|Posted on April 8, 2013 at 10:35 AM|
I've had a busy but enjoyable weekend trip to the Houten show in the Netherlands. It's held in a large exhibition centre where reptile enthusiasts meet to find new animals and there's the opportunity to exhibit rodents too.
I once again decided not to take any of my hamsters to show as I travel by minibus so it's rather a long round-trip, therefore on Saturday afternoon I gave my creatures a final check over and made sure they were all fed and watered (and baby-fooded!). I prepared all the carriers I planned on needing and a couple of extras just in case too, with substrate, bedding, food and a dog biscuit in each. I took a whole cucumber with me to pop in the carrier as I acquired the animals. I remembered the long and tiring journey from last time, so made sure there were plenty of human supplies and snacks in my bag, as well as a travel blanket to make a human nest en route.
With my bags packed and passport located I set off from Southampton at 6.30pm on Saturday to meet the minibus, arriving at the pick-up area in Kent at 9pm. It's a strange experience as we meet at a large truck stop and to get in you have to check in with a man in a kiosk at the entrance which is built for lorries so the window is way above the roof of my car. I wish I had longer arms to reach for the parking ticket! I drove round the lorry parking area feeling very small until I found the minibus and a few other cars of fellow show-goers in a little corner and trnsferred all my posessions on board. There was time for a cuppa and a cheese toastie as well as catching up with the reptile people, some of whom I met last year, before we clambered on board. It was a short trip to the Channel Tunnel for the 11pm train. The trip under the Channel was full of joshing and joking.
The leg of the journey across Europe was much longer though we did have the opportunity to stop and stretch our legs on several occasions, each stop colder and more foggy the later (or earlier, I suppose) it got. I did manage to catch some sleep before we arrived at the exhibition centre at 5.30am European time. The show didn't open officially until 10am, but we had early entry wrist bands, meaning we could get in when the exhibitors were setting up from 7am, so time for a couple more winks of sleep while the fog drifted across the car park.
The show was quiet at 7am but between then and 9am it got busier and busier. Exhibitors brought in cages of rodents, polystyrene boxes containing reptiles (insulated to prevent them getting cold), and trolleys full of things to buy: vivariums, plants, cage decorations, hammocks... One person's precariously balanced load wobbled round a corner and a carrier of mice fell onto the floor resulting in a 'mice everywhere' episode, though thankfully they were soon recaptured. Pictures of the halls and the wonderful beasties I saw can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.496249330423774.1073741830.253686078013435&type=1&l=ca5ad239c3
It was lovely to get a chance to look around before it got busy and get first pick of what was on offer. I made a good start to my shopping list, picking up a fancy mouse and some pygmy mice for friends. I wasn't having much luck on the Chinese hamster front until I spied a table with some duprasi for sale (a creature I've been wanting to get since before Houten last year, but I didn't manage to find any then). While admiting the 'prasi I peeked at the tank next of them to find Chineseys! I dashed off to find my carriers and soon more beasts were safely tucked away with a Roborovski soon following them. Piccies of my new furry friends can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.497193810329326.1073741831.253686078013435&type=1&l=a4f4edff60
In the rodent section were several familiar faces: UK exhibitors who had also made the long trip, and European exhibitors I'd met before. After a bit of sitting and chatting I had another wander and shopping spree, finding a cool fleece hammock/platform thing that the acacia rats would like as well as a catnip mouse.
By about 1.30pm I'd wandered up and down and in and out, and my little feet were complaining so I sat in a little corner with a cool drink and checked on the beasties I'd acquired who had settled into their carriers and were snoozing peacefully. I had time for another wander and shop (a wooden hamster toy, some rope, some hamster treats and a pair of lab mice to come and be pets).
By about 3pm European time we were all worn out and shopped out so we packed up the minibus and set off back to the Channel Tunnel to make sure we arrived in good time (in the hopes of catching an earlier train). Last year we stopped at an amazing services in Belgium which sold delicious pizza. This time we had a Macdonalds near the exhibition centre which we munched as the minibus made good progress. I snuggled under my blanket and managed to doze, though I think the small furries got more sleep in the nests they'd made!
Unfortunately the Eurostar had been cancelled earlier in the day causing a big backlog so we spent over an hour at the terminal before getting on our delayed original train which eventually set off at 10pm European time. We were feeling a little grumpy by this stage! We arrived back in the UK at about 9.30pm UK time, and made a final dash to try and get one of the passengers to the train station in time for the last train at 9.43pm. We were cutting it fine, but looked like we'd make it. Until the burning smell. The minibus's clutch had decided to break and the minibus started going slower and slower. Our top speed was 30mph, 20mph and then it finally broke down alltogether just in sight of the train terminal, around the corner from the pick-up area.
A slightly surprised taxi driver came to take us back to our cars. Since the minibus driver was waiting for the breakdown service, he kept my animals in the bus while I travelled back to my car (in a taxi full of humans, snakes, scorpions and spiders!) and I returned to collect them. I had packed a space blanket for extra heat conservation for the furries, but thankfully it wasn't needed.
The next leg of the journey was nice and boring thankfully so we arrived back home with no further excitement at 1am. After checking on everyone, it was bedtime. At last.
The new furries have settled into their new temporary cages in a quarantine area away from my hamster room for the next two or so weeks. Now I need to discover their names!