We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo

Portland Travel Blog

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We arrived in Portland on Monday after another long journey on buses and a new set of Greyhound weirdos. The woman behind us in the queue told us about how she was visiting her mum who was a drunk so she didn't like it, and that she was limping because her sister kicked her. She was about 45 and I think may have had a few too many whiskeys herself.


We decided to portpone our first day orientation plan as Oregon Zoo in Washington Park is only $2 on the first Tuesday of the month, and we weren't going miss out on such a bargain, especially as when we got there are the ticket lady said that we got a dollar off for coming by public transport!!

Anyone who has read all of these blogs will notice a running nature/animals theme, much as zoos can often be bland with bored animals in small cages, the ones we have been to are excellent. Most have some if not all the animals in a completely natural environment with sections where you can view through (very thick) glass. This reduces the intrusion on the animals and offers an unrivalled view to the animals behind.

Often they put den areas by the glass so that even when they are hidden away having a snooze you can still get close to them. Oregon Zoo is actually the premier breeding zoo for endangered Asian Elephants, and as with other aspects of their conservation or rescue work, you know they would be doing all this good work anyway, and are just letting the public in to wander round while they do.

By far the most fantastic animals were the polar bears, they had 3. In the morning we watched them for ages, swimming up and down in front of the glass which went above and below the water level. They would hop out, walk around a bit and jump back in causing huge waves! At one point one picked up a plastic builders helmet and other toys and chucked them into the pool before bombing in after them, almost like a dog would do.

I (and several others around) actually squealed in excitement, bearing in mind this was happening less than 10m away from us! We kept coming back throughout the day, and enjoyed one lying on it's back playing with a branch, and one dozing literally on the other side of the glass where we were standing. Polar bears are one of the most viscious animals on earth, but they certainly didn't look it!

There were many other excellent displays and the usual tigers, hippos and of course elephants (which I LOVE!). Then we stumbled across sign which said the aviary. We walked up to the entrance and bought a little pot of nectar juice to take in with us. As soon as we got in, these beautiful birds flew right onto us to get the syrup, they knew exactly what the pots were and everyone inside had birds on them! It was so exciting, I've never held a bird before and it felt really funny! They also kept landing on my head which I didn't like so much because they were pooing ALOT, it must have been because I showered the night before and smelt so sweet!!!

Afterwards we were lucky enough to find a little Mexican cafe down the road from our hostel in the evening which sold the most amazing food for really cheap, Lisa got a huge veggie burrito for only $4, fantastic! The place was tiny and somewhat dingy, but obviously full of repeat customers, and with what seemed like a whole family running it.

We went in several times, as the food was so cheap!

It got to the stage where our great clompy boots were killing our feet because they were so hot and heavy. They had taken quite a battering through snow, rain, mud, mountains so we treated our feet to new shoes and socks before cerimoniously throwing the old ones away. Unfortunatly here in Portland it has spent the last three days raining quite heavily, so I have been puddle dodging so as not to dirty my new shoes!

Staying in more due to the rain meant that we could spluge on a night out, and after a lengthy discussion with one of the girls who worked at the hostel we trekked out to find a club night called 'Queer Bait'. Now when I say trekked I really do mean it, we couldn't find the bus stop we were supposed to get on at, so looking at the map, decided that we could probably walk it.

We also thought that walking UNDER the freeway would reduce the risk of us getting run over, and get us to the same place anyway. It did get us there.... via about 15 extra mins of walking through trampsville, where all the scariest people in the world had gathered round dirty tents, cardboard boxes and the obligitory 'fire in a bin'. Of course there were no street lamps, so we walked as quickly as we could without drawing attention to ourselves and vowed to never do that again. Once we got to the club it was small and everyone was friendly, but nothing like club nights in London with only about 50 people in there. Still, we had a few beers and made friends with the local drag queens before hailing a cab home, it seemed like the safer option!

Washington Park is home also to the National Forestry Discovery Centre, which we visited on our last day.

I found the whole thing quite confusing really. On one hand they were promoting preservation of the forest, and the animals. On the other they had a whole piece about a deer hunter and what a wonderful life it was, and a section dedicated to being a lumberjack.... It was interesting anyway, especially the petrified cross sections of trees, sort of 'tree fossils' where mineral content had replaced all organic content (have I got that right?), turning them solid, and beautiful colours.

Our last day was getting a bit stressful as we had no way of getting to San Francisco since the flight prices had shot up and no one would rent us a car (I have no credit card with me). We didn't fancy the 20 hour bus much, so went onto craigslist (the US version of gumtree.com) and had a look at the ride share section. It turned out that a guy was driving back to San Francisco the next day and happy to take anyone who was willing to pay their share of petrol! So with a little trepidation we found ourselves in the lobby of the Hilton hotel waiting for our lift. As I type we are half way through our 10 hour drive, expected to arrive in SF at about 1am!

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photo by: alooides