Saturday, September 29, 2007

Monkeying Around

Blog Location: Tanjung - Lombok, Indonesia
Blog position: 8 22.02S 116 07.06E

Current Location: Lovina - Bali, Indonesia
Current Location: 8 09.69S 115 01.18 E
Next Destination: Kumai - Borneo, Indonesia

After our road trip via "Monkey Road" I couldn't stop thinking about the monkeys and how cool they were. I woke up the next morning and decided I had to go back for another visit. After a quick discussion with Warren on Mico Verde (which means "little green monkey"), I had found my partner in crime. I loaded up all our camera gear (video and still) and we jumped on a moped for the hair raising ride to the top of the ridge where most of the monkeys were hanging out.

We came fully prepared with stale crackers as to not disappoint any of the alpha males; a whole cracker would make any of them happy (I found out earlier that a single peanut after giving them a handful REALLY pisses them off). I set up the video camera to film a family in their element and walked over to take some photos of Warren. I guess the crackers aren't high on the list of common monkey food because the first thing they did was smell it. They were so gentle when they take the cracker from your hand, and their hands are just like mini versions of ours. Some of the smaller monkeys would come rushing in while the bigger alpha males were busy chowing away. There facial expressions were priceless; So expressive!! After a while one male decided he would just sit there and keep taking the crackers. I decided to keep them coming just to see what would happen. After he filled his mouth, left hand and right hand, he sat down with his legs in front of him and started sticking the extra crackers in between his toes. I gave up after he had slotted four, he was too smart.

After about fifteen minutes, we became one of the gang. The baby monkeys came out and would eat crackers off your knee, and let you pet them. It was awesome thing to be a part of. We got to experience how they interact with each other. I watched one mother grab a cracker then try and fend off her baby by swatting him away. After a couple of attempts she finally grabbed him by the back of the head, looked him straight in the eye with a very angry face and scolded him violently. We watched others as they picked nits from each other, taking turns on who was the "nit picker". One baby monkey walked over to the tripod and looked up at it from the bottom, trying to figure out exactly what it was ... when he couldn't figure it out by looking alone, he gave it a little nibble - quickly learning that it wasn't that tasty!

We watched as one monkey tried to get some seed pods that were locked inside a plastic water bottle. The cap came off instantaneously but the pods wouldn't come out. He shook it upside down, and finally got so frustrated he held it in his feet and ripped it apart with his arms (maybe opposable thumbs on our feet would be a good thing, wonder why we got rid of those). They walked very easily on just their hind legs and it was funny to watch them jump like a basketball player when we put the crackers out of reach. Warren had a smart female that would only approach him from the rear. Once he was distracted by another monkey she would rush in and grab the bag of crackers from behind. One time she practically ran up his back to get at the bag.

The relaxed positions were so human like; Sitting on a branch with one leg extended and the other bent and held with an arm or sitting with legs crossed, both legs extended forward hands on their knees. It was so neat to watch. We saw fights, courtships, and even some monkey loving. The teenagers act appropriately and rough housed and jumped on each other. The younger adolescents bounded from tree to tree in their endless playground. The elders sat around, using stumps for stools, watching all the mayhem, just shaking their head. They even had variation in appearance; Some had mohawks, others a grey moustache and the real older ones had full beards. Babies swung under their mothers hanging on with a death grip with all limbs.

Warren and I really becoming one with the monkeys, something I had been looking forward to since I saw my first wild monkey here in Indonesia. I was off filming and Warren sat down to have a little chat. I snuck up behind him to hear .. "So what exactly do you think about the expression spanking the monkey?". Maybe we were getting a little too close.

I could have stayed all day, but after a couple of hours we decided we should return to the "real world". I don't think they were sad to see us go but the troop rushed to defend their territory as others came to see what was happening. We left as a huge gang war erupted in the forest.

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