And then the Monkeys Descended
It was late morning and I was sitting on the front porch enjoying my coffee and about to peel the banana to complement my sticky rice as the heat of the day was slowly setting in. Kyle was in the room organizing some things when all of a sudden I realize that Paasook Resort has visitors. I start to see tails, lots and lots of tails silently working their way from the trees onto a neighboring bungalow’s roof. The communal trash can is right in front of our place and I see a big female rhesus monkey bound over and start digging through it. She is only 20 feet away from me, obviously hungry and here I am about to peel a banana to put in my breakfast. I learned my lesson about monkeys when I was in India. They are faster than you, smarter than you and don’t scare away easily.
I slowly get up and start putting our breakfast food back into the bungalow. I tell Kyle that there is a pack of monkeys outside and he quickly helps me clear the table. We retreat to our room and are sitting staring out of the open door. We were about to dig into our banana sticky rice when the alpha male comes to stare us down. This guy is big, burly, has testicles the size of tennis balls and obviously means business. He is literally on the path to our door and turns to stare at us. We lasted about 3 seconds in that staring competition before we freaked out and shut the door. Peering out the window we could see that he had passed. That’s when the real attack started.
There were three girls staying in the bungalow just in front of ours and they were still sleeping when the monkeys came by. All of the bungalows (or the cheap ones at least) have a little space between the walls and the roof that is just big enough for a determined monkey to squeeze into. So there they are, sleeping away, when all of a sudden 6 or 8 monkeys start jumping on their tin roof and sticking their heads in from the tops of the walls. From our vantage point it was pretty hilarious. We heard booming and laughing and screaming for a good 15 minutes as the girls tried unsuccessfully to scare the monkeys away by banging their big water bottles together. Finally they gave up and escaped from the hut. No real harm done.
The pack bounded through the bungalows a bit more then slowly made their way. There had to have been at least 25 of them. Our friend Ben Hanna later told us that last time he was in Ton Sai he was out climbing for the day and the monkeys came in, drank all of his orange juice and pooped all over all of his clothes. Needless to say we have started storing all of our food in a big plastic container and are keeping our clothes zipped in our bags when we are out for the day.
Unfortunately, it’s not just at the hut that monkeys can be a problem, its’ also at the crag. A few evenings ago we were coming back from Eagle Wall passing by Fire Wall and the infamous Groove Tube. It is a very popular 6a route that always has a wait. We hop up to the belay station, rack up and squeeze on just before dusk. Kyle starts leading the route and I am belaying. Since it is almost dusk all the rest of the climbers are heading back to the beach. As they are packing up a little monkey appears and they scare it away but hitting a big stick against the rock. “Careful” they tell me, “that little guy will steal your stuff right out from under you.” Here I am trying to belay, hands are tied, attention needs to be on keeping Kyle safe and I realize that we have strewn all of our shoes, sunglasses, snacks, etc. all over the place in easy reach of the monkeys. The other climbers leave me the stick so I can belay and whack if necessary. Luckily that doesn’t happen, though I continue to glance worriedly in the monkey’s direction for the remainder of Kyle’s lead. As soon as I am on the climb and I am a few feet above my clip Kyle calls out “hold on a second, there is a monkey on the route, you may want to stay there.” Great, I am going to get freaked out by a monkey and take a nasty lead fall, that’s just what I want. Again, luckily the little guy was well above me at the anchor station and was nowhere to be found by the time I ascended.
Moral of the story—monkeys are cute in theory, frightening in practice. Never look them in the eyes!