The flowers are blooming, the buds are popping off of every tree branch and the birds are singing.
What’s wrong with this picture? It’s September.
For some of us, this also means allergy season. Mendoza is one of those places ideally situated in a valley where the climate is perfect for growing everything. Combine this with La Zonda, a high wind that kicks up in the afternoon and stirs up allergens, and we’ve got some sneezing and congested travelers.
All we have to do is fix the bus, cross the Andes – again – and get to the Chilean coast to find some clear air.
In the meantime, Bode and I hit up the local zoo, listed as the best zoo in South America (we might disagree – the one in Cali is pretty good). The zoo is located in the massive and beautiful Parque General San Martin, which is roughly the size of the city center. On a map, it isn’t that far, but once we got to the park itself, it still took us over an hour to walk to the zoo on the far end. That doesn’t include stops at a playground and the velodrome to watch the cyclists drafting a motorcycle. Bode wants to bring his bike next time.
The zoo grounds are pretty spectacular, too. There are 3 km of walking trails up and around a hill that overlooks the city. The only problem was the animals. First off, there were tigers in very small cages looking very agitated and pacing back and forth. There were 3 steps so kids could walk right up and stick their little hands right next to him.
A little later we took a turn and found some small baboons that had escaped their cage. We’ve seen lots of monkeys in the wild, but monkeys that have escaped confinement tend to scare me a little.
When we go to places like this, Bode tends to befriend whatever kid is near and walk with them to each exhibit. This time, he befriended a family of 4 kids.
At one point, we were a little ahead of the family. We stopped for a snack near the gorillas, where we noticed the dad of the family giving one of them a soda. The gorilla finished it off and handed the empty bottle back. The dad filled it up again and gave it to another gorilla. Then the kids gave another a Popsicle. Now, all the gorillas forced their hands out of the cage wanting a treat. A school group came up and some of the teachers were lifting the little ones to feed the gorillas. Crazy.
The elephant was separated from humans by a large trench. Someone threw a hot dog bun over to him and he ate it. A little kid tried to do the same thing, but didn’t make it over the trench. We spent the next 5 minutes watching the elephant try to reach the bread. I don’t know a lot about their physical prowess, though for some reason I’ve read a lot of books featuring elephants lately. Apparently, they are much more agile than they appear, but Bode and I were terrified he was going to lose his footing and fall into the trench. Eventually, he gave up…but looked pissed.
Later, more monkeys on the loose, but this time they’d broken into the peacock’s cage and were eating his food. The weirdest part, though is that some of these animals had acres and acres of space, while the lions and tigers were couped up in small cages within reach of little hands.
I’m a big fan of zoos. We were members of the Oakland zoo and used to go all the time. I can’t imagine animals breaking out of their cages in the U.S. without it making national news. In fact, today I told Bode about the tiger that escaped at the SF Zoo a few years ago (that kept him a safe distance from the cage).
I’m sure these city kids enjoyed seeing the llamas, alpacas and goats but we’ve seen these things nearly every day for the last 6 months. We’ve camped with most of them or seen them in the wild. Hell, a monkey even stole Bode’s grapefruit in the jungle one time. I hope we’re not spoiled on zoos forever.