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Saturday, 05 July 2008

Rumble in the Jungle - Page 2

Written by Phil Goldman
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If my first three weeks in the Thai jungle taught me one thing, it was this: I was not prepared, mentally or emotionally, to be a guide. There was nothing I could really do about that, and while it’s never stopped me from doing anything before (and it certainly wasn’t going to stop me now), I figured the least I could do was be better equipped.

Earlier in the week, I took a hike on my own, on a trail I had never been on before. I was passing a deep ravine when I heard something crunch. It was slight and far off, but it was something. I decided to wait around and see if anything turned up.

After a little while there was another crunch. This time is was closer. Then there was another, and then more. The sounds multiplied, got louder and closer. The air filled with the stink of animal. My heart started racing. Blood pounded in my ears. For all I knew, it could have been a herd of elephants. I crouched down behind a tree. If a herd of elephants suddenly found me in the middle of nowhere, they could get startled, and God knows what they might do.

Hundreds of crunches spread throughout the ravine, just below the ridge, just below my feet. Then, up over the rim they came: eighty, ninety, maybe a hundred monkeys ─ Macaques ─ chattering, running, jumping, tumbling. I stayed absolutely still, holding my breath. I didn’t want to scare them off. In the midst of the ruckus, I sensed something next to me. I turned slowly and looked down. It was a fuzzy, gray, wide-eyed, baby Macaque, standing stock-still, staring at me. Maybe he was frightened or confused. Maybe he was just curious. I held out my hand as though I was offering him some food. He came to me tentatively and sniffed at my hand. I opened it. He jumped back, then slowly returned. He probed my palm for a while and then climbed on, crawling up my arm. He sat on my shoulder and surveyed his new view. I didn’t move a muscle. Then he climbed around the back of my neck to my other shoulder. I extended my arm straight out and he crawled to the end, cradled in my palm.

I heard a growl and it was then that I saw his mother, chest puffed and fangs bared. I slowly backed away, gibbering sounds that I felt would be soothing to a monkey, but she wasn’t buying it. I quickly, but gently, lowered her baby to the ground. Once she saw he was safe, Mom came tearing after me. I turned and ran, but she was too fast. She leapt onto my calf and took a bite. I fell to the ground, yelling and kicking wildly. I managed to shake her loose, then jumped up and ran away. After about a half a kilometer, when I felt safe enough to stop, I checked the wound. It wasn’t too deep, just a graze. I rinsed it off at a nearby stream and made a mental note to visit the local clinic and maybe buy some antibiotic cream.

* * *

Back on the trail with the Danes, my hand was still raised as I waited for another sound…

Still nothing. We moved on, maybe three steps, then Tcht! Alright, I thought, there was definitely something out there and it was definitely worth waiting for.

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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