20 November 2011

Fota Wildlife Park

This weekend was spent in Cork; a bigger city than Galway with more shops and more space, but still cold and rainy. There is a market there that seems to be much talked about, called the English Market, and it is very old. However, while sort of interesting it wasn't hugely amazing as it really just was for food, like vegetables and meat and what-not. My friends and I didn't really have much of a plan for what to do in Cork other than the point of the trip, which was the wildlife park. I did manage to buy a nice pair of shoes, thanks to there being many more shoe stores than in Galway. We had pretty good burgers for dinner, the hostel was OK but smell terribly damp and the place that we stopped at for breakfast didn't seem to understand that porridge is more than a bowl of milk with a few oats in it. Finally, though, we got to the park and it even held of raining until we were nearly done.

Now this wildlife park isn't overly huge and fantastic, it is pretty much the usual sort of animals that you will see in many places. There are flamingoes, but more interesting than that was that we came across the incubation hut where we saw baby flamingoes. There were loads of monkeys, I have no idea what most of them were called because I don't generally pay too much attention to the signs. There were a lot of gibbons, but I don't think the one below is a gibbon.

This one, on the other hand, may be a gibbon. As you can perhaps tell from the pictures, the day was very overcast and dark. Many of the animals were perhaps hiding somewhere warm. We saw a bit of everything though so it was OK.

This one below we stopped to watch for quite awhile, not because he was particularly interesting but because the animals next to him were entertaining. This one just made for a better picture. The other two may have been a parent and offspring pair - one was quite a lot smaller than the other. It kept running up and down the log and using the parent as a springboard in order to get past and continue on it's way. Eventually the parent got tired of it and swung away.

Now this bird was not actually a part of the wildlife park, anymore so than they are a part of everywhere in Ireland. I just thought I'd take a picture of it anyway because sometimes they are quite nice to look at, when you aren't close enough to notice that the beak is really huge and this bird could probably tear a pretty big hole in you. They make an awful racket too.

It is autumn here and the nice thing about walking through a park for the day, despite the clouds and cold, was that there were trees and you could actually notice properly that it was autumn before winter really sets in. Here in Galway there are trees, of course, but there are no big grassy park areas. There are small parks but you don't really notice them. Most of the trees have lost all of their leaves by now anyway, they are stripped clean pretty quickly in the rain and wind here.

Some of the smaller, harmless animals in the park were running loose around the grounds, like this little creature below. We spent quite a long time getting close to these and trying to figure out what they were. They are small and from a distance looked a bit like some sort of rabbit, until they stood up and you could see that they had very different legs. They reminded me still of something like a rabbit or a guinea pig, so it's not that surprising to find out that they are maras, which are a type of cavy (that's the name of the family of animals that they belong to) and they are one of the biggest rodents.

There were also small grey kangaroos running around at their leisure, which is a rather interesting thing to see in Ireland. Of course, you see Australian animals commonly enough all over the world, I guess they must be easy to keep in zoos or something. They had macaws too.

I guess it is to be expected that in such a wet country there will always be waterfowl, and in this case there were a few different types of ducks, swans and geese. The geese were nice, I always prefer them to swans. There was a cute little duckling of some sort but it would not stay still for a photo, it kept diving under the water instead. Then an adult flew off and the little duck tried to follow but couldn't make it, must have been too small to fly yet. It looked to be trying to follow a duck of the wrong species though, so it was probably better off staying put.

Not only were there waterfowl, but there were also penguins! It was very strange to see penguins hanging out on the grass by a pond.

As we walked the day got greyer and greyer. Everythign in the distance was foggy. It makes for OK scenery in a way, particularly because the park was out in the countryside so there actually was scenery, as opposed to concrete and buildings.

There were not really so many big mammals, the few they had included quite a lot of giraffes, some zebra, bison and oryx. The giraffes were in a shed instead of out in the field, I guess so that they could be warm and eat hay. It meant that we were nice and close to them, but also that they only had an ugly shed for a backdrop. Again I saw one giraffe drinking another's urine - I guess that must just be common giraffe behaviour. There were also a couple that were quite intent on licking the gate of their enclosure. There were a couple of little ones, not babies but not very old yet either.

Finally, the big attraction of the park are their cheetahs. They have quite a lot of them but on such a wet day they were not so easy to see. As we reached the end of the park the rain finally set in, so all the animals went into hiding. When they feed the cheetahs they attach the food to a moving wire so that the cheetahs have to put on a burst of speed to catch it. We didn't stay for the feeding though because not many trains run on a Sunday.

So to finish the day in Cork we went ten-pin bowling, and I didn't lose (though I didn't win either), then had Italian for dinner before a long and cramped bus ride back to Galway. Now it is late, though not quite late enough for bed, and I don't want to go to work tomorrow. I have only a week and a half left, which doesn't really seem like time enough to do anything at all, the idea of which appeals to my laziness. I would so love to just set it all aside till next year. However, that will not do. For one thing I have obtained yet more live animals (I'm not even going to go into that particular rant, I will just get all annoyed again, because I don't even want the damn things nor do I have any particular use for them, and I am only here a week and a half so what am I meant to bloody do with them?!). I have a little bit of molecular work to do (yay, real science!), a lot of writing and reading to do, a lot of tidying to do and I guess I will have to do some packing too. I hope it's warm in NZ because I am sick of being cold and getting rained on all the time! I will think optimistically and pack summery things. If it is too cold I guess I will just have to go shopping.

07 November 2011

Another year older

This weekend was my birthday, and the weekend before that halloween - in between was a four day week yet it was still so exhausting. First of all, for halloween, making pumpkin pie was very succesful but carving a pumpkin was not. For one thing, carving pumpkins is difficult and I guess I am just not that skilled with a knife. But even worse was the fact that when I took the top off of my pumpkin I found that inside it was completely rotten!!!

It was so gross. It was like pumpkin puke. It was so unexpected I was at a loss for words, I just didn't know what to do with it! Luckily it didn't smell. I attempted to empty it out and scrape it clean, then made a half-arsed effort at carving it. My sloppy hacking at the pumpkin became an aquarium of angular looking fish. With that done, I packed up and went home, leaving my sad pumpkin behind, and halloween was over.

It turns out that you can carve orange skins aswell.

A week later and my birthday came around. I actually forgot about the time difference until I got a message on facebook - then I remembered that my NZ birthday had started and because of the time difference I can claim 36 hours of birthday, as opposed to the usual 24. Luckily that Friday was my baking day and I had made chocolate cookies so there were goodies to celebrate with. The next day I did very little, practically nothing really. I attempted to go shopping but it is too crowded here and there are not enough shops. I cooked, and in the evening I had friends over. I was given one of those contraptions that does fancy frosting, but also does cookies! It is called a cookie-press I think, and I remember that Mum always had one but never used it. A friend made me an amazingly huge cake with really yummy frosting, and chocolate covered strawberries.

So now my birthday is over too but that's OK because 24 is a nicer number than 23. I have a piece of cake left to eat this evening, not that I am much hungry because there was a wine and cheese reception on in the department this evening and I had so much cheese on crackers! Still, cake is always good. So I will sit on the couch, with cake and a good book, trying to ignore the guinea pig's noisy feasting on a cardboard box. Three and a half weeks till I got to NZ.