What Would the Jurassic Park Ride be Like Without Cheesy Robotic Dinosaurs?
Probably a lot like my peaceful boat ride on a pristine spring on Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia.
Michael and I are currently living on Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia, and we recently visited the Monastery of Saint Naum, one of the area’s big attractions.
But right below the monastery was something called the Springs of Saint Naum: a spring-fed waterway that apparently meandered back into the surrounding forest. A series of colorful boats waited at a little dock to row visitors up into the springs.
Being an amusement park aficionado, my first thought was, “Oh, this looks like a theme park ride! Like Jurassic Park: The Ride, except I bet it doesn’t have robotic dinosaurs.”
We hired a boat. (Each vessel seats about eight people, and the more people who are in your boat, the lower the price will be. Expect to pay a whopping $3-$6 per person for the half-hour ride.)
And off we went.
First, let’s get something clear: I make no excuses for loving me some cheesy animatronic dinosaurs. The cheesier, the better!
Michael says that, in many ways, I’m still a little kid at heart, but I reject this framing. That way I see it, the defense burden should be on the person who doesn’t like robotic dinosaurs.
I mean, they’re dinosaurs and they’re robots. It should not be controversial to declare an interest in such things.
And theme park boat rides are about more than just robots. Pirates of the Caribbean used to include actual human bones in their displays, and the landscaping on the original Jungle Cruise is now essentially an actual, self-sustaining jungle.
Then again, no one rides the Jungle Cruise for the foliage.
But people do take boats up into the Springs of Saint Naum for the foliage — both above and below the water. I was immediately struck by the greenery that covered the spring’s sandy bottom, including underwater ferns.
Naturally, I made a joke to Michael about how this whole experience would be made so much better with a few robotic dinosaurs.
But then our boatman told our group how the clarity of the water made the springs look deceptively shallow. It only appeared to be a few feet deep — when, in fact, the bottom was three meters down.
“This water is pure enough to drink,” he added.
I reached down to touch it — cold but not bracing. It felt as clean and pure as it looked. I was tempted to taste it, but when it comes to giardia and other water-borne bacteria, I need more than just an assurance from a guy rowing a boat.
But I could still take in the scenery — the lush plants on the bottom of the spring, the lazy grasses that border it, and the protected, pristine forest that grows right up to its edge.
“There,” our boatman said suddenly, nodding to the large patch of turquoise sand underneath us. “This is where water enters the spring. There are actually thirty different springs under the water, and another fifteen that enter along the shore.”
Sure enough, the sand bubbled underneath us, like pancakes cooking on a hot griddle.
We continued our lazy trip upstream, the only sounds being the gentle lap of the boatman’s oars and the calming coo of the birds in the reeds and trees along the shore.
In fifteen minutes, we reached the end of the waterway, and I was disappointed we had to turn around again.
But I could still enjoy how the sunlight glinted on the water all around us, and how the air smelled of the purity of that water, along with just the slightest hint of the coming autumn.
We headed home down a different branch of the waterway. We soon passed an abandoned row boat so perfect it looked to have been arranged by Martha Stewart.
Finally, we reached the place where we’d started.
And I’d reached a conclusion.
I could still defend a cheesy boat ride through a fake jungle filled with robotic dinosaurs. The way I saw it, there should always be room for escapism and easy fantasy in a world full of injustice and suffering.
But maybe Michael was right in that in many ways, I was still a little kid at heart. And maybe I was finally growing up a little. If our last five years of travel had taught me anything, it’s that the more real something is, the more interesting I now find it.
Robotic dinosaurs? Been there, done that.
But I’d never been anywhere like that peaceful waterway through that particular forest primeval.
The Springs of Saint Naum are so real you can touch and smell them — and even taste them if you dare.
More than anything, you can feel them. They feel alive.
And for the thirty minutes I was there, I knew I was alive too.