I HEART MONKEYS
Trip Start May 01, 2010
23Trip End Jul 15, 2010
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I love monkeys.
I can't help it, I just do. I know they are dirty, disease-ridden scavengers that cause nothing but problems (especially in urban areas), but when I look at their adorable little faces and their tiny human-like hands, I just melt. I want to take them home and cuddle them in my backyard in Canada.
I have always loved monkeys. This may be because, according to Chinese astrology, I was born in the Year of the Monkey. Or it may have something to do with the fact that I had extraordinarily long limbs as a child making sports that require dexterity difficult and climbing trees easy. I was often in trees, wishing I could swing from branch to branch like the monkeys I had witnessed at Crystal Gardens in Victoria
But I digress. In India, the monkeys fill the streets and are not afraid of people. They could be compared to squirrels or raccoons in Canada - wild animals adapted to the city life of scavenging for food in ditches, bins, and alleyways. Most of the monkeys we have seen are one of two varieties: the Rhesus Macaque, by far the most common and fearless, and the Grey Langur, a larger, shyer breed with the air of a wise old man about it. I love them both equally.
We were getting used to seeing monkeys in the streets, stealing food from stalls, munching on snacks wherever they can find a place safe from other thieves. In Shimla, our contact with monkeys was taken to a new level. There we went to visit the Jakhu Temple, dedicated to the monkey god Hanuman. Because of the temple's patron, when devotees go there, they often bring offerings to give to any monkeys they see en route
We were warned that these monkeys are not afraid of humans and can be aggressive at times. At the bottom of the steep hill to the temple, we rented sticks to use as protection. A short way up the hill, a kind Indian man stopped us and begged us to please remove our "goggles" (i.e. glasses). We tried to explain that we don't see very well without them, and he understood, but was very concerned about us, as it is not uncommon for monkeys to steal the glasses right off tourists' faces. That made me nervous. I spent the rest of the hike alternating between sight made uncomfortable by the state of constant panic I was in, and semi-blindness made more comfortable by the fact that I was confident my face wouldn't be scratched in a battle to save my glasses. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time with my hands holding my glasses to my eyes, ready to stuff them in my bag, and in the end I emerged with both my face in tact and my glasses safe.
There were monkeys everywhere. I have never seen so many at once. Big monkeys, small monkeys, old monkeys, baby monkeys. Monkeys underfoot, monkeys overhead, monkeys walking next to me, monkeys watching me from the trees and fences. When we got to the top, there was a long line to get into the temple itself, so we decided not to bother and just sit in the park and watch the monkeys. I should point out that I am not the only person in the world to coo over these frisky little creatures. In the park, a large group of Indian tourists stood looking over the bank. I joined them and saw that they were watching a family of monkeys below
Below our hotel window was a building with a corrugated tin roof. In the early hours of the morning we would hear monkeys running and fighting on the roof. One evening we heard the familiar noise, but this time when I looked I saw adolescent monkeys playing. They would perch in the nearby tree, then launch themselves as far as they could onto the roof. Chasing their friends up the iron, they would reach the top, then inevitably slip and slide down to the bottom. There they would climb back into the tree and start the whole process over again. This continued and kept me entertained for a good portion of the football match that had Kian absorbed. Then I did something that I know is very, very bad, but I beg you not to judge me. There was a thick ledge outside our window, close to the aforementioned tree. I carefully placed two small peaches on the ledge then locked our windows securely. Sure enough, it only took a few minutes for the cheeky little guys to sniff out the snack, and soon we had a handful of them peering into our (thankfully tightly secure) windows. I was loving it. They were too cute. I know, I know. It is really bad to feed wild animals, and I regret it (mostly) completely
Despite concerns that they would steal my glasses, and despite being occasionally wakened by their midnight battles, most of our experiences with monkeys has been positive. Most of them. In McLeod Ganj we had a room on the top floor of the hotel. All the rooms overlooked a shared balcony that was also the route to get to each room. Our windows were stiff and didn't lock well, but we weren't concerned because thick iron bars meant that it was impossible for a person to climb through our window. One day we were climbing up the last flight of stairs to the top floor. I noticed a mango pit on a chair. Crazy monkeys, I thought. Then I came around the next corner and saw a monkey perched on the wall of the building peeling a mango and eating greedily. Finally, as I approached the top of the stairs and our neighbour's window, I saw another large monkey squeezing out through the window bars. His furry little face was dripping in mango juice, a half-eaten piece of the fruit dangled from his mouth, and another whole mango was in one hand. That is when I noticed the peelings, juice, and chunks of fruit coming from the hotel window. I glanced inside our neighbour's room and saw the remnants of what looked like a raging monkey party: they had clearly eaten the fruit on the bed, which was plastered in a sticky syrup, but the damage spread around the room, with peeling, pits, and fruit pieces everywhere
We quickly hurried on to our room. They had, indeed, got into ours as well. The only edibles we had were a couple small peaches and a tomato. They ate our fruit on our bed, too, and tipped over the garbage bin, but in comparison to the other room ours had not suffered much damage. With a new set of sheets, a sweep, and a quick clean of the garbage we were set. The thing that really annoyed me, however, was that they ate the tomato right on my shirt that was lying on the bed! Tomato peelings and juice soaked through what had been a freshly washed article of clothing. Trust the cheeky buggers to manage that.
We weren't really very upset about the incident, probably owing to the relief we felt that it wasn't as bad as it could have been. We did ensure that we forced our windows to be locked that night, as the monkeys came back periodically to see if we had anything else on offer. They obviously didn't know they had completely cleaned us out of edibles!
In conclusion, they are pests, but I love them. They look at me with their little faces, their mouths pursed into an "O" shape and make their little monkey noises, and I go weak at the knees. If there was some way I could bring one home, I would. However, Big Meanie Kian won't let me. (Insert my pouting face here). Oh well. I guess I will have to find some other kind of replacement.