Monkey Madness

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Latimer: Who knew walking up a Chinese mountain to stay the night in a monastery could lead to close encounters of the wild monkey kind? I sure as hell didn’t, but it happened!

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Our Chinese guide said the monkeys of Mt Emei Shan were well-known for jumping onto people’s backs, opening their bags and stealing food (and anything else they could get their hands on). Sometimes they mistook phones and cameras for food and on realising that they couldn’t eat the precious electronics and priceless memories, they’d toss them over the edge of the cliffs.

Nice!

The monkeys had adapted to the influx of people climbing the mountain to see all the temples and monasteries. They were being opportunists – ‘okay cousin humans, you can traipse around our home, but be aware, we are going to steal your crap!’ And, because the monkey’s had no fear of human’s anymore, the human’s had turned them into a tourist attraction (but of course!).

You can buy nuts to feed the monkeys so that they’ll jump up on your back and you can get a photo with them. Wooden bridges have been built along the mountain to allow people the chance of a close encounter… and there are even people called ‘Monkey Police’ (who scare the monkeys away for you if you are about to be robbed).

The monkeys are so unafraid of humans that they get mad when you try and stop them stealing and they get pretty aggressive. So, we were warned to be careful. We were given bamboo sticks to scare them away (not hit them, just smack the ground and scare them). The sticks were cool because walking along a mountain is not the same without a stick!

I didn’t want a monkey to jump on me, but I did want to see them…

On the walk up the mountain the only monkeys I saw were on the ‘encounter bridges’.

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A few people from my group went out – brave souls. One had a monkey jump up onto his back and the rest of us started shouting – “He’s trying to open your bag! He’s trying to open your bag!”

Seriously the monkey was pulling at the zippers; he knew exactly what to do. He didn’t have any luck though, our group member sauntered back, indicating his double-zipped super bag and in a cool American accent, smiled; “This isn’t my first rodeo!” 🙂

I was half-disappointed and half-relieved not to have had more of a monkey encounter. We all made it safely to the monastery on the mountain – the walk to which nearly ended me! I thought, ‘they’ll have to leave me here, I’ll learn Chinese and live off the land!’ – it was rough!

There’s a small kitchen/café near the monastery – the oddest most remote place – and they had the best pancakes, and half the world thinks so too judging by all the messages people had left on the wall – all talking about the pancakes.

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I found some Irish one’s, so that made me smile – these girls, they have v.good Irish!

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It’s a husband and wife duo that run this kitchen (and live above it); I got some photos of the kitchen, xie xie (thank you :-)) to the woman for letting me! Isn’t it an amazing place?

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And this was the monastery we stayed overnight in…

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We stayed one night then headed back down the mountain in the wee hours of the morning – I thought that was the end of my potential monkey encounters… but OH no… they’d only just begun.

The monkeys are very active in the morning as it turns out. There were big groups of them. By the time I’d realised that we were surrounded I was at the back of the group with the tour guide and local guide, when holy crap this big angry male monkey appeared (he was massive!).

I fear feeling fear in front of animals, because I’m always thinking; ‘they can smell my fear!’

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All I could think was the warnings we’d been given; if they jump on you don’t scream (yeah right!) and don’t show them your teeth (that’s an act of aggression in monkey speak).

The tour guide tried to scare the monkey off with the bamboo sticks, and you know what this monkey did? He paused, took one measured look at the stick, and the man to which it was attached, and seemed to say; ‘I’ll have you!’ and charged back at the man, swiping his hand at the stick, trying to whip it away from the guide!

The guide managed to ‘scare’ the monkey away in the end and I scuttled off down the path. It was pretty scary!

Monkeys (and apes) are so intelligent; there’s a new series on the BBC called Monkey Planet and it highlights some really interesting traits that monkeys and apes have! When I watched it I kept getting flashbacks to the smart, scary, monkeys on the mountain!!

Too busy for tea? Never!

Rain pounded against the patio window, streaking down the glass to pool on the mossy flagstones outside. Latimer made a face out at it.

With a sigh, she swung away to wander around the kitchen, idly flicking open the cookery books and poking at the potted plant in the sink. She paused when there was a series of loud bangs above her head and someone thundered down the stairs.

“Ridley?” She peered out through the white door into the hall. “You’re being a terrible hostess, you know! I had to make my own tea! Any biscuits?”

There was silence.

Latimer hopped out into hall and down to the living room; steam rose up from her cup obscuring her view. When it cleared, she raised an eyebrow at the mess strewn across the floor. She perched on the edge of an armchair and watched Ridley rush around. The other girl was packing a massive bindle with endless pieces of clothing, creased maps, sunglasses, teabags and thick guide books.

She shrugged into a Burberry-style coat, straightening it over her shoulders and making sure the stiff collar was flicked down. Pinning her M. Latimer-Ridley badge to her chest, she patted it and smiled over.

Latimer sipped her tea. “What’cha doing?”

Ridley slipped on a pair of purple ear muffs. She narrowed her eyes on her friend, her lips thinning.

“You’re not ready…why aren’t you ready?” She started flapping her arms. “We have to leave in the next few hours, there’s no time for tea breaks!”

Latimer scoffed. “There’s always time for tea, ole Bean.”

Glaring, the blonde girl tried to fold her arms, but the ballooning sleeves were too thick, instead she just held them in the air and started to tap her foot. Her fancy heeled boots made loud thumps against the wooden floor as little flecks of dirt dropped off them.

“So,” Latimer took another slow sip of her tea. “Where are we going again?”

Ridley’s mouth dropped open. Her ear muffs slipped down onto her forehead, obscuring her view. Momentarily blinded, she flailed in a panic, then shoved them back up.

“What do you mean where are we going?” She spluttered. “On the internet hike!”

“Oh yeah…that…”

That…” Ridley muttered. She pointed at the table where a large poncho style jacket was folded. “I bought you a coat! I hear when the nights roll in, the internet can get quite cold! Something to do with iCloud cover.”

Latimer crossed her legs and sat back. “You do know it’s only the 25th of November? The first of December isn’t for another week, really. We have plenty of time.”

“Oh…” Ridley slumped down into a chair. Her coat puffed up with the movement, she flattened it down with her hands and leaned forward to glare at her mobile on the coffee table. “Stupid phone, with the wrong date. It’s been reprogrammed, how could this have happened!”

“How indeed…” Latimer hid her grin behind her tea cup.

Ridley shot her a suspicious look, she unzipped her coat and shed the extra layering. It fell like a shell to the floor.

“So…the blog tour isn’t for another few days then…” She pulled off her ear muffs, twisting them around in her hands with a sigh.

“Nope, but when it does happen it should be fun!”

“True…” Ridley pouted, she was quiet for a minute. “Did you make me tea?”

“Yeah,” Latimer said, standing up. “Come along, Ridders, you can show me where you’ve hidden the hobnobs.”