Thursday, June 23, 2016

A day at the Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey

Gerald Durrell has been a hero of mine for quite a while.  In case you have never heard of him ( and sadly most North Americans haven't) Mr. Durrell was a conservationist, naturalist and author of many wonderful books.  Hands up if you own all of them - yes, that would be me.   He was dedicated to preserving endangered animals.  He grew up loving animals and first worked collecting species for the Whipsnade, London and other zoos around the world.  He was known for the great care and dedication he gave these animals.  However be became disillusioned about how zoos of that time were run and decided to start his own zoo as he believed they should act as reserves and regeneration for endangered species rather than entertainment.  Sales from his book and his expeditions for other zoos helped fund the new zoo which was opened in 1959.  In 1978 he started a training centre for zoologists at the zoo - well over a thousand students from all over the world have attended.  In the meantime he still wrote his books and using the profits for his beloved zoo.  Sadly he died in early 1995. What an impact this man has made on the world. If you want to read more about Gerald Durrell and his books click here. 

I visited the Wildlife park back in 1988 and absolutely loved it and in the past few years I have had a yearning to go back to Jersey that just would not go away.  In fact I ended up canceling what I had booked (time near Hadrians Wall in northern England) and booking to go to Jersey (while in the UK).  And I have no regrets!

 I like well run zoos that preserve threatened or endangered species.   Yes there are some crappy zoos out there that should be shut down but there are so many that do their job of breeding endangered or threatened species AND educating the publiC.  I think seeing and hearing these animals is so much more effective than looking at them in a book or on a video as people tend to say it should be now.   I have been to Africa and seen animals in the wild which was one of the best experiences of my life - but not many people can afford or choose to do that.

So off we go....I was lucky enough to get a direct bus from where I was staying in Gorey.  Let me tell you I did not dawdle and decided to visit the park my first day in Jersey.

My hero Gerald Durrell

I of course had to have my picture taken with this statue but I'll spare you the photo.   I so would have liked to have met him... there was a wonderful exhibition of his life which I thoroughly enjoyed.

So off we go to meet the animals!!!

Giant Madagascar Day Gecko

Lesser Antillian Iguana

Sumatran (Indonesia)  Orangatun - they love playing with blankets!  These beautiful creatures share 97% of the same DNA as humans and are born with the ability to reason and think.  In fact their name...orang means "person" in Malay and "utan" means forest.  People of the forest.  Fascinating creatures - more info is available here.   Sadly so many have been decimated through the development of Palm Oil plantations which of course leads to deforestation and the loss of the orangatuns' habitat.  It is estimated that approximately 6,000 are lost every year.   Palm Oil is used in over half of the products on supermarkets' shelves today.

Red Ruffled Lemur - from Madagascar

A Bali starling - absolutely beautiful.  It is critically endangered in the wild.

I can't remember what this guy is - but it's cute!

A pink pigeon from Mauritius.  Gerald brought 5 over in 1977 and they have been bred ever since. Once critically endangered but now downgraded to endangered.  There are approximately 500 birds near the field station in Mauritius but it has been a long struggle.  These are the only pigeons that have not become extinct in that country.  Gerald Durrell wrote a book  called "Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons" which talks about his visit to Mauritius.  Informative but amusing; always amusing.

Oriental Short-Clawed Otter - smallest of the world's otters from Asia.

And then we come to the critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla...widescale trade in meat is bringing this majestic animal close to extinction.

And who doesn't love to see a "flamboyance" of flamingos..(yes that's the proper name...don't you love it?) These are Chilean flamingos. Flamngos' pink colour comes from the pigments in their food.

Love the pink "knees" and feet!!!

And last but definitely not least is the fabulous "Jambo".  Well a statue that is as sadly he passed away in 1992.  I was lucky enough to see him when I visited the zoo in 1988.  In recent events at the Cincinnati Zoo (don't get me started on that!) Jambo's name came up.  In 1986 a young boy fell into the enclosure and Jambo sat beside the unconscious child  protecting him from the other gorillas and gently stroking his back.  Another one of my heros!  I would dearly have loved to have had my picture taken with this statue but no one was around.  I tried doing some selfies...let's just say I'm not very good at selfies!

RIP Jambo - 1961 to 1992

Jambo came to the zoo in 1971 and lived until 1992..fathering 14 offspring with his progency at around 100 all over the world. He has become the symbolf of the Durrell Wildlife Park.

