Saturday, May 29, 2004

Puebla, Mexico--Day 119

The next morning I was off to the zoo, which is called Africam Safari (yes Africam, not African) and is basically this zoo that you can drive through much like those in Australia, right up to the animals. The amazing thing with this zoo is that you don’t actually have to be driven in a big safari bus with a guide, but you can actually drive YOUR OWN CAR right into say, the lion’s den. Honestly, I was so shocked! There were just people all around driving with their windows down, taking pictures of like the lions on rhinos who were not that far away from their precious children sitting in the back seats. Anyway, moving on…

I got a taxi to the zoo and had him drop me off, which was sort of a mistake on my part (at that time I didn’t realize that you had to drive all around the zoo to get around it). I was scouted out by one of the ticket girls who picked me out of the crowd (big surprise) and helped me get at ticket. Silly me didn’t have enough pesos so I tried using my credit card, but that didn’t work (no, my credit is good, the phone lines were indefinitely busy) so I had to pay in American dollars which they were satisfied with.

The girl who was helping me then pointed me in the direction of the bus that I would bet getting on to go around the zoo in (no I could not walk, a lion would eat me!) and as we walked over a huge black and white striped bus zoomed up and we boarded. I inquired about the hippos’ names, and was told that they didn’t have any! What, no names? Surely they are named. I would find this out later, that in fact, they are not!

Anyways, back to the bus. How fun was this! All of the people on board appeared to be related (I think the tour guide on the bus said that they were a family, but then again, my Spanish is shaky). The tour guide and our driver introduced themselves (I think) and we were off into the African savannah.

I kept looking at my map and hoping and hoping that the hippos weren’t going to be a drive by like those fateful Singaporean hippos and that my chance to get good pictures of them wouldn’t happen. We drove around basically what was a dirt road through “Africa” as we saw lions, tigers, giraffes, and all other sorts of animals that you would see in Mexico, I mean Africa.

We got to a rest stop where there were no animals around but plenty of souvenir shops, photo opportunities (one of which you could ride on a camel wearing a sombrero) and food kiosks. I went into the gift shop and bought a mug and a few postcards and went back to the bus stop so that I wouldn’t miss the bus. What I thought was going to be a ten minute break turned into something like an hour long stop and it was quite a while until anyone else meandered back to the bus. Luckily I had my book with me and again, what really is a schedule anyways?

We were finally off to where the map showed the hippos and thankfully enough there was a parking lot in front of the hippos area. Fingers crossed, we approached the hippos and joy we stopped and were given another ten minute break (which actually turned out to be more like ten minutes than an hour this time). It was plenty of time for me to get some great pictures of the six sleeping hippos who were all laying in a row basking in the sun. Click click click. More stares from people around me, but I don’t care. Yes, I AM going to take lots and LOTS of pictures of these hippos, thank you very much.

The bus starts its engine up again and I race to get back on board, and we are taken to the start of another zoo where zoo goers walk around and look at animals that weren’t necessarily part of Africa. I walked around a bit trying to find a taxi back to Puebla to no avail and was told that I could ride a bus back. So I got to this bus station thing and sit down to wait, reading the signs saying that a bus comes every hour, but that was not guaranteed.


Since there were buses there at the moment, I decided to go scout out the hippos names again. About an hour later, I have walked through just about the entire part of this second zoo and have seen way too many butterflies and bats, and not enough zookeepers to help me with the hippos. Finally I track one down and break up his conversation with a younger child (obviously I am more important! jk) and am told again that the hippos don’t have names, which was followed by a very strange, questioning look on his part.

I thanked him and headed back through the zoo to the bus stop (did I mention how hot it was? I was just about dying) and stopped at this funny little gazebo over a lake. You had to walk over this small wooden planked bridge which has a sign saying something like “no more than 10 people on at once.” Well the minute I get over the bridge and on to the gazebo, a herd of school children come bounding along and all race onto this bridge and starting jumping up and down making the bridge go crazy. I was stuck! There was no way I could push through the kids on the bridge and with my luck the bridge would probably break while I was on it considering all of the kids (definitely more than 10) that were on it. Finally I made my move and had quite the time trying to get back across while the bridge was invaded by laughing children. I couldn’t stop laughing which made the kids jump even harder but finally I made it across.


I make it back to the front of the zoo to ask again about the hippos’ names (sorry, no names!) and a big Esterella Roja bus drives past me and the girl who was originally helping me with my ticket told me to run because that was going to be my ride back to Puebla. So I run back to the bus stop on the other side of the zoo, only to find about a bazillion buses there now. I make a quick guess as to which one could possibly be mine and luckily I found it, but he told me that he was leaving in an hour, not right now. Hot and out of breath, I just nod and collapse down onto the bus bench where I gather my breath and take out my book to pass the time. There was no way that I was going to be missing this bus back to Puebla.

The bus ride was great and I even got it for free! He dropped me off at the Centro, which I thought was going to be the center of town. Oh no no, the Centro was the central bus station! Whoopee. So I then took a taxi from the bus station to the zocalo, which is the center of Puebla.

In the center is a huge gorgeous cathedral and I would like to say that I spent the next few ours wandering around the town taking in all of the sights. Really that is what happened, but honestly it was because I was completely lost and couldn’t find my hotel. I wanted to desperately drop off my stuff form the zoo but couldn’t for the life of me find my hotel.

Finally I ask someone and am directed to the other side of the streets (I was walking along the even numbered streets and didn’t realize that the odd ones were on the other side of town) and got back to my hotel. I dropped off my stuff and then went and found some dinner and watched a dance performance in the square where I actually saw the REAL Mexican hat dance being performed! How cool!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.