Friends from Far. Far from Friends
There’s something admirable about an animal that simply does not care what others think. It takes a certain confidence to sit in broad daylight, in the middle of the road while playing scratch and sniff with your neighbor’s back end as cars back up to watch-whether they want to or not. Or to dig deep into the pits of pals and as a gesture of gentleness, proceed to eat every creepy crawly burrowed in the hair of your buddy. Ah the magnificently bold baboon… well deserving of a dedicated entry. This one in two parts: Admirable… From a Distance and Please, Take What You Please.
Admirable…From a Distance
I’ve always had an affinity for monkeys and I think they would say the same of me. Needless to say, when I heard baboons walked the hills of Zomba I was ready to go. Zomba is one of the larger peaks in East Africa. Covered with cedar, it’s a beautiful drive. Young men walk their charcoal loaded bikes down the winding road as their piers stand stationary selling carvings, fresh picked raspberries, or meticulously arranged bouquets of dried flowers. Once you reach the top, a row of roadside retailers are ready to trade carving for t-shirt or, well just about anything.
“Me, I like your shoes.” One would say, initiating a proposal. “I like your hat,” another would say. Watch, shirt, shorts-all was fair trade. We did our bartering, made a couple exchanges, then crossed the street for tea. From our table you could see the world, views of the African countryside unparalleled. Yet no monkeys. Until…
We heard something scurry on the roof behind us. Before we had a chance to decipher the clamor, a baboon swooped overhead into a tree partially covering the patio. A few more followed. A game of chase commenced. Roof to tree to roof, the baboons entertained. Then the commotion died. The monkeys disappeared back onto the roof, save one subtle fellow. This one stayed behind admiring his admirers. At first he sat, watched, then branch by branch he moved closer eyeing our table of condiments.
A server walked by. “Tsssk! Tsssssssk!” He spat at the baboon, then looked to us. “This one is my enemy…” and walked away. Off the tree, onto the rail he curiously approached. First it was cool. Then it got uncomfortable. The baboon came within feet. Merin called inside for assistance from the workers… nothing. I decide I’d stand and intimidate the boon…nothing. Swung my arms in the air as though they were something to be feared…nothing. Closer, closer. Then I remembered something.
You know how when you want to take a picture of something, you rush to get your camera ready, then just as you get everything in order the something scurries away? I grabbed my camera from its bag…aimed… and shot. The flash fired. Baboon paused, blinked and rubbed its eyes. FIRE! I flashed again. The monkey looked around blinking, rubbing. At last it backed away. I sat back down to finish my coffee and we resumed our admiration for each other-comfortably, at distance.
Please, Take What You Please.
This story takes place just outside a National Park. We had just spent the day watching nature in its various shapes and sizes, animals of all sorts. As we exited the park, our driver stopped for a final bathroom break. I was the last of four to exit the Land Cruiser. Having no real need to “take care of business”, I stretched just out side the car.
Then I heard our drive yell, “Close the door!!!” He was pointing behind me. Baboons. Similar to the others but bigger, much bigger. I looked behind me as the baboon quickly advanced. Just in time, I slammed the door. But I had forgotten something-the sunroof.
The massive monkey swooped onto the hood and dropped into the car. Monkey in, man out. I watched as his furry fingers sorted through our bags. Without thinking I swung open the door. Except this time I was unarmed. No, I take that back. Actually arms were all I had. Like I said, I wasn’t really thinking. If I were I might have realized, there is really no next step. What, crawl into the car with the razor tooth beast and “talk it over”? “Look Lucy, I know you’re curious, but how bout you drop the bag and just walk back to your home? Then nobody gets hurt.” Nobody of course meaning me… Right.
Having no flash to defend myself, I reverted to my original plan and started waving my hands frantically over my head. Except this time I threw in a couple strong Southwestern-“HhhhYAW’s(!),” as though I was herding a stampede of cattle. John Wayne would have been proud. The monkey looked up, grabbed an orange and leaped back out of the sunroof.
Our driver came running up laughing. Me? I took a couple deep breaths and regained composure. You know, on second thought…I think I will use the restroom.