhereTruly, we are SO blessed! Not only do we have the freedom to travel and pursue our dreams at such a ripe young age, we have each other to explore the realms of opportunity together. FabulouS!

My infamous Hippo adventures

Well it’s official. I’m famous :~). Joking! But I am privileged indeed to have had my prize-winning Hippo adventure story broadcast live over the CBC airwaves. How spectacular!

So now it’s time to share. I’ve been alluding to this story for ages in my blog. And here’s the honest-to-goodness non-fictional tale which won us the prize tickets to the ‘Skydive’ play here in Calgary.

Many people have had wild animal encounters (especially those who live near the mountains, where bears and mountain lions and cougars rule the land) — not counting squirrels and rabid rabbits ;~) in their lifetime. Within the 3 year lifespan, I had 3 rather scary encounters with wildlife that will last me a lifetime. The scariest of confrontations happened when I was travelling through Africa in 1993. I was on an overland trip with an Australian friend. We started our trek in Nairobi with the Kamuku outfitter and ended it 6 weeks later in Zimbabwe (or as it was known at the time). What an adventure! Such an incredible continent, free-camping at every opportunity, totally immersed with the wildlife and nature, no holds barred.

To begin my story, I must start with the fact that one of my biggest fears (apart from heights) is of sharks and crocodiles (or anything with wicked jaws submerged in the water, with me and the possibility but highly unlikely far-fetched close encounter). To be honest, I’m a scaredy-cat, believe it or not.

The tale begins on one long and eventful evening when Snehal (my Ozzie friend) and I were camping in Malawi beside the incredibly beautiful Lake Malawi. The day before, on our arrival at the empty beach front, I had asked our Trek Leader if there was anything dangerous like crocs or other creatures in the fresh water of the vast lake. Her response: “Nothing that you need to worry your pretty little head about”. Taking her advice to heart, I didn’t hesitate to jump in the water at 5am the next morning, after my unsuccessful attempt at wrestling with our rain-drenched tent fly (and hence rather damp and dreary tent). I was big into ‘aqua-aerobics’ at the time, so I spent the next 30 minutes ‘aerobic running’ in circles whilst I watched the lightening light up the early morning African sky. With not a care in the world, I curiously turned my head at the ‘ploop’ sound that I suddenly heard behind me in the quiet morning still. At first I thought a log had surfaced whilst I stood there in water up to my chest, the soft sand squishy between my toes. But with a double take at the outrageously beautiful brown and purple mass that stood 5 feet away from me, I instantly recognized the face of a curious Hippo with its ears twirling faster than my heart was pounding at that moment in time. Yes, you did read correctly: Hippopotamus was its name. Female or male, I know not. Nor did I care to stick around and question the irrelevant thought. I believe that I instantly went into shock. No one had ever educated me on how one was to jettison oneself from the water when encountering a wild animal, especially when chest deep and without flippers or weapon to my name. Not that either of those would have made a difference. What seemed like a slow-motion picture show that I look back on, I turned and haphazardly scrambled / swam/ crawled / fought my way to the shoreline. Tina Fey’s ‘lifeline’ seems rather comical at the thought. No amount of ‘life life or buoy’ could have pulled me out of that Lake faster or with more flare and zeal. Adrenaline brought me to the water’s edge, crying huge crocodile tears, hyperventilating like a crazy woman who had almost drowned. I didn’t look back once I scaled the sandy beaches, heading straight for our Trek leaders tent. I didn’t care that it was 6am and her husband Tim {our overland driver} was delirious and feverish with Malaria. I vomited my story to Molly and she laughed at my ridiculousness. I instantly lost trust and respect for her in that moment, in shock and disbelief at the obscurity of it all. I awoke my tent-mate and the rest of our overland crew, reliving the story with no need to embellish or flavour the tale. The aftermath of shock has a way of placating even the most high strung. Yet snickers of disbelief resounded through the crowd. It was then that we were directed by a Malawi resident to go and stand by the water, and watch the surface for a while. Hippos can submerge themselves for up to 30 minutes at a time, and then they will come up for air before going under for another bout of grazing and ‘meandering’. We walked down to the rickety pier and sat watching, curious as to what we would witness. Within a one hour time span, we had counted over 40 Hippos surfacing within eyesight. The term ‘Shock and Awe’ holds an entirely different meaning than what Bush ever intended. Believers I had of the overlanders after our viewing and show by the Lake.

To this day, I am extremely grateful that I didn’t know the extensive and bloody history behind Africa’s most notorious man-killer (Genocide warriors, Aids and Malaria aside). Someone was obviously looking down on me and blessing me with 1 of my 9 lives that December day. Most people killed by Hippos find themselves between the Hippo and the shoreline. I’m also grateful that I didn’t brush up against one of these blubbery mammoth beasts, as I surely would have had a heart attack on the spot. Or they would have chewed me in half by their gigantic sabre-like teeth.