By the time 10:30am rolled around, I had already woken up, eaten breakfast, checked out of the hotel, got a shuttle back to the airport, rented my car (a red Chevy Monte Carlo!), had driven over 90 miles to Columbia and was pulling up into the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden’s parking lot.
I grabbed my gear and headed into the zoo, neglecting to bring my scarf and gloves despite the chilly weather. I bought my ticket and went in and immediately found the hippo viewing area. Despite the fact that there was only one hippo, much to my disappointment, I was excited to see the hippo out of the pool in his enclosure which was rapidly filling up with water. He munched away on some hay in his enclosure with his bottom facing me (never a great picture really!) and so I waited patiently for him to turn around.
After a while, he finally did. I snapped away as the hippo munched some more and as I felt my fingers getting numb from the cold. I was the only one there appreciating the hippo and his presence, and I’d like to think that the hippo appreciated me being there too. As the hippo made his way down his little path to the pool, I got ready to capture the moment of him entering the water.
Click click click.
The hippo immersed himself in the water (luckily this “immersion” was really only knee deep) and I snapped away as the hippo moved towards the waterfall pouring out water onto its back.
Click click click.
My luck ran out with the hippo decided to turn his back on me, move out of my viewing area behind some bushes and go to sleep. At least I had gotten some good pictures of him eating, so I was happy.
I went out to find someone to help me with his name and wandered into the gift shop where I bought hippo Christmas ornaments (tis the season!) and some other zoo souvenirs. I then went out and found a keeper walking by and asked him about the hippos name. After a brief moment to think, he told me “Monty” and agreed that it was sad that there was just one hippo but offered no other information about whether they used to have more.
I thanked him and walked out, double checking with the ticket people on Monty’s name, although none of them seemed to know. Even the volunteer membership guy didn’t know, but he (like the others) claimed that he was “new here.”
I went out back to my car and zoomed off towards—well, I didn’t know. I cruised around downtown Columbia and after finding not much around there to do, I decided to go back to a mall that I had passed on the highway coming down. Since the weather was terrible (rainy and cold) I thought that the best thing would be to take an easy day, check out a movie or something, and find the hotel early.
Most of this happened—except I didn’t find a good movie to see. None of the theaters I found were playing anything decent (of course, just when I want to see a good movie!) and so I spent the afternoon killing time Christmas window shopping and at Barnes and Noble reading all about wildlife photography and getting free samples of egg nog lattes.
When I had had my fill, I then headed to find a hotel to stay in near the airport—I drove almost to the airport and then backtracked to a hotel down the freeway a bit. I checked in, dropped off my stuff, and then after a bit headed out to find a late dinner. My hunger pangs passed as I dined on the all you can eat salad bar at Ruby Tuesday’s as I waited for my dinner to arrive. I ate my “New Orleans Seafood” like there was no tomorrow—then headed back to the hotel, thinking of tomorrow and of the god-awful time I would have to wake up to get the rental car back and to catch my early flight to Birmingham, Alabama.