Friday, May 16, 2008

Being Attacked by Wild Monkeys

It's true. I went to Mt. Emei last weekend with my friend James. We didn't know what we were getting into, except that it was a long, tough hike. We got off the bus without knowing where we were, were shuffled into a van without knowing where we were going, and happened to meet an amazing group of five Chinese. They invited us to have lunch with them, and then when we all enjoyed ourselves, to come with them. I didn't even know their names and they just invited us to come with them.

That was Saturday morning. We were to hike Saturday afternoon, spend the night halfway up the mountain, hike all of Sunday to the top, spend the night so we could see what we heard was a spectacular sunrise, and then get a bus back Monday (and everyone knows what happened on Monday after I got back).

I'm including lots of pictures because I'm traveling now and am unlikely to find reliable wireless. Internet bars are fine for blogging, but they don't have USB drives, so pictures from my travels in the next few weeks might be rare.

I should introduce the people I was with. This is James, my travel buddy, throwing up a waterfall.

This is one of the guys we were with. He was fascinated by the idea of the trick photos James and I were taking and was trying to make it look like he was grabbing a huge tree.

This is all five of the Chinese people we were with with James and me at the top of the mountain.

This is me looking gangster by a strange sign.

And now, to the moment I've been waiting to tell for three days... how I was attacked by wild monkeys.

Mt. Emei is famous for its wild monkeys. Tibetan macaques, actually, which look like this.

They're familiar with humans because they demand a toll of some kind before they let you pass. Usually, they have specific places where they stay and there are people to help you make it through without getting freaked out. After an easy day of climbing Saturday, we checked into a hotel and went to an area where the monkeys prowl. I forgot my walking stick, which I brought mostly to fend off the monkeys, so I was helpless.

Luckily, the monkey areas are guarded by old women with bamboo sticks. They hobble around hitting their sticks on the ground to let the monkeys know that if they don't back off, it'll be them getting hit next.

Entering the area, we bought packets of food for the monkeys. I thought it was a rip-off, like buying food for the ducks when you go to a park, but I bought one packet anyway. I gave James my camera and slowly approached a monkey.

I didn't have my technique down, though, because I held out my food before James was ready to take the picture. The monkey grabbed it, and all I could think about was how he couldn't have it yet because I needed a good picture of me taming the monkey. So I grabbed at the packet.

The monkey thought I wanted to take the packet back permanently and retaliated by grabbing me. Meanwhile, the old ladies standing guard are yelling at me not to provoke the monkeys by touching them, and I would have said I wasn't trying to, except I was so freaked out.

That was when James snapped the picture. I'm not joking in the picture, this is sudden, intense, undisguised fear. Strangely, my eyes look blank, but seriously, I'm alarmed.

The old women beat back the monkey and I resolved to lay low after that.


Anonymous said...


Somehow I found your blog after the earthquake. I admire your spending time in China. It is one of my favorite countries and I would travel there again in a heartbeat. I visited the Panda Center in Chengdu before heading to Tibet about 9 years ago. It was so interesting.
Loved your picture with the monkey. They are loose like that in Bali and I had somewhat the same experience several months ago with a banana and a monkey. I just gave him a second one and off he went.
Good luck on your studies and travels. I'll be checking on your blog!!!

Carol from Bainbridge Island, WA

Michelle K said...

Hey! Great pics and stories. I need-want-hope-desire-beg for a favor. Next Wed. (5/21) I'm going in to Vinnie and Mikey's school to teach them some Chinese words. I would love to include some of your stories. Any chance you could blog one right to Vinnie, Mikey and their classmates with lots of pictures? I think a quick review of toilettes and etiquette would fascinate them! could you please include your fancy shorts, the crazy sign, and that monkey shot/story too?! I would share it with my eigth graders too. I know you are traveling and if this is just too challenging or impossible, forget it! You continue to amaze and inspire me, rock on! Thanks and love, aunt michelle

Anonymous said...

I can imagine you were scared of the monkeys and rightly so! They have BIG TEETH...and trying to take the food packet back from the monkey. Do you try to steal candy for babies too? LOL. Good thing you had a little old lady there to protect you. ROFL.
Mrs. Curti