“Mother & Child”

"Mother & Child"

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
Padangtegal, Bali, Indonesia
November 4, 2015

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Copyright©2016 Douglas M. Landback

The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is a nature reserve and Hindu temple complex in the village of Padangtegal, Bali, Indonesia.

It’s a popular attraction receiving more than 10,000 visitors a month, and an important spiritual, educational, and conservation center for the village. And from what I could determine, pretty much the only source of employment.

Here’s the deal. It’s like a zoo, but it’s just monkeys. Specifically, crab-eating macaques, known locally as the Balinese long-tailed menace. There are no cages. These wild animals run around free to steal from, harass and (occasionally) flaunt their monkey junk to tourists.

At last count, the Monkey Forest had approximately 600 monkeys. There are five troops, each occupying different territories. And, like inter-city street gangs, conflicts between the troops are pretty much unavoidable. For example, one group must pass through another’s territory to reach the stream during the dry season, resulting in occasional scuffles, drive-by poo-flinging, and other acts of violence. Increasing population pressures also are bringing the troops into more frequent conflict.

Thanks to local entitlement programs, the park’s inhabitants are well-fed and receive excellent free health care. They are served sweet potato three times a day, along with papaya leaf, corn, cucumber, coconut, and other local fruit. Bananas are for sale in the park for visitors who wish to feed the monkeys. Monkeys like bananas. A lot.

But for the sake of the monkeys’ health, you’re prohibited from giving them peanuts, cookies, bread, and crack.

These monkeys have lost their fear of humans and are generally quite mellow if they can’t detect food on you. But if they sense you’re carrying, they’ll literally climb all over you, go through your pockets or purse, and grab any bags you may have on you. They are smart. They are agile and fast. Surprisingly strong. And they often work in teams.

When you’re not being shaken down for food or having your sunglasses stolen off your face, visitors can observe the monkeys’ daily activities – mating, fighting, grooming, urinating, and caring for their young – at close range. But beware. These damn dirty apes can bite. Some carry viruses that can be transferred to humans. For example, Herpes B virus. Common in crab-eating macaques and symptom-free. But in humans, it causes death.

Just a virus…or all part of their plan to gain control? You decide…

The Journey

On September 3, 2015, I embarked on a ridiculously ambitious solo adventure that took me to 25 countries on five continents, roughly 34,000 miles, traveling on two ships and nine flights, in just 94 days.

From my home city of Tampa, Florida, my adventure began with a flight to Manhattan. After a brief visit with family and friends, I was on a red-eye out of JFK to Dublin where I raised a pint (or two) and explored life along the River Liffey. Next, was London. (And more pints.) Abbey Road to Covent Garden, Hyde Park to Downing Street.

From there it was anchors aweigh. I boarded a ship that traversed the English Channel to Rotterdam. Then headed south on rough seas off the coast of France on route to Lisbon, Portugal. I spent the next week touring Spain’s Mediterranean coast, with stops in Cadiz, Almeria, Cartegena, and Barcelona, plus Gibraltar and the beautiful island of Mallorca.

Next was Italy. Florence, Rome, Naples and Sicily. Into the Ionian Sea with a stop at Corfu, Greece. Up the Adriatic, along the stunning Dalmatian Coast. Kotor, Montenegro. Split and Dubrovnik, Croatia.

I eventually arrived in Venice on October 3rd, exactly one month into my journey. The ship then headed south southeast, through the Suez Canal under the watchful eye of well-armed Egyptian military, and into the Red Sea. Then up the Gulf of Aqaba to Jordan and the Lost City of Petra.

The ship then returned to the Red Sea, passing safely between Yemen and Somalia (thanks to a naval escort). Then into the Gulf of Aden to Oman, with stops in Salalah and Muscat.

The ship crossed the Arabian Sea to India where I was able to visit Goa, Mangalore and Kochi. Across the Laccadive Sea to Colombo, Sri Lanka. West through the Bay of Bengal into the Andaman Sea to the Malacca Strait, making port in Malaysia’s exotic cities of Penang and Kuala Lumpur. The next day, the ship arrived at its final port of Singapore on October 31st.

A mere 50 hours later, I was stepping off a jet on Bali. There I enjoyed four days absorbing the Indonesian culture and inhaling volcanic ash from Mt. Rinjani on nearby Lomboc. With the airport closed indefinitely and all

flights grounded, the remainder of my trip was at risk. But I got lucky, catching a flight the next day on what would be one of only two flights to escape Bali for the next two weeks.

I spent the next nine days Down Under, touring Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.

I flew from Sydney to Honolulu, crossed the International Dateline, and landed 12 hours before I had left. Three days later, I was winging my way to San Diego for the final leg of my adventure.

Aboard yet another ship, I enjoyed stops along the Mexican Riviera; Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. Central America’s Guatemala and Costa Rica. Through the Panama Canal. And I wrapped up my journey with a hot, sweaty day spent on the streets of Cartagena, Colombia.

The ship then headed out across the Caribbean Sea, around the tip of Cuba, arriving in Ft. Lauderdale on December 5th. Six hours later, I was back home with 70 lbs. of dirty laundry and the desire to do it all again.

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