July 21, 2014

musk oxen. gentle vegetarians.

During our recent road trip around some of Norway, we passed through an area where a small population of musk oxen live! MUSK OXEN!
Now, I'm not sure if y'all know it, but I am relatively anxious around large animals. 
In New Zealand, for example, we went horseback riding. And I had to be switched to the really passive, "boring" horse, because my first horse could sense my fear. Then when we rode camels in the outback, I was sore for days because I was squeezing the poor guy/gal so hard with my legs. Then in Thailand a while back, I was so scared on our elephant ride, that I didn't let any part of my body touch the elephant because I didn't want him to sense my fear…like the horse in New Zealand did. You get the pattern. 

Yet, despite this I decided a musk ox safari was a good idea.

And it was AWESOME. And tiring. But mostly AWESOME.

Musk oxen are ginormous. And they have really long hair. And they are vegetarians! Also, there are not so many left in Europe, even though there are heaps in Canada apparently. Our guide has studied these gentle giants for many years (I think), and assured us they were perfectly safe….if we stayed more than 200 meters away from them and didn't surprise them. Fair enough. Who likes surprises!?

Somewhat uncharacteristically though, Norway is having a crazy hot summer. Today it's near 30 (that's mid-eighties for you Americans)! Very understandably then, the musk oxen were trying to find some respite from this heat--remember, they have really long hair that is super insulating. So, it is perhaps unsurprising that we found them finally…on top of a mountain.

Eh. If we wanted to see them, that is where we had to go our guide said. So, we proceeded to hike 2 1/2 hours up the mountain. I was getting quite nervous as we approached, because I could just imagine us spooking one or all of them--giving them no choice but to head bash us off the side of the mountain.

However, our guide stayed true to his word. We stayed quite a distance away from them. I could tell that the musk oxen could see us, but that they just couldn't be bothered with us. It was too hot. They were taking a nap on the cool breezy mountain top.

See the one all alone on the far left in the photo? He is the leader, and I guess he wanted some me-time.

Here's a close up (with my not-so super zoom lens):

Musk oxen are my new heroes.