All in all a wonderful day.  The park has everything from creepy crawlies to gorillas.  You won't find any elephants, tigers or zebras here.  Instead you will find creatures you have never heard of  that are getting a second chance.  I would highly recommend visiting this fantastic wildlife park if you ever visit the beautiful island of Jersey. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Walking my socks off in Vancouver - Lynn Canyon and Horseshoe Bay

When I woke up on my second day in Vancouver I was still unsure what adventure I was going to get up to.  I knew I wanted to walk but I had about ten ideas floating around and just couldn't decide.  As I was making final preparations to leave (still not knowing for sure) the phone rang.  The phone?  Yes I had a phone in my room in the know when you see things but they don't really register?  Or is that just me?  It never even occurred to me to actually phone people.on it..I hadn't yet turned my UK mobile phone back into a Canadian cell phone so I wasn't able to make any calls on it and I just figured I'd have to make do with Facebook or wifi messaging via iphone.  Anyway...and I am getting to the point of this..I answered and there was my Vancouver walking friend Verni on the other end.  She had mentioned perhaps walking together on Tuesday but nothing was arranged or decided on.  So we discussed possibilities and I mentioned I had always wanted to visit Lynn Canyon Park in North Vancouver.   I wasn't sure if she would want to go as it wasn't a sanctioned walk and Verni is a dedicated Volkssporter.  She jumped at the opportunity and we made arrangements to meet at Waterfront station at 10:30.

So I headed out for some breakfast.  Well!  I wanted to find a cute unique cafe/coffee shop on my way to the station but do you think I could find one?  Vancouver hides its coffee shops well.  I ended up at Tim Horton's...ugh.  Okay nothing against this very Canadian institution but when I am traveling I want to visit locally owned places.  So I had my bagel (which is never toasted the way I want it to be...) and coffee and headed off...only to find a cute a cafe around the corner.  Grrrr... I had loads of time so decided to walk into a bit of Gastown.

I then met Verni at the station and got on the Seabus which crosses the Burrard Inlet to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver.  From there we got a bus up to Lynn Canyon.  The bus dropped us off near Dempsey Road as Verni wanted to try a different route rather than the normal entrance. However somehow we ended up on the more challenging Baden Powell Trail rather than the flatter Rice Lake trail she had planned for us to hike.

Lynn Canyon Park is 250 hectares of coastal temperate rainforest with the average age of trees in the park 100 to 150 years old.  Here is a map of most of the area - I've highlighted the area we walked.  Not far but far enough!

Luckily Verni let me use one of her walking sticks and gave me a helping hand when the rocks were a bit steep.  I didn't take pictures of the bad parts (why I don't do that is beyond me - just to have a memory of the horror!) - I was too busy trying to stay upright!  Let's just say you stepped from rock to rock going down or up.  My favourite - NOT.

I liked this bit!

I love this kind of trail!!!  Flat!!!

Normally I hate stairs but after those rocks these were a beautiful sight - especially short wide stairs.
Greedily I inhaled the beautiful scent of the trees and the fresh air - I just could not get enough of that smell.

We reached this point and when I saw the kids I thought "okay surely the path will be much easier now with those kids on the trail"  I was right.

We walked over the suspension bridge and had a fabulous view...

Verni admiring the view.

We ran into some fellow Volkssport walkers from Nova Scotia and walked with them to the pool area above.

Back to the suspension bridge and then we decided to walk to 30 Foot Pool on a different path.  I didn't want to wear myself out as I knew I wanted to go to Horseshoe Bay and do some more walking...we sat down and relaxed at the pool before heading back over the Suspension bridge to the cafe.  Sadly it was closed.  So we continued walking to the main road where we got the bus back to Londsale Quay and had lunch there.

Verni set off for Vancouver and I then caught the first of two buses that would take me to Horseshoe Bay.  Around 90 minutes later I arrived at the Recreation centre where the walk box was located for the 5 km walk I planned to do.

Ah you're talking.  Nice wide trail with benches and I can stick my nose up in the air and inhale the wonderful smell of the forest rather than watching my feet in case I trip and break my neck on roots or rocks.  As you probably guessed this was once a railway track.  On a wet winter morning in 1972 a southbound freight train derailed sending boxcars and lumber down the cliff onto Marine Drive.  No injuries were reported thank goodness  but it damaged two houses and hastened the decision to abandon this area of the track - needless to say the local residents were very relieved!  The train now traverses a 1.2 km tunnel instead.  And the old track is now the Seaview trail which is part of the Trans Canada trail!

