Edward Readicker-Henderson

of National Geographic Traveler

The alarm went off in my room a half hour ago, the second time tonight. At the Ark, one bell means elephant, two, rhino, three, I really can’t remember what, because let’s face it, when you’re awoken by bells in the middle of the night, bells that sound like a parrot raised on a diet of tin cans, your first thought is not, “yay.” But as soon as I realize it was the rhino alarm, I was running for the stairs.

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When the Palace Grand Theatre first got going, in the high days of the Klondike gold rush, the job to have was cleaning up after a performance. Odds were, so much dust got spilled that there was a fortune sifting through the floorboards. The Palace is still grand, and the acoustics are still fantastic. And I have no idea who this woman is who’s playing sax on the stage, but her music flows like a roller coaster.

When the boat starts to rock, I’m not entirely reassured when the guide says, “Don’t worry. Just a hippo trying to come up under us.” Right. No big deal. We’re about to capsize in the middle of a herd of twenty hippos, spread across the river like fat, warm rocks, because one of them understands…

I’m too distracted to hear the first announcement. The captain is pulling the National Geographic Explorer dangerously close to shore, and I am waiting for a metal-on-rock crunch that never comes in this ridiculously deep Norwegian fjord.

Then it registers. Did I hear “puffin dogs?”