Once, on a trek to Peru with my friend, we decided to visit the infamous Monkey Island, known locally as Isla de los Monos. Our journey began in the jungle outside of the small Peruvian town, Puerto Maldonado. We left most of our gear behind and set off for the docks on the Madre de Dios River at the edge of town. It took some time to find a local willing to take us to the island. Once we did, we had to buy the gas for his boat and to wait for his family, which we would drop off along the way.
We also stopped off at one of his friends who was kind enough to give us fruit. I never liked grapefruit until I tried the ones he had gathered. Amazing, I guess they are best at the source. The friend also offered us some bananas for the trip. It seemed like a good idea at the time, given our destination. Now I know better...
Making our way down the river was quite peaceful. From the safety of the boat we saw an alligator and some turtles. There was not much to be seen in the water, however, given its thick brown color. The views of the Amazon jungle were enough to keep us content as we puttered down the murky waters.
Finally, as we rounded another bend in the river, our destination revealed itself. La Isla de Los Monos. Monkey Island at last... As we landed on the banks of the island, we were greeted by the ominous presence of a shipwreck and other signs warning of the dangerous nature of the island. Paying no heed to signs we ventured deeper into island. We were on a quest to meet the native monkeys, this was no time to turn back.
Our "guide," or more appropriately, "the non-english speaking local guy with a boat willing to take a couple gringos to the monkeys for a little extra cash", pointed out overgrown path leading into the island and we set off. The path had its challenges. Trees had fallen to block our way. Portions were flooded, requiring us to float on make-shift log boats to get across.
The monkeys!! Deep into the island we finally made it to the playground of the monkeys, who like to be called chicos, apparently. The monkeys were having fun playing, swinging in the trees. There were lots of cute little monkeys.. some bigger monkeys.. climbing, swinging, baby monkeys...
All was good. Our mission.. complete. Our adventure.. just beginning...
So our "guide" pointed out a monkey who looked innocent enough. We thought we should befriend our hosts by offering them some of the bananas we brought along. After all, what kind of monkey wouldn't enjoy a banana? As it turns out that monkey... Too good for our bananas? Well, lucky for us there were plenty of less stubborn monkeys. We soon discovered, however, it was just good judgment by a wise monkey.
I went about making friends, big and small, handing bananas to their little paws. This pleasant playtime with the monkeys was suddenly violently interrupted by the shout, "Malo! Malo! Malo!" We quickly learned some monkeys have serious fangs that can easily match their furious temper. The monkey was charging and we were running. I took off in the direction of our "guide," unfortunately my friend did the opposite.
The monkey stopped chasing us and things calmed a bit, but that left my friend cut off from us and the path to safety. The "Malo" now had him backing into the rest of the monkeys. We quickly armed ourselves sticks, throwing some at the "Malo" to keep him distracted from my friend while we figured out what to do. During this the "guide" tells of a time in the past that his friend angered the monkeys of this island. They surrounded him. Shredded his pants and went to work on his legs. They have sharp claws to go with the teeth.
We work out a plan for us to bait the monkey to give my friend the time and space needed to sneak past the "Malo" through the dense jungle. On the upside, my friend rejoined us, however, the monkeys attention was no longer divided. It took quite a few well aimed strikes with sticks and a good deal of retreating before the "Malo" finally was satisfied and left us, figuring we knew the way off his island.
It was a relief to see our boat once again. As we caught our breath before launching the boat, I took note of a sign, "Do Not Feed the Monkeys!" Only later did we learn that was our big mistake. We broke jungle etiquitte by distributing food to the lower ranking monkeys. A duty solely reserved to the dominant monkey. Now it seems clear the first monkey we tried to feed was likely well aware of this custom, and properly left the banana to be distributed according to custom by the "Malo."
So heed the signs next time you venture into the jungle or like us you'll be hoping there aren't more monkeys than you can shake a stick at.
- Tale Provided Courtesy of smallChaos Adventures™ -