I was once rescued from a pack of incensed monkeys on the steps of a Nepalese temple by a group of Tibetan ladies brandishing umbrellas. A humiliating experience to begin with, the ladies proceeded to severely and loudly admonish me for annoying said monkeys, ignoring my dismayed protestations that I had, in fact, done nothing.
This small but perfectly formed story basically sums up my relationship with monkeys. Since I first began traveling and meeting monkeys that were not constrained or behind bars, I've been subjected to bites, scratchings and all round general harassment, across Nepal, India, Indonesia and Africa, in fact wherever monkeys are usually found.
I don't know why monkeys don't like me. My husband Ian suspects that my eye colour may have something to do with it. They are a very light blue and monkeys might feel that I am somehow challenging them when I look at them. Of course I am not the only person to have had a bad monkey experience, something I actually take great comfort in. I remember on a buying trip in India, sitting on the hotel veranda one evening sipping mango juice andhearing all about what it was like to live with monkeys from a South African lady. She said she'd come back from a shopping trip one day to find her home overrun with the little bastards - they were lounging on her couch, they'd gone through her fridge and they'd also made free with her underwear drawer. One of them had her best Calvin Klein bra on its head.
Monkeys, of course, love Ian. Wherever I am harassed, he is feted, or at the very least ignored. Mother monkeys bring their babies to dandle on his knee. At no point on our trip to Nepal was he even approached by monkeys. On a trip to Africa, when I had to be rescued by a Zulu tribesman while bird watching, the resident beasts actually went around him to get to me.
Take exhibit A, above. If I look resigned in this picture, it's because I know what's coming. We'd decided to take a half-day out of our buying schedule to visit an ancient Jaipur palace, and I took a moment to sit, at which point the monkey in the picture sidled up to me and started eying me off. Just as Ian took the shot the monkey reached over, looked me straight in the eye, then raked its filthy little set of claws across my leg. It then proceeded to nonchalantly amble over to Ian and fawn over him, joining a mother monkey and her baby who were already sitting on the ends of his shoes. After this one scratched me I was absolutely paranoid that I was going to get rabies and die. I washed and washed the wound, made it bleed horribly and then just generally walked around with a hangdog expression on my face. I discussed with Ian the possibility of being air lifted back to Australia and that on no account was I to be forced to stay in a local hospital and I made him practice what he was going to say to the staff if they insisted and questioned him closely on whether he'd be would be willing to physically carry me out. And of course in the end everything was fine, I didn't get rabies, and I don't even have a scar - all I've got is this picture of a horrible fucking monkey, its intention writ clear on its little monkey face.
As for our trip to Ubud, Bali, last year, as usual I was on the receiving end from the resident monkey population in the Monkey Forest, even though learning from all my past experiences I was very careful not to actually look at any of them directly. I managed to get into trouble when one very gently but insistently put its arms around me and tried to take the necklace off my neck, then took exception to me just as insistently thwarting it. In the end Ian had to come and rescue me. At the time I wrote a review for Trip Adviser called Monkeys and a Fistful of Bananas - What Could Possibly Go Wrong? They encourage you to buy bananas before you go in, and of course the monkeys think it's a free-for-all. They also try to steal your watches, jewellery and cameras, and anything else that's not firmly attached to your body. As I observed that day, generally it's the Americans who lose nerve and start running and screaming first. Making me look quite good.
The little beggar in the very act of removing my necklace
Not just me: Staff at Knowsley Safari Park, Merseyside, demonstrate why visitors
should not enter the baboon enclosure with roof boxes on their cars. Photo credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1200917/Clever-baboons-cause-safari-park-chaos-learning-break-luggage-boxes.html#ixzz4hn9tH286
'Obviously, we're well used to them helping themselves to the odd wing mirror or wiper blade, but this has taken things to a whole new level. Let's face it, nobody wants to see a baboon running up a tree with their underwear.'
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