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Sunday Cycling: A little day trip to the zoo, with a hey, nonny, nonny

Today, Sidsel and I went to Emmen - the longest trip so far. Emmen is 56 kilometers as the crow flies, but a bit further away if you're actually using the bicycle paths. We left at 8 AM, rode the first half of our journey in the morning fog which at some point was even denser than a month ago on our trip to Schiermonnikoog, and arrived in Emmen at noon. After attacking our food supplies with ravenous appetite, we paid a visit to the Noorder Dierenpark where we stayed all afternoon. I don't remember having ever been to any other zoos, so I can't tell how it stacks up against them, but on its own, it was an afternoon well spent. The feature that the zoo prides itself on in its website and brochures is the absense of barred cages and the comparitive freedom that most of the animals enjoy in natural-looking little habitats. Often there is not much more between the visitors and the animals than a low fence and a sign warning visitors not to lean over in case the kodiak bears or crocodiles devour them. Yes, visitors are treated as responsible adults here.
It is a really pretty, well-designed place too, although some displays needed repair. In fact, the only place where I thought there was a real safety problem was in the poison frog display, where the netting over the terrarium was broken. No problem for a responsible adult, but a child might want to pick up a pretty blue froggie and get a hand full of curare.
I liked the fact that one of the first animals visitors are likely to see are the gibbons; those are lively, tree-swinging apes who talk to their mates in sing-song voices and show little aggression between themselves. At any time of the day, many other animals will be asleep (or sleepy - the otters in particular had a very infectious yawn), and quite a few others will be vicious little bastards, so it's a good thing the gibbons set the tone. Also: a Dutch naturalist once said that the only animals that do any real aping are humans, and that was confirmed by the many imitations of the gibbons' call from the audience! By contrast, the zoo's hamadryad baboons are nasty pieces of work, fighting all the time over food and rank. However, if you look more closely, you can see the same belligerent individuals share food with their mates or comfort a baby caught in a fight. How very human.
I could talk about the zoo all day, and there's more to see than you can take in in a single visit, especially on a hot day such as today. We left at 5.30 PM, attacked our remaining supplies with a ravenous appetite, and rode back at six to arrive home at 10, covered in clammy sweat because the evenings are getting damper. The last hour and a half of our trip was in darkness, which was allright in the larger villages, but a bit hairy on some narrow, poorly-lit rural paths.
By the way, I rode a used Koga Myata touring bike which when new must have retailed at a price that competes with a decent used car. My parents bought it from a friend for my birthday; I didn't ask them what they paid for it for fear it would make me feel guilty. It's a great bike too, with perfect balance and a 21-speed gearing system that made it much easier to go fast. Sidsel, on the other hand, was on her old bike, so I had to restrain myself a bit.
Now, Sidsel and I are the sad wreckage of the man and the woman we used to be, which is why this entry is a bit shorter than most cycling entries. But I suspect that that is a good thing, really.

Comments (2)



Damn those otters for infecting us with their yawning!


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