Saturday, September 11, 2004

Lyon, France—Dompierre sur Bresbe, France—Lyon, France—Day 224

I woke up early again today ready to get the third zoo done. I got my stuff together and found my car and took the A6 motorway up. I was going in the direction that I had come from yesterday, so it really would have made sense for me to do Touroparc and the zoo today all in one go, but oh well. Both the zoos yesterday worked out just great so I didn’t mind having to do the extra driving.

So I drove up and since I had my map I had the directions all laid out. That didn’t mean that I didn’t get sort of confused at a few points but luckily I didn’t make any wrong turns.

I did realize though that I was in need of gas, but kept driving because I knew that I was almost there. Or so I thought. I kept driving and driving, and it seemed to be taking forever. Because I had to get off of the main highway and take a smaller road, which seemed to be windy and endless, I seemed to be driving for ever.

But I finally started seeing signs for the zoo (as I always do when I feel ok, I am DEFINITELY going in the wrong direction, and that’s when my gas warning light came on.


At this point I had just passed the town near the zoo with the gas station of course and was just a few kilometers away. I didn’t want to turn back now and drive all the way back to the town when I was so close to the zoo. So I kept my fingers crossed and tried to coast down to where the zoo was.

I pulled into the parking lot and parked the car and went into the zoo.

The Le Pal Zoo is again like Touroparc—it is a zoo but also has other things like roller coasters and such. It was really quite impressive and there were loads of people there, unlike Touroparc. It was also huge so it took me quite a while to find the hippos.

But I did and I also realized that there was a hippo feeding time!! What luck! It said on the brochure that I got when I entered that the hippos were going to be fed at 1:05pm. I had just over an hour and a half to wait.

I went up to the hippos and found three of them in the water. One big, one medium sized and one little one—kind of like the three bears in Goldilocks. One immediately came over to me, much like Kip and Pof did yesterday, and laid her (or his) head on the wall. This time though I was looking down on them which was nice and I was able to get some good pictures of the hippo.

The other two hippos started playing around a bit and were basically going at each other, biting each other and what not. But it seemed all in good fun (not like they were fighting) until I realized something.

The big one was trying to mate with the little one.

Oh no! I just stood there and realized what was happening. It was obvious that the huge big hippo was a male and he kept trying to get on the little hippo!! And then the little hippo didn’t really know what to do and would keep trying to get away. But then it seemed like the little hippo just wanted to play, so then she (I assumed) would then try and jump (literally) on the big hippo’s back and sit on him.

Noooo! I couldn’t take pictures of this!

But it kept going on and the two hippos kept chasing each other around the pool trying to catch one another, but for obviously VERY different reasons. The first hippo (who came up to me and rested her head) seemed to take notice of them unless the baby hippo came dashing over to her (almost for protection) and if the male hippo actually did manage to (sorry, I hate to use this word) mount the little hippo, the first hippo would intervene and grunt at the male.

It was most bizarre but I didn’t know what to do but to stand there and watch, and take pictures when I could. Other zoo goers came and went, some of them noticing what was going on and some not, and I was embarrassed to be standing there watching it all. At least they weren’t, well, you know. At one point the largest hippo started almost ranting around the pool by himself, obviously, err, frustrated.

With about fifteen minutes before the talk was to begin, I went and found a bench and sat down on it. I waited, hoping that my interpretation of the brochure was correct and that there WAS a feeding time. I got out my phrase book and realized that they only did the feedings on weekends, which was great timing for me since it was Saturday.

Finally a keeper on her bicycle appeared. She brought over a small speaker and put it inside a sort of hilly bit in the enclosure where I assumed she would be standing to give her talk. I went over and showed her my piece of paper and she smiled and wrote down their names for me: Juliette (the little one), Irma (the middle one) and Emile (the big male).

Then she went and turned on the music.

It was so funny. She turned on this like techno-beat thing that was sort of trippy in a way (that’s the only way I can really explain it). The hippos came over in (they knew what this music meant—feeding time!) and I just laughed. It was something out of a movie—almost like the hippos were then going to perform for me or something. Plus I was the only one there! The girl had a microphone and everything but when she realized that I didn’t know French, and would not have a clue what she was saying, she put it down.

So we both stood there and waited. And waited. And waited for more people to come. We just smiled in that “gee, this is really funny” way and thankfully some people showed up so she could begin her talk. She turned down the techno music and started.

I took pictures as she talked to the other zoo visitors about the hippos and got some great pictures of them eating carrots and other vegetables that the keeper would throw in. This went on until the vegetables ran out (much to the hippos dismay) and all three of the hippos eventually went back into the water.

Emile took this moment to make his mark on the world and Juliette did the most awful thing. Since she was pestering him again (not that again!) she was right behind him as he started to, well, poop everywhere (which of course means flinging it everywhere) and she just stood there, mouth WIDE open, taking it all in.

Ewwwwww!!! Grooooosssssssss!

I couldn’t believe it! Now THAT was just too much. I said goodbye to the hippos, shaking my head and laughing, and went on my way to get something to eat for lunch.


(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.