Saturday, November 3, 2012

Monkey Thieves

A moment out for the monkeys. They have lots of little back faced monkeys almost everywhere we have been. They are champion thieves, lightning fast and opportunists. One lady was sitting on the veranda, sipping a drink when suddenly a monkey appeared, stole the cherry out of the drink, did not spill the drink, and scampered away. Another time they had left the doors open to the restaurant because it was outdoor bar-b-cue night and a monkey dashed in the room, onto the table, and snitched a single roll. One of the jobs the Maasai do is scare away the monkeys. If we jump up to shoo away a monkey it pretty much chitters at us, moves about two feet, and awaits the next opportunity. A Maasai man just has to walk close with a sling shot in his hand before the monkey skitters away. One room we were in the porter specifically mentioned making sure the doors were locked because otherwise the monkeys could get in. Drivers never leave the top of the van up when they're not around because the monkeys will get in and mess things up. One persistent monkey tried to get in our van while we were eating lunch one day so David stood and ate lunch next to it. They also kept creeping up on Jeff and I so the ranger was trying to get the whole herd to move on. I must admit, I rarely exercise so much while eating.

Afterwards, the ranger took us for a walk down the river to the Tanzanian border, watching for crocodiles. It had warmed up considerably, so the only one we saw was a large, brown gnarly one half in the water and half out. Most of the crocodiles would be submerged at that time, escaping the heat and we never saw another one. We did get to see a large family if hippos bathing in the water and resting on the banks. At one point just down the river a bit we saw a mother and a pretty small baby frolicking in the water. Small, you realize, is relative. The baby was probably well over a hundred pounds.

We continued roaming the savanna plains, searching for elusive animals, generally marked by a large convention of vans. We found some wandering giraffes and sleepy hyenas along with the numerous members of the antelope family. As the afternoon wore on, the hot sun melted behind the clouds, eventually morphing in dark storm clouds. Several thunder claps later and we had a downpour. Now most animals just continued eating, didn't really change much but the wildebeest's had a different strategy. They don't like the rain pelting their face so they turn their backs toward it. They also move into a long single line! Animals that had been grazing just moments before we're suddenly lined up shoulder to shoulder, facing away from the rain. It's a great strategy to keep rain out of your face but lousy for keeping track of predators sneaking up from behind. Fortunately the zebras stayed on duty, keeping an eye out on the range.

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