So I finally managed to grab a week away, and spent a restful few days disconnected from both Windows Azure and the Internet. Other than a frustrating sat-un-navigation experience, it was a refreshing change and a chance to see some more of our wonderful English countryside - with the direction and destination chosen by my wife who's been fascinated by the recent TV series "Monkey Life".
The series shows the work of the people at the Monkey World sanctuary in Dorset. Having followed the fortunes of several of the monkeys, apes, and gibbons shown in the series, we were keen to meet them in real life. It's an amazing place, and well worth a visit to see the incredible work they do and the fabulous environments they've built for the various primates rescued from all over the world.
However, our first stop was at the seaside - I'm not allowed to take my wife away on holiday unless she gets to see the sea - and the nearest to our destination was Lulworth Cove. It's an eerie area of the heritage coast of Dorset that demonstrates how the power of the sea and movements of the Earth's crust have shaped the landscape. And it's a pretty place as well, as you can see in the photos below.
Bright and early next morning we were in the queue at Monkey World, listening to the incredible sounds of hundreds of apes calling out for their breakfast. Inside, the first encounter was several troops of chimpanzees.
One of the featured primates in the TV series was an Orangutan named Oshine, who was rescued from a ranch in Johannesburg and was hugely overweight. With a proper diet and plenty of exercise she's doing well now, as you can see here.
The Woolly Monkeys are also a treat to watch as they chase around and perform the most amazing aerobic and aerobatic feats. Though stealing the show was the newest addition to the collection.
Meanwhile, a couple of Lemurs seemed really surprised to see people wandering around inside their enclosure.
However, the one that we really came to see was Mikado, a young Golden Cheeked Gibbon who was hand-reared by the staff in the park after being orphaned in France. Now growing up, he shares an enclosure with another older female who's taken over as surrogate mother.
Of course, there were hundreds of others to see, including the Capuchins that look like little old men. They're a popular pet until they grow and get rowdy, and so the park has lots in several different enclosures.
Finally, after an exhausting day, we set off on the 250 mile drive home. Of course, with modern sat-navs that do dynamic updating based on the current traffic situation and route timings, it should be easy. Just follow the nice lady's instructions. She sent us off on a detour through some pretty villages and country lanes to miss congestion around Southampton, which was nice, even if it did take over an hour to cover the first thirty miles.
But then there was another dynamic route update to avoid an accident on the M4 motorway. And then another to avoid queues in Cirencester. Finally, when she told us that we should divert again through Gloucester I decided enough was enough, turned it off, and just followed the road signs. It took five and a half hours to get home, and I suspect that we'd still be driving round pretty villages and country lanes now if my electronic lady had her way. But I suppose you have to be amazed at the technology, even if it works best when switched off.
However, for motoring fans, here's a photo of two wonderful old E-type Jaguars seen in the car park at Monkey World...