Monday, November 30, 2015

Peru 2014 Day 4: June 26- Some Cool Monkey Tricks

Peru 2014 Index

A little bit of a slow rise still allowed breakfast before the visit from the local handyman to address a couple of issues.

The prime target of the day was Parque de las Leyendas - Park of Legends, aka the local zoo.  Unlike small, regional zoos here in the States, having the Amazon Rain Forest next door, and ancient civilizations underneath it, gave this place visibly more grandeur.
I had read and heard that the quality had improved since my previous visit, thirteen years before.  On that first trip, the animals were all in the small, old fashioned cages that the Bronx Zoo has long since transferred to Astor Court office spaces.  They also had nothing in place to prevent, and seemed to encourage feeding the animals. 

I was wise and conscientious enough to know not to pass food to any of the zoo denizens on my earlier visit.  I did shake hands with a spider monkey though, because:
“When the heck am I going to get to shake hands with a spider monkey?”

Aside from by bride to be nearly drowning me in purell, there were no visible effects of the handshake to my simian friend or me.

At the time.

The cab ride was uneventful.  For those who haven’t been there, that means only one or two moments where I expected to end up with a bus in my lap.  We passed the Pope John Paul II memorial gas station (he’s REALLY big down there) on the way to the park on the border between Callao and San Miguel.

Exiting the cab we were greeted by the crowd of every Peruvian child born since the coronation of Pachacutec.  Before turning tail and giving up we discovered they were not the line. In fact, past the mass of young, Latin humanity milling around while their teachers figured out how to move them as a unit, there were no lines at all.

There were also no maps available to be handed out, likely because they hid them all when the Youth Mob appeared. However, we were told that maps were posted everywhere.  We were not told that maps were excessively out of date, which we would learn through a later tragic moment.

(Ooh! Emotional foreshadowing, the big doofus is getting more literary with each travelogue.)

Most of the crowd funneled to the right, leaving us to follow our normal Bronx Zoo instincts and turn left to work the zoo counterclockwise.

The zoo was laid out by the regions of Peru (Coastal, Mountains, Jungle) and then everything else.  Basically, the park was a three dimensional model of the Peruvian version of the famous “New Yorker’s View of the World” cartoon.

There were also ruins all over the place because, Peru, duh.

The coastal section we started in was mostly being refurbished.  We saw a fox and some empty enclosures on the way to the Lagoon.  The small body of water was pretty, but had no exhibits.  There was a series of islands connected by small bridges. Since we could see they eventually led to a “dead end” one in the center of the Lagoon, we walked around instead.   The posted maps referenced a Machu Picchu replica up at the top of the lagoon, but we didn’t see anything.

Coming around the horn, and still not seeing Machu Picchu, brought us to the edge of the Botanical Garden exhibit.  It was also empty and mostly closed. Signs indicated a few guided tours at specific times.  Through the fence we could see a significant amount of it was undergoing replanting.

It made perfect sense, given the time of year, that much of the park was being refurbished and/or renovated.  Since it was hot out, it was June, and there were palm trees everywhere, I can be forgiven for forgetting it was winter.

Much of the urban areas of Callao had dogs living on the streets; these feral animals did not extend to the zoo.  That area seemed to be zoned for cats.  The smaller and stealthier formerly domestic creatures had an easier time sneaking in and out of the enclosures, I presume.

While the ruins that popped up all over the place were impressive, we still inquired as to the location of the model Machu Picchu.  We learned at the far end of the other side of the park that the only way to see it was to take a manually paddled boat that launched off the dead end island in the lagoon into a cave.  We decided to be satisfied with the real constructions left by ancient civilizations, and hoped we’d find a reproduction in a museum.

SPOILERS:  We did! Yay!

Navigation, in general was difficult. This was only partially due to the lack of maps.  The main reason was the zoo lacked the “loop” structure that the Bronx Zoo has conditioned me to after being a virtual resident most of my life.  Working our way in and out of multiple dead ends was not helped by the arbitrary use of signs and arrows.  Technically they did point toward the pictured animals, but it was an exceedingly rare event when the route they indicated was the shortest, most direct, or least obstructed.

Walking by some sea lions, and a recently displaced penguin, we found ourselves back at entrance.  One of many failed attempts to discover the new and modern “Felinarium” for the big cats led us into the local mountain areas, containing mostly llamas and condors.

