Monday, August 08, 2005

Monkey Business



We are not quite in India anymore and we have found a little piece of heaven.

McLeod Ganj is the home of the Tibetan government in exile and as such lots hippied out travelers come here to be close to the Dalai Lama. He's currently in Switzerland as far as we know. Regardless, the town on the edge of the Himalayas is much cooler than Delhi (with it's current heat index of 110F) and there are no monkey gangs like in Shimla.

Shimla was an interesting place to spend a few days, although I don't think we need to see any more monkeys for a while. Monkeys are interesting, monkeys are cute, monkeys are smart... and in Shimla they are gettig a little revenge on the human interlopers who have taken over their habitat.

One of the main places we wanted to visit in Shimla was the Hanuman monkey temple, set a top a forrested hill. Walking up the steep track towards the temple, we passed shops selling cups of tea, trinkets, and sticks. As we passed by, one man gave an enthusiastic salespitch in favor of stick rental. His heavily accented English was difficult to understand. Chris asked if he was promoting the sticks as helpful for climbing the steep path. "No, he said we could use them as protection against monkeys along the way."

We passed on the stick rental.

Halfway up the hill, the mist rolled in and swallowed us. We could see a few trees, a bit of the path, and a couple of vendors selling monkey snack food. We also passed on the monkey feed. The path narrowed and monkeys appeared. Mommas with babies clinging to them sat on rock piles. Males strutted and fought each other. And then they turned on us.

Our first monkey interaction was with one who charged us and hissed. An Indian man reached down as if he was picking up a rock and the monkey backed off. Nice to know that the same trick that works against maddened dogs in Mexico also works for aggressive monkeys in India. I picked up a handful of small stones, just in case.

We walked a bit further through the mist. I was ahead of Chris when I heard a screech and a shout. Twirling around, Chris had a monkey on his back. She was trying to steal his backpack while her baby clinged on. She jumped off again and I bounced a couple of rocks off the pavement to show that while stickless, we were still armed.

Monkeys kept their distance until the top of the hill. Then we were surrounded. The Indian family who had also been climbing upwards laughed and pointed at our bags, shaking their heads. Bags and no sticks! Bad combination. Charged by another monkey, we decided not to go any higher. We never made it to the Hanuman Temple.

Later in the day I put my hand on Chris' shoulder and he jumped, thinking it was another monkey.

Now we are in a place with few if any monkeys and have a vegetarian Tibetan cooking class in a couple of hours. Like I said, it's a bit of heaven.

3 Comments:

Blogger Ms. NOLA said...

Sounds heavenly! I can't wait to hear what kind of celestial food you learn how to prepare.

August 08, 2005 2:37 PM  
Blogger Jennifer P. said...

Class 1 was all about momos. Tibetan dumplings. Yum yum yum.

The next class we will learn how to make several Tibetan soups. The grand finale is a lesson specializing in five kinds of Tibetan bread.

We are already fantasizing about a momo party in New Orleans at Christmas. RSVP's accepted. :D

August 09, 2005 3:13 AM  
Blogger Ms. NOLA said...

If I am home, you can count me in. I will try to educate myself in the ways of equally cute and tasty foods that I could bring to contribute to the momo party :)

August 09, 2005 2:58 PM  

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