Monday, April 17, 2006

New York Rocks - Expedition

β. Expedition -Saturday 18th

We took 10’o’clock ferry and then the subway to Central Park. Spanning across 843 acres, the 150 year old Giant Park occupies the central part of Manhattan (almost 6%) and is one of the most visited places in NY. We were stunned by the view from outside itself. There was a frozen lake with trees surrounding. It was snowing slightly. A lot of Horse-drawn carriages were outside the park. We entered the park and slowly walked beside the lake. There was a small bridge and the water below that was flowing. Ducks were playing in that and visitors were feeding them. Wollman skating rink was nearby and people skate there in masses during winter. We watched the skating for sometime and then headed to Central Park Zoo.

You want to know how the zoo started. It started when people began to drop unwanted animals in the arsenal ranging from swans to bear cub. Quite funny isn’t it? Near the entrance, there’s so called “Retirement Tank” in the central garden with California Sea Lions. We rushed here to take a quick snap, but in vain. These guys will keep on somersaulting in the tank and keep us waiting. We can see them going down through the glass windows of the elevated tank. But is a fun the way they are playing in the tank like kids. Usually found on the West coast of US, they use their long flippers to move in land and water. We then moved on after tireless attempts to take a good photo.

We entered the Polar zone to see Gentoo penguins brought from Antarctic Peninsula. In Welsh, “pen” means head and “gwyn” means white, so meaning white head. Though strange, it’s thought that the old British sailors named it as they have the white spot around the eye. It’s a cute yellow-beaked creature and it’s a cool scene to see them walking while flipping their wings. They follow the one who walks first and it resembles children walking to school. They attract their mates by holding a pebble in their mouth and the ones interested will accept it. Cool technique! Polar bears were the next exhibit. They were sleeping all the time, so we were not able to see any of their movements. They live on the arctic region as opposed to Penguins which are from the opposite side. Arctic means bear in Greek and Antarctica means no bearsJ. Their fur is actually not white but looks white due to the way light reflects from them. It is hollow and focuses sunlight directly to the dark skin which retains the heat. A polar bear's nose, lips and all skin under their fur is black. The fur is water repellant too. Then we saw Harbor seals. They belong to North Atlantic Ocean & North Pacific Ocean and spend most of the time in water. They can’t move easily in land like sea lions, due to their short flippers.

While we were moving to the next region, we saw something on a huge glass window. When we went near, some creature was licking the foggy window. It was a Cotton-topped Tamarin. They are small monkeys resembling a squirrel and have a long thick tail and white hairs surrounding the head. These funny creatures hail from Central and South America. In temperate territory, we saw North American River Otter and Mandarin ducks, a Chinese symbol of fidelity in marriage. The next exhibit was. Both Mandarin duck and Otter are crepuscular i.e. active at dawn and dusk. So we have to go either early morning or late evening to see them active. We then moved on to see a small red creature on a tree top. It was Red Panda found in Himalayan foothills of Tibet and Nepal. Their red fur is amazing and they are called “hun-ho” (fire fox) in Chinese. Anyway it was sleeping and didn’t come down to see usJ. Panda means “bamboo eater” but species wise it is not related to the famous Giant Panda. Now only few of them exist. Close to this, an island like exhibit was there with a troop of Japanese macaque or snow monkeys. A troop is a large, hierarchical family group containing one dominant male, several adult females, and their young. In the island premises, we found a pair of beautiful Latin American Black-necked swans. They are the smallest swans having white bodies, long black necks, and a black bill with red skin over the beak. They mate for life hence a symbol for lovers.

Tropical region was the next to see. The conditions of a rain forest are replicated perfectly with a riverbank, cave, towering tree trunks, and a 20-foot roaring waterfall. We saw Mouse deer found mainly in Asia. They have pencil like legs and tusks from mouth, thought as a cross between pig and deer. They are known as “living fossil” as they have not evolved much in 30 million years. The other animals in the vicinity included Fruit Bats, Red-handed Tamarin, Black lion Tamarin, Giant day gecko, Colobus Monkey and Tortoises.

Enough of wildlife, we got out of the Central Park. Outside there was a big golden statue of a man riding horse. Suddenly one thing caught my attention. A big Indian Flag!!! It was the Taj Pierre Hotel. Don’t know why, may be because it was unexpected, I stood there for sometime mesmerizing at the sight of the Indian beauty flying in the wind.

We then ate from a Chinese restaurant nearby the park. Quite a good number of limousines were seen plying. After lunch, we proceeded to Roosevelt Island. It is a small rectangular strip of land between Queens and Manhattan. An aerial tramway took us from 59th St to Roosevelt Island across the East river. It takes 4 min and was described in New York Times as the most exciting view In New York City. We had a spectacular view of the skylines from the tram. We roamed the island in a red bus that ran to the stretch of the island for a mere 25 cents. We went to a riverside Park and saw a lighthouse too. The view of the city was beautiful from the island. But it was very cold and we returned back to Manhattan.

We then went to Grand Central Terminal. It’s a monumental gateway built in 1900s. It is the largest train station in the world by the number of platforms – 44 with 67 tracks, situated on 2 underground levels. The main attractions are Vanderbilt hall, a magnificent central hall and Omega watch board.

Our next destination was the Crossroads of the World – Times Square. It was named after the earlier HQ of New York Times. An international attraction, it’s an amazing place to see particularly after the sun goes down, with plenty of illuminated signs, tall towers and theatres of Broadway. It has the 100 year old custom of ball-lowering from the 1 Times Square's rooftop pole on New Year Eve. NASDAQ market site is located there. We roamed there for quite some time enjoying the displays.

We then headed to 34th St and saw Madison Square Garden, a famous sports arena and Macy’s store, a huge departmental store. We then saw the 102 storied skyscraper without which New York City is not complete, a state of art construction kissing the sky. Yes, its one amongst the modern seven wonders of the world - Empire State Building. Designed by Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, the building opened on 1931. It was the tallest skyscraper in the world for 41 years until WTC overtook it. We bought the tickets and headed to 86th floor observatory. The moment of the life came when we opened the door to the outside terrace and stood on one of the tallest manmade heights in the world. Even the coldest of the winds couldn’t prevent us from enjoying the entire city down with tall buildings and bridges as multiple color spots. At one time, we almost got frozen by the wind. There were telescopes to observe the city which was seen in the movie “Jeans”.

Though not satisfied completely, we left as it was getting late. We took the subway and ferry later on to reach the house.

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