Fisherman's Cove

Oh how I loved this trail.  Not busy but enough people walking dogs or jogging by that you didn't feel like your personal safety was at risk. (or that you might potentially be an inspiration for an episode of "Criminal Minds")  I walked close to 2 km and then turned and walked back.  I would do this trail again in a heartbeat and maybe even go further next time if the knees allowed me to.

I then made my way into the village of Horseshoe Bay on trails and sidewalks with a beeline for the restaurant I had eaten at last time I was there in 2011.  Back then it was a sunny lovely day and I had a glass of peach cider with a fantastic salad while sitting on the upstairs deck watching the ferries come and go.  It was one of those experiences that was pure bliss. just can't go back...I wasn't hungry for a full meal but I did want something to eat so perused the appetizer menu.  Nothing appealed but the seafood soup - they were out of it.  She wanted to upgrade me to one with more seafood in it - $13.99?  I don't think so!  So I ordered a pear cider and sat watching the ferries even though it was starting to cloud up a bit.  I still enjoyed it but it would have been nice to have had something nice to eat.

I wanted to catch the 7:20 express bus back to Vancouver so after I finished my cider I quickly grabbed a Greek salad to go at the coffee shop below and dashed off...

What a fabulous day!  I would definitely revisit both Lynn Canyon AND Horseshoe Bay...there is just so darn much to see in Vancouver that three full days wasn't enough and I felt stressed trying to figure what to do. A return trip SOON is a must I do think!  But I still have day three to share..coming up soon!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A walk in Highgate Cemetery East

Well here she goes talking about London again...don't worry there will be lots more posts in the weeks and months ahead about all the other wonderful places I visited.  But London....the greatest city on earth (I've been to enough that I think I'm qualified to say that!) just has so much to talk about!

I visited Highgate cemeery while on a walk in Highgate a few days after I got to London in March.  I had done this walk numerous time but hadn't stopped to visit.   In 1990 I walked through with some friends mainly to see the grave of Karl Marx.  On this visit I took my time and purchased a leaflet with all the famous people who were buried there.

Highgate is one of the "magnificent seven" of the London cemeteries which include Nunhead Cemetery, Brompton Cemetery, Kensal Green cemetery (all of which I've been post coming up on the last two in the next few months), Abney Park cemetery, West Norwood cemetery and Tower Hamlets cemetery.  For hundreds of years bodies were buried in parish cemeteries.  However in the first fifty years of the 19th century London's population exploded from one million to over two million.  Overcrowded church yards resulted in fluids from rotting bodies going into the water supply (I know..ewwww...) which caused epedemics.   Bodies were being buried on top of one another - rats were getting into graves and defiling the bodies.  Rain would cause bodies to be exposed and children playing with actual human bones was not an uncommon sight. Obviously, something had to be done.  The burial act of 1852 required that new cemeteries be built.  At the time all of these cemeteries were not in London itself but in nearby parishes.  Of course there are many more cemeteries in London but these seven built at around the same time were dubbed the "Magnificent Seven" in the early 80's.

Some people have the view that cemeteries are creepy and scary but to me it's all about history.  You won't see me prowling modern cemeteries...boring!  I like to see all the beautiful monuments and find out a bit about the people who are buried there.

Highgate cemetery has two sides - East and West.  The East side you pay a fee and can wander around on your own.  The West side is supposed to be even more amazing but you need to go on an organized tour.  I had one booked in May however it was a very rainy miserable day and I did not fancy walking in the rain on slick paths with my wonky knee.  I will try again next time!

The people buried here range from the very famous to people just like you and me; some graves are old and others are new.  So let's get walking...

Anna Mahler: Austrian sculptor and daughter of composer Gustav Mahler

Corin Redgrave: part of the famous Redgrave family - brother to Vanessa

Jim Horn - avid reader but not a partner in the firm.  For those who don't know Penguin books is a famous UK publisher.  I love this tombstone!

As you can see stones have shifted.

Douglas Adams:  author of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy among others.  Love the pens and pencils!

No one famous but isn't it gorgeous...someone was very much loved.

And we come to Karl Marx's grave..d 1883.

This was the original grave of Karl Marx but he and his family were moved into the tomb pictured above in the mid 1950's.

Okay that's different..


Spring was late coming to London!

How cool is this?  Naturally it is the grave of a pianist...Henry Thornton who died in the flu pandemic of 1918.

Obviously paid the trumpet.   I love this one.

The actor Sir Ralph Richardson and his family

And last but not least..Bruce Reynolds who was the mastermind behind the Great Train Robbery of 1963.  Yep all kinds are buried in East Highgate Cemetery.   Well worth a visit!