While significant, the amount of being mooned by animals was far less than usual for me.  In order to make up for this, the zoo poop output was ratcheted up. Nice to know they care.

Trying to track the big cats led us to a path around the outer edge of the zoo along a giant playground. It was identical to one we passed by the lagoon.  The difference being that the lagoon one was eerily empty and ghost town like, while this one seemed to be filled with the entire gang we had seen at the gate.

To avoid the kids before they spotted fresh prey, we cut back into the zoo interior, winding up in the local jungle section.  There was a kaleidoscope of birds, and both black and spotted jaguars.


There was also a cage of spider monkeys.  The zoo had advanced considerably and the fence and zookeeper placement prevented any feeding or contact with them, destroying hopes of a repeat of my past handshake.

As we approached the exhibit, the largest of the spider monkeys ran to the bars in a frenzy. He leapt around chattering continuously for close to a quarter of an hour.  The whole time he stared directly at me.

I’m not sure if the translation was, “Hey! Where have you been?” or the more likely,
“Dude, how did you get them to let you out?”

This cemented Anabelle’s souvenir choice.  Acquired in two sections, she bought a family of plush monkeys. She named them

Even as a toy monkey, I stick out.

The concession booths looked similar to ones in smaller zoos in the US.  The food stands carried everything usually found at such places back home:
Crackers, cookies, ice cream, sodas, juice, film, toilet paper…

Well almost everything usually found.

Possibly as a result of not wanting to deal with emptying the little rest room trash cans, many public facilities did not keep their TP stocks up at usable levels.  Residents knew this, and tended to be “packing” when traveling.

Tired and sun-bleached, we continued our search for the “international” section of the zoo, because it had chimpanzees.  The maps showed it directly in the center, but the twisty, non returning zoo trails were shoving us to the outer reaches of the area. Having the unruly horde of class trip youths spill out of the playground and into the park proper did not help matters. 

They swarmed around us and the exhibits, frequently wandering off limits.  Stepping onto “keep off the grass” sections had been fairly common zoo child behavior in my past experiences.  However, entering the swan exhibit was not.  Possibly in any zoo, I will blend. This can be the only explanation for kids running directly into me on multiple occasions. They also pulled on Anabelle’s monkeys and Rosa’s purse. The activities prompted my wife to somewhat proudly proclaim, “These are NOT Catholic School kids.”

The continuing band of mini-philistines coupled with an excessive wind sandblasting us with the red dust of the pathways cut short our visit to an archipelago of Monkey Islands.

Still unable to move to the central section, we tried an end run to spiral around it and headed back toward the lagoon.  We discovered a “museum” which turned out to be as impressive a reptile house as one would expect commuting distance from the Amazon.  A similarly stocked aquarium section was in the other wing of the building. 

Another stab at entering the center put us at the opposite end of the jungle section.  We hiked back towards the jaguars and popped back out to the now much less occupied playground.  Continuing around the outer rim of the zoo brought us to the Filinarium.

True to the advertising it was a modern, spacious and well-kept area for more jaguars, plus lions and tigers.  The tiger sign listed them as living in Asia, North Africa and Europe.  Before Anabelle could fly into a familiar looking zoo rage, I talked her down.  They were advancing in animal care and treatment, but that can be a slow process.  An ecology survey one of the keepers gave us was filled with questions normally seen on first grade science tests about “the world around us.”  Basically, in a country with poverty and unemployment at the levels they had, getting people afflicted with those conditions to care about a jungle full of monkeys isn’t going to reach high priority levels.

Coming out of the Filinarium we finally found the outer edges of the international section.  Completely unscheduled zebras roamed nearby the advertised giraffes.  Seeing real “buffalo” was a treat, as we usually only get to see the North American version, the bison. 

Of course we still didn’t get the name completely right, because my animal mooning curse reared its head again, (or the reverse) and we ended up viewing the “buttfalo.”

We expressed condolences to the hippo in its tiny pool of water, and checked out another nearby map, which informed us the giant Russian grizzly next to us was a “black bear.”

Still unable to find our way to the zoo center with its promised chimpanzees, we asked a keeper and were directed to a little path next to the giraffe’s we thought was the staff entrance to their enclosure.

