Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dancing With Shiva, Part 18

We have squirrels and chipmunks. India has monkeys. Lots of them.

I snapped this photo on the ascent from Salem to Yercaud, a mountain station. Our driver pulled off the side of the road for a moment for us to enjoy the view, but when the monkeys approached, he took off. "They can be very forward," he warned.
The acceleration and the braking, the squealing of the tires as we rounded countless switchbacks on our way up the mountain made me sick. We stopped to rest and walk through a forest; I fell behind the others, leaned against a tree and rejected my breakfast.

I was pale and sweating by the time we arrived at a coffee plantation to meet the owners and share lunch with them. I declined lunch but took in the conversation, which was about leopards and bison, and monkeys.
"They are such awful pests, said Dayalan, the proprietor. "We don't want any monkeys here. They can destroy an entire coffee crop. We shoot them, you know. And when we do, we hang them from their tails in the trees. That seems to scare most of them away."

We spent that night and another at the top of the mountain in a hotel on many levels descending a cliff. "Oh, look!" exclaimed Jill one of our team members. "Way down there. See them walking? It's a family of monkeys! I have a bag of peanuts in my room. Let's throw them down to them.
Bad idea.

The peanuts peppered the rocks below. The monkeys stopped in their tracks and scanned the hotel. They began to race up the cliff, not bothering with the scattered nuts but aiming for the source. Primates began to appear everywhere below us. There had been just five or six monkeys in the family group, and now there were 20 or 30 of them in a semicircle just below the hotel, intently eyeing us. Another handful of peanuts was thrown, and within a minute no less than 60, perhaps 80 monkeys were clambering up the lowest levels of the hotel, jumping on roofs, flying from roof to roof. One thumped on the roof above us, then swung down and perched on the railing of our balcony. Then another, and we retreated to our rooms and slammed the doors. They studied us through the windows of our rooms with businesslike, expressionless faces.
When they lost interest and moved on, we crept from our rooms back to the balcony. On a path below us, a security guard nodded to us and shook his head. "Now you silly people have learned your lesson!" he yelled to us.
"Don't leave your doors or windows open," someone else warned us later. "They will go into your rooms and take your things. They will come right up to you and snatch the eyeglasses right off your face and run away with them."

1 comment:

Ellipses said...

Part 18!? Geez... Rocky ain't got nuthin' on India.