Lions and Tigers and Bears! And Giraffes!!!!
The sky started out overcast but turned out brilliant. What a great day for the zoo! First we had to drive to pick up Linda's sister Cathy and her daughter Megan. We are heading to FortLangley for lunch. We got there on a small open top car ferry across the Fraser River. Fort Langley is about 130 years old and was the place where the charter that created the province of British Columbia was signed. They still have a restored old fort here that you can visit but we didn’t take the time to go.
Glover Road is the main street through Fort Langley and the shops, of various ages, are fashioned after the frontier style, with wooden siding and low cedar shingled roves. They have a historic old rail station, circa 1915, a 1930’s community hall and an old Anglican church as well. The main street is lined with interesting and sometimes kitschy shops including one that carries antique 1950’s memorabilia and a year round Christmas store. There’s also Gasoline Alley, a little courtyard with lots of shops and a few cafes but we didn’t venture into there or we never would have got to the zoo.
Lunch was in Wendel’s Bookstore and café, a busy spot but we managed to luck out and get a little table that the four of us huddled around, shifting for a bit of elbow room. They have soup, sandwiches and salads and some veggie options as well. After lunch, browse in the bookstore and a walk up and down Glover street window shopping. A garden store had some amusing things like cement "puddles" and an outhouse tool shed. We admired some really beautiful ornaments in the Christmas store as well.
Off to the Zoo which isn’t very far from Fort Langley. The Greater Vancouver Zoo used to be a game farm but has expanded considerably. We got there just in time to see the daily lion and tiger feeding at 1:30. The gamekeeper strode back and forth between the two cat compounds which were surrounded by high chain link and electrified barbed wire topped fences. He would throw the steaks over the fence and we watched the cats leap into the air to catch their lunch before it hit the ground. He also would lure the animals to the fence in front of the observers and push meat through the fence which had the tiger belly up on his hind legs against the fence, teeth very much in evidence as he tugged at the meal to pull it through, his giant claws holding him up! We were no further than 8-9 feet away from them!
Tigers are the largest cat in the world but I think lions definitely have the loudest roar. Later in the day we heard the male lion growling and muttering and it was enough to make your chest vibrate with the sound and pitch of it. And he wasn’t even in full angry ROAR.
Well that was interesting. Linda and I both love tigers but I’ve developed an affinity for giraffes after seeing them in Ireland last year. That was our next stop. We saw two but there might have been a third. One was male, you could tell he was more powerfully built through the body than the other. When we arrived there, the male was at the fence, lower than the cat fences, maybe four or 5 feet high and he was leaning that long graceful neck over the fence because…. Someone was feeding him grass or twigs or something! Oh I *had* to do that too! I searched for a small twig and went over. This huge head came down out of the sky towards me. I’m sure my eyes bugged out and my eyebrows met my hairline. Down came this long *black* tongue and he curled his tongue around the stick to take it. They don’t use their teeth apparently, only for chewing. I could have touched him on the nose but I wasn’t sure, as gentle as they seemed to be, that I should though my friend Rose says "You've never heard of anyone savaged by a giraffe! They are so beautiful, peaceful and seem to move in slow motion but they can run like ponies when they want to.
That was my thrill for the day! We walked around the paths and enclosures and took a 15 minute free bus ride in a section where there were black bears, wolves and Roosevelt elk. They even have an albino black bear, extremely rare but we caught a glimpse of him. Another wonderful sight was a baby camel. The mother and other adults were sitting in the late afternoon sun but the baby was standing and gazing our way, looking practically fizzy with curiosity but not quite brave enough to leave his mama’s side. These were two hump camels and were a lot larger than the one hump dromedary we saw earlier. The little one was a chocolate brown and very spindly on his long knobby legs. We decided he must be very young.
The zoo was really well laid out and very interesting. The animals had large to larger paddocks and enclosures and lots of natural settings as well. At one point near the end of the day something set off the white wolves and they all started howling at the same time. My God, does that ever make the hair on the back of your neck stand up! We left about 4:30 with the sun on its way over the horizon. We had some pretty spectacular views of Mount Baker down in very nearby Washington State on the way back to Maple Ridge. Linda made stuffed manicotti and salad which was delicious! Took some family photos and had a lovely evening over a meal and wine. Tomorrow the Vancouver Museum beckons. Cathy will come as well :)