Following along, we finally found the excessively old school cages of the zoo center.

Hey, Kangaroos!  Cool!

In addition, there were goats, and a surly cage full of baboons.  Actually, that was a cage full of surly baboons.  Word order matters, kids.  Sadly, there was still no sign of the chimpanzees we’d asked about every time we tried to get help finding zoo center. 

A keeper parking his bike near the baboons took time to answer Rosa’s inquiry.  In his answer, I heard the word, “Muerto.” Yes, it turned out that the chimpanzees…
You know, the chimpanzees on every map that we asked every keeper about when looking for zoo center?
Those chimpanzees? 

It turns out there was only one old one left a while ago, and he passed on.

We reflected on the immortal, true in spirit if not in classification, words of Fred Willard in a very special Friends episode, “Sometimes monkeys die.”

That put the punctuation mark on our day at the zoo, since we got there just before what would have been lunch time, if the zoo had anything resembling a cafeteria.

I grabbed a PowerAde on the way out to save off total insanity or collapse once we learned no cab would take us to the mall because it was too close.

We walked alongside a wind tunnel of a highway, holding our hats for dear life.  Speaking of “dear life,” this was where we learned there is something more terrifying than riding in a Peruvian taxi…walking next to a freeway full of them.

There was also an interesting discovery:  In a country where people are expected to lug their own toilet paper around, hollow statues of Saint Bernard’s were placed all along the sidewalks and walkways as receptacles for dog droppings so people didn’t have to carry them home.

Turning a corner to the mall, a giant Bembos sign greeted us.  I believe a chorus of angels started singing as well.  Rosa, missing regular experience with them, was the most swept up in the moment. Anabelle and I quickly joined in the fandom.

The best way to describe the experience:  Imagine entering a fast food joint and seeing all the giant, succulent burgers on the photos hanging on the walls.  Then when ordering, instead of getting a hockey puck between two pieces of wet sponge, you got a burger even larger and juicier than the images.  The chicken sandwiches I partook of were of similar size and quality and their top notch guacamole complimented the local yellow aji (pepper) sauce well.   Since there was no specific dinner plan, and I was on vacation (as in, “leave me alone I’m on”) Anabelle and I split a burger for dessert.

Insane zoo hunger abated, we explored the San Miguel open air mall. Because with their climate, they can have open air malls.  I found some comic books in a Bookstore, but their price was jacked up over and above the irrationality that we have here…and they were in Spanish.

I know, right? How inconsiderate?

Speaking of overpriced items that inflated further due to import, they had a Lego store too.

Before attempting to go home, we stopped at a Wong Supermarket for supplies, such as Transformers Oreos.  It took me a while to realize how much more merchandising that film got in Peru than here, because is still paled considerably compared to the World Cup celebration.

On the way out, we passed evidence of the worldwide influence of Brooklyn, a small amusement area (a few notches up from Happyland, but nothing of significant size) called Coney Park.

Now the cabs wouldn’t take us home because it was too far, leaving us to enter a full sized “regular people’s” bus.  It still featured the person who hung out the door screaming in Spanish.

Safely at home, we washed off the caking of red zoo dust, and repaired the clothes line over the patio.    Having three extra people’s clothes on Abuelita’s line (with one of them being non-blending sized me) pushed it over its structural limit…go figure.

Anabelle wrote in her journal about the trip while I took my notes.

That’s my girl!

Rosa went back out to sample some of the new menu items at Pardo’s Chicken as part of an unofficial Thirtieth School Reunion.

As everyone I knew thirty years before were a continent away, I stayed home with Anabelle fixing us a Dippin’ Yellow and sandwich mini-dinner.

We tried to show Abuelita Despicable Me.  Parts of it were funnier in Spanish, but she was tired, and went to bed, forcing Anabelle and I into another Looney Tunes marathon, before reading two issues of Marvel Secret Wars at bedtime.

Oh the pain.

Rosa had a great time with her friends, and returned home to find me hunting pictures for the previous fall’s Disney Trip blog, and a rainbow loom greeting from her cute daughter.  
We collapsed on the air mattress ready for more Peruvian adventures…and as many more Bembos visits as we could manage.

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Peru 2014 Index

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