My friend and I have bucket lists, and we enjoy crossing items off our lists and recounting our experiences.
Recently she said, “I have the chance to do an item on my bucket list – and this time you’re going to join me!”
Intrigued, I said, “Tell me more!”
“Remember on my list I wrote, ‘Have a unique flying experience’? Like a ride in a Blue Angels jet. Or the Goodyear blimp, or a hot air balloon. Something that most people never get to do?”
Now I’m more intrigued. To actually get a ride with the Blue Angels? Wow!
My friend continues, “I heard about this guy with a one-of-a-kind, very cool airplane, so I checked him out. He takes people for rides over San Diego and the wine country up north and out along the coast. It’s a 90-minute flight and I booked it for Saturday morning and won’t that be great?”
Well, it’s not the Blue Angels but – why not?
“He calls his plane Mélange, which is French for ‘mixture.’ Look, I downloaded these pictures from his website:
|“He got the engine from this golf cart…|
|salvaged one wing from a DC-10…|
|and the other wing from this F-35 fighter jet – he didn’t say where he found that…|
|and the airplane body is this Cessna.”|
Uh-oh. I’m starting to feel less enthused.
|“It has tires that he found in a guy’s private collection…|
|And get this – the tail came from one of those kiddie airplanes rides you see at the mall. I love that the whole plane is recycled parts!|
|And the fuel is cooking oil from a restaurant, so really environmentally friendly.”|
Now I’m far from enthused.
I’m pretty sure this is not a good idea.
I’m pretty sure the FAA would not give a high-five to this aircraft.
I’m pretty sure there’s only one mélange on my bucket list:
Because if ever there was an entity made of a mixture of parts – a mélange – it’s this guy:
|A bill like a duck.
A sleek, furry body like an otter.
A tail like a beaver.
Big webbed feet like a pelican, but with pronounced claws.
|It’s a mammal that lays eggs – rare.|
|It’s a mammal that has poison– also rare; the males have a venomous stinger on their back legs.|
|Females have no nipples – but they can nurse their young.|
It’s no wonder that when the first platypus was sent from Australia to England in the late 18th century, people thought it was a fake – that a prankster had taken parts from different animals and sewn them together.
Even its name is a mélange – the scientific name Ornithorhynchus anatinus is derived from ορνιθόρυγχος (ornithorhynkhos), which literally means “bird snout” in Greek; and anatinus, which means “duck-like” in Latin.
Platypus, the name we non-scientifics use, comes from the Greek platypous or flat-footed – platys meaning flat + pous meaning foot.
Speaking of Australia, that’s the only place you can find platypuses (and yes, “platypuses” is preferred over “platypi”).
The only place…until now:
There is much excitement in San Diego now that Eve, a 15-year-old female, and Birrarung, an 8-year-old male, have moved into their new residence at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the only place platypuses are on display outside of Australia.
Former residents of the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Birrarung and Eve are considered a donation to the park with no requirement that they be returned, unlike the Zoo’s fickle giant pandas, which have all gone back to China.
Eve and Biarrarung’s residence is part of Safari Park’s Walkabout Australia, a 3.6-acre exhibition that opened in 2018 and was designed to represent Australia’s rural animals, plants and landscapes encountered along backcountry roads.
Keeping company with the platypuses are kangaroos, wallabies, cassowaries, kookaburras, ducks and geese, all living in habitats that simulate back home. The one exception being the platypus enclosure – they’re nocturnal animals, but we’re daytime visitors, so keepers are tricking Birrarung and Eve through lighting controls, to think night is day, and vice versa.
Birrarung and Eve have known each other for several years but never mated. The keepers are hopeful, though I don’t know if that day-is-night and night-is-day thing is going to work out.
I do know that my friend can take that bucket list airplane ride without me.
And I’ll get my mélange fix from those duck-billed, web-footed, egg-laying, no-teeth-or-stomach-or-nipples, furry, venomous but cute little mammals.
They are pretty cute, aren’t they?