Saturday, July 16, 2011

Escaping the Insanity

BioParc Valencia is the best zoo I’ve ever been to. And no, incase you hadn’t guessed, it’s not in Benicassim. After a night of insane winds and a second drunk landing on poor Courtney’s head, we decided to escape Benicassim for the day and explore Valencia, 80km south.

The ride was a bit rubbish, mostly because the Navman was flat so we were just following signs and most of the highway we followed carved it’s way through industrial areas. When we arrived, the streets opened up, palm trees loomed overhead and beautiful old buildings spread either side. Through sheer dumb luck we managed to park 200 metres from the tourist office and not much further from the first stop of the Hop-on Hop-off tour. Yes, I finally got to go on my double decker bus tour.

We arrived around lunchtime and spent our first hour and a half in Starbucks, using their free wifi to combat the homesickness caused by our current living conditions. The best thing about Spain though is that thanks to siesta, everything stops or closes late, so we didn’t have to rush to get to the bus. On a whim, we decided to buy combination tickets for the bus and a zoo called BioParc which promised it was one of the best in Europe. Actually, once we got on the bus I found out it was kind of just me that decided. While Courtney did want to go, he was wearing swimming shorts and his chafing was reluctant to join in the zoo fun!

While on the bus we discovered most things in Valencia are ‘one of the best in Europe’, BioParc actually is. It’s a natural habitat zoo, meaning animal species all live with the other species they would normally live with in the wild, except their natural predators. Where possible there are no fences either. Gorillas and Chimps are separated only by a river they can’t cross, and while Lions are on their own, their massive enclosure is a hilltop high above a savannah space where Rhinos, Zebra, Antelope, Giraffe, and several other species all live in harmony.

The zoo is divided into 3 areas, Madagascar, the African Equator and the Savannah. We went into Madagascar first and couldn’t figure out where the enclosures were until we spotted a monkey and realized we were in the enclosure. Monkeys and lemurs ran around, across the paths and right up to you. While the animals diets are supplemented when natural food supplies dry up, herbivorous animals live with the plants they would normally eat and still forage for their own food. So lemurs sat eating berries with their young, and although feeding them the berries was ‘frowned upon’ because they can bite, a zoo employee watched on while Courts fed them once or twice before he said anything.

Last time I went to the zoo at home I remember talking about how cool it would be if you could see under the water of the hippo lake. At BioParc you can, and the hippo cow and her baby swam around with an aquarium full of fish that nibbled on their backs, keeping them clean. We also saw our first Gorillas. We don’t have them in the zoo at home, and they are creepy! Courtney loved watching them as did I, but the biggest one was just way too intelligent looking for me. Not only was it creepy the way he moved and the way he watched us but seeing that much intelligence in an animals eyes made it really sad to see him in a zoo, even if he had an enclosure we would live in.

Jumping back on the bus tour, we made our way back to point A and jumped off to check on the bike and have dinner. We had our first McDonalds of the trip, because Courts has been craving it, and it’s so much better than home! While our European Burger King experiences have us sworn off it for good, Maccas was actually really tasty. The bus tour has two routes, both included on the ticket, so rather than go back to Benicassim we did the second route as the sun went down. Even though the bus broke down half way, it was still a better alternative to going home.

When we finally made our way back to camp, it was well past night fall. The hour-long ride was calm and easy until the first sight of a sign for Benicassim where the weather turned and had me hanging on tightly as we were blown around. Camp was a shambles, the temporary shower walls and shade awnings were only half intact and we battled dust clouds to reach our tent. Once inside the noise of the wind against thousands of tents was deafening but at least it drowned out the drunks. Valencia, we love you.