Spring excursion and a heroic deed

Miraculously, the temperature has climbed to above zero in the last week.  The air is moist and earth-scented, and the huge piles of dirty snow everywhere are starting to slowly, slowly melt.  Roofs are dripping, and birds are singing, and you can go outside and forget your gloves, or scarf, or hat, and not be in danger of frostbite!  We are all elated that there is an end in sight to the six months of winter we get every year.  So much so that we took a break from endless trips to the hardware store to go on an excursion today.

We obviously don't get out enough these days (except for those trips to the hardware store), because the boys got SO excited before the trip .  Before we knew what was happening they had each packed backpacks with all the essentials needed for an excursion: chips, nuts, a peanut butter sandwich, a jam jar full of water, a towel, a tennis ball, toy binoculars and a mobile phone. Hmmmm.

We went to Ligatne nature park outside of Riga, where you can see Latvian native animals in big enclosures in the forest.  Morning was spent slipping and sliding over 5 kms of icy track, stopping for snack-breaks every 500 metres or so (we managed to stock up on a few more picnic essentials on the shop on the way through - to complement the sandwich and the jam jar of water).  It was glorious - one of those days where you are so grateful for the things you used to take for granted:  for the sun, and the warm(ish) air, and not wearing gloves, and handrails on slippery outdoor staircases.  As opposed to other times we have been there, today we managed to see almost all of the animals - other times there are some that are hiding so effectively that you can't spot 'em.  The best was when we saw a beautiful lynx - orange with black spots, pointy eared, short tail - in the distance, cleaning the fur of her kittens (is that what you call baby lynxes?) with her tongue.

Another dramatic moment was when Mikus lost his glove over the side of the WOLF enclosure.  Murphy's law. There we stood, looking at the forlorn glove about 2.5 metres below us over the edge of the walkway, with a serious-looking wolf pacing on sentry duty nearby.  Of course, Mikus lets up an enormous howl that rivals that of any wolf , and follows it up with piteous crying and snivelling, gaining rapidly in intensity.  Although Mikus' favourite gloves are mismatched (one blue, one green) he is pretty attached to them (or anything else that gets lost, broken, or needs to be thrown away), and both Jem and I knew that we were in for a long afternoon of hysteria if we didn't do something.  I was about to give the "we'll tell the zookeeper and when he retrieves it, we'll drive out and pick it up again, it'll be o.k. darling" speech, when Jem suddenly ripped his shirt open to reveal the "S" symbol beneath.  As I calmed the distraught children, Jem ran off into the forest and came back with a long, hooky stick, climbed half over the side of the enclosure, leaned down as far as he could and after a few anxious moments with all of us shouting "You're crazy"!  "Watch out!"  "Dad, don't!", he retrieved the glove.  One of those moments where you suddenly understand those situations you hear about in the news - you know, the ones where the guy gets mauled by bears after SCALING THE SAFETY FENCE to get into the enclosure at the zoo.  Well lucky for us, things turned out ok!

The rest of the walk was comparatively uneventful - lots of wild boar, moose, foxes, bears, all happily sitting in the melting snow, soaking up a bit of sun.  Like us, I think they were happy for a bit of spring in the air.

The peanut butter sandwich gets eaten

Gotta love them wild boar

Fishing for wolves.  Um, gloves.

The still-teary and relieved Mik with his hero

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