Saturday, November 06, 2004

Seville, Spain—Jerez de la Frontera, Spain—Malaga, Spain—Estepona, Spain—Seville, Spain--Day 280

Today Pedro offered to drive me back to the Jerez zoo instead of me having to take the train. This didn’t sound like such a bad idea to me so we met up and headed off to Jerez early in the morning. Driving there proved to be much more efficient than taking the train and between the two of us trying to figure out where we were, we were able to follow the “zoologico” signs and make it to the zoo pretty quickly. I thought for sure we would end up driving around Jerez lost but luckily we had good fortune on our sides.

In fact, we figured that at the rate we were going we decided that we could also drive to the Malaga Zoo today (about 2 hours from Jerez) which would help me get two zoos done in one day. Although it was a stretch, it definitely seemed like a good idea to get the zoo done with Pedro around to help drive instead of me having to take the train.

So we parked in this dirt parking lot next to the zoo and headed in straight to the hippos who we found to be sleeping right in the most inconvenient spot for me to take pictures of them. Since you had to look down into their enclosure on to the hippos, you couldn’t see entirely straight down below you. If you sort of craned out your next you could somewhat see. Well the hippos had their heads RIGHT in that area where you couldn’t get decent photos of their heads. You got their bodies all right but their heads were just out of view. I strained and put my camera over the edge (with a slight feeling that I would drop it onto them!) and tried my best to get some decent shots of them.

So we started calling to them. Being Spanish hippos, we tried our best to sound as Spanish as we could to get them out of the corner.

It was no use—they seemed to be sleeping and there were no keepers in sight. We would have to wait a bit for the hippos to move and I kept my fingers crossed that they would.

Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long.

With a bit of heaving, they both got up and wandered over to their caged area that they were in the other day most likely in search of food bits left from their morning’s breakfast. I snapped away as the hippos moved around feeling both relieved that I was able to get the photos without having to seek out a keeper and happy that we didn’t have to wait that long for them to move.

The walked around their enclosure for a few minutes before settling back down in the corner again. Satisfied with my photos, Pedro and I headed out of the zoo with the Malaga zoo in sight.

After stopping for a coffee and ice cream (necessities really when you are hippo photographing) we set off towards Malaga, deciding to take the easiest most direct route there. With some confusion and roundabout navigation, we made it out of Jerez and on the highway towards Granada where we would head towards before taking a detour towards Malaga in a few hours.

How great it was to be driving! I told Pedro all about my adventures in France driving around and was so glad that he could drive and I could map read, and not me having to do both at once. Plus driving in the Spanish countryside was so beautiful and I was happy to be able to get a view of Spain that you cannot see while you are just sitting on the train.

We drove through the hills and passed stunning whitewashed villages on our way to Malaga. Malaga, according to my guidebook, is not only the birthplace of Picasso and the largest Andalucian city on the coast. The afternoon wore on and we kept driving and we seemed to be making great time. At the rate we were going, we were going to make it to Malaga around 4 p.m. This would hopefully give us an hour at the zoo there to get the hippo pictures. I was really hoping that our spontaneous plan to get both zoos done in one day would work.

We arrived into Malaga and of course had no idea where the zoo was. We drove around for a bit, hoping to find signs that we could follow. No luck. While Pedro went and asked for directions to the zoo I sat in the car trying to rack my brain to remember if the zoo was actually IN Malaga.

Pedro returned and smiled. “There is no zoo in Malaga.”

Oh man. I KNEW that the zoo was SOMEWHERE near Malaga, but ok, if it wasn’t IN Malaga, then where was it?

We parked the car and got out to find someone to help us. The parking man told us that there was a tourist information place nearby so we raced over there and asked them where the zoo was. They said that there was no zoo in Malaga (we already knew that!) and offered to us another city where there was a zoo nearby.

Pedro suggested that we just get in the car and drive to the zoo but I wasn’t so sure. We decided that it would be best to find an Internet café and check the online database (the one that my whole trip has been planned around) to see where the zoo was.

So after a bit of frantic walking we found the internet café and I googled the website and after a bit of searching found the zoo which was located in Estepona, Spain, about forty-five minutes away. We wrote down the address, went back to the information desk and they gave us a clear map of how to get to Estepona from Malaga.

We jumped back into the car (it was going on 4:15 now) and drove off in the direction of Marabella (a famous resort town) that is just before Estepona.

Oh man, I was certain that we were not going to make it. Considering I had no sure idea about when the zoo was going to close (now that it is winter some zoos even close at 4pm!) I was hoping that we wouldn’t be stranded in Estepona overnight.

We sped away and I checked and double-checked that we were going in the right direction. There were two freeways that we could have taken and I wasn’t even sure if we were going on the fastest one. Please be open zoo!!

We finally made it into Estepona and immediately saw signs for the zoo. We followed them up to the driveway leading into the zoo and as Pedro pulled the car into the parking lot I got ready to jump out.

It was 5 o’clock.

I rushed up to the ticket booth and asked for two tickets please. The woman smiled and told me that the zoo closes at 6 pm (YES!!!) but that you have to take special trams up to the top of the zoo and then walk back down, and that the trams stop running at 5pm (NO!!!)

Dang it! We had just missed the last tram for sure. The woman offered that we could go into the walking area of the zoo by the entrance where there weren’t all of the animals. So I asked her where the hippos were.

“Hippos? There aren’t any hippos.”

I looked at Pedro and just started laughing. What? No hippos?

She told me that they used to have hippos—2 years ago—but they have since been relocated. I asked where the hippos went and she was unable to tell me but suggested that we come back tomorrow when the zoo opened to see the other animals.

We thanked her and walked back to the car laughing.

After all that there were no hippos.