On my recent trip to Cambodia, the entire bus of women I was travelling with instantly shrieked with delight the moment they saw a small group of monkeys by the side of the road. They made the bus driver stop and ran outside to take pictures, and feed them. I stayed firmly in my seat and thought to myself, “these are wild animals, people!!”
I hate monkeys. I have good reason to.
On a tour of Spain and Portugal in 2005, we took a one day excursion to Gibraltar. The great thing about being on a tour is not having to plan. The bad thing is sometimes you have no clue what’s coming up next. I had no idea there were Gibraltar apes at the top of the Gibraltar rock. No idea at all.
As we made our way through the caves down below and then up to the top of the rock, I thought about snacking on the pear I had in my bag. I decided to wait until we were back on the bus. Bad idea.
Imagine my surprise as I walked towards the top of the rock, and saw a swarm of Gibraltar apes tracking each and every one of us. Then I noticed one in particular was stalking me. Staring at me. I remembered learning on a national geographic program that gorillas don’t like to be looked at in the eye. So, I looked away and tried to ignore him.
The next thing I know, this ape is running at me at full speed, jumps up on my body, and starts yanking at my bag (which is over my shoulder, with the opening in front). I barely have time to yelp, when the gorilla grabs the pear out of my bag, runs away, and perches himself on top of the railing nearby. Then, he slowly eats the pear, appearing immensely satisfied.
I decide I have had enough of monkeys, and stay far back of the crowds that are engaging with the apes further up the walkway. They are enticing the apes to climb up on their shoulders, and take a picture with an ape perched on them. There is a tamer of some sort with a long stick nearby to make sure all goes well.
My shyness doesn’t matter. I am being stalked again. Before I know it, an ape has scampered up on to my shoulder and there is nothing I can do about it. I figured I might as well take a picture, like everyone else.
As I lean over with my arm extended to give my camera to a nearby traveller, the ape runs down my arm. He is heavy! As I am yelling instructions on how to use my camera, somehow one of my fingers gets wrapped around the ape’s paw. In a split second, he bows his head down and bites my finger!
The bite wasn’t hard, it was more like a warning shot. I am paralyzed! Do I yell out and scare the ape, or do I ignore it and make it go away? Thankfully, the tamer ran over and spanked the monkey with his long stick and he took off.
As I looked down at the bite, I realized the ape drew blood. Great, I think, now I have ape rabies! A few minutes later, a guy on my tour came over and showed me his war wound – much worse than mine! We spend the rest of the tour checking in with each other to see if we had any rabies symptoms.
When I got home, I googled Gibraltar apes and learned they bite hundreds of tourists every year. I also learned they are very ‘clean’ and don’t pass on any infections. To be on the safe side I went to my doctor back home, who happily confirmed I did not have ape rabies.
I do, however, still have two tiny tooth mark scars on my finger. And I still hate monkeys.