Friday, November 28, 2008

Manhandled by Apes

Two days ago I climbed to the top of the rock of Gibraltar to observe the wild Barbary apes in their natural habitat. They're really tail-less macaques, the only wild monkeys in all of Europe, and they're known for stealing food from tourists.

I followed a narrow trail near the summit and found myself surrounded by a small group. They were busily chattering, nibbling on fruit, and grooming each other. I pulled out my sketchbook and started drawing them. They're awfully shy about eye contact, so I used the sidelong glance technique that had worked earlier with gorillas (see previous post).

One of the juveniles perched behind me, watching over my shoulder, commenting on my technique to his compatriots. All of the sudden he leaped onto my shoulder. I held my breath. He watched every move of my hands, and then started grooming my neck and reaching down my shirt with his little cold fingers.

He dug into my pockets and found a couple pieces of a cracker. Then his friends came over. The guy on my shoulder must have wanted to mark me as his own, because he sent a little jet of pee down my neck.

video

When they realized I didn't have any more food they scampered off and left me with their memorable aroma.

20 comments:

HigherDepths said...

Oh, to be peed on by a monkey instead of chained to a computer at work....

Erik Bongers said...

My god! These creatures look scary!

But I guess they are not that dangerous...if a monkey dares to jump on their shoulder.

Alandiras said...

Happy thanksgiving then!
Cute story there. Many more await of that I am certain. Glad yer back safe and sound. :)

TheRagingGod said...

Can't wait to hear more stories from your trip. Keep the beard, it gives off that "adventuring artist" vibe.

Jasons-Brush said...

Good to see your back. Wow, you really had a monkey on your back. Loved the video and the sketches.

Best Jason

DavidStill said...

I must say, that beard suits you rather well! I'm guessing Jeanette does not agree...

James Gurney said...

Jeanette says the beard made me look even more like the monkey.

Nick said...

Glad to see you back safe and sound James. You got off lightly, one of those little blighters once dumped something worse on me.

Jeanette said...

That's so funny. Sorry to laugh at your predicament. Great sketches and a memorable experience. I have a similar story that involves monkeys and the vinyl roof of a car...not a good mix

René PleinAir. said...

Could it be family, you both have a nice beard grow, hehehe.

Nice sketches, and welcome back.

Samizdat said...

I lovethe new beard...it suits you!

Paolo Rivera said...

Welcome home! Nice beard.

alicia said...

Is the moral of the story...

No matter what sort of monkey is looking over your shoulder, just keep on drawing.

Terry Daniels said...

I'm with the other commenters - keep the beard, it gives you a proper rustic "artist" look.

At least the monkeys didn't pee on the art itself. Or would that be such a bad thing? You make a mark, they make a mark, it's so delightfully primal. And you could pull out the stained sketches at parties! Or maybe not. See, this is why I don't host parties...

(I am reminded of Dr. Stephen Maturin climbing Gibraltar in Patrick O'Brian's books. I'll have to thumb back through the books to find that scene, and see if monkeys were mentioned.)

Timpa said...

Now you know what to fill your brushpen with!
And yea, that beard is amazing.

tlc illustration said...

Yes, good beard! And great story (as is your sketch in the previous entry). Talk about a thorough immersion experience. :-)

Munchanka said...

Fantastic! I hope Pixar does an ape film so we can observe these guys. Some friends of mine went to Bali where they said the forests were teaming with monkeys. Sounds like a hairy situation.

Patrick Waugh said...

Hey, Jim, glad you're back safely, nice beard!

Rachael Haupt said...

Amazing!

I have just finished a book about Gibralter and was wondering if you managed to see/find out about the "cave city" built by the Brits actually INSIDE the rock?

"An entire Northern Irish village was built in one very big tunnel: it had a Roman Catholic Church,a pub and a fish and chip shop."

-Outposts by Simon Winchester.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, everybody, for your encouragement about the beard....but old habits die hard.

Rachael, I didn't have much time there, so I didn't get into the British caves, but I did hike the Mediterranean Steps down the sheer east face of the rock and saw some of the Neolithic caves, including some of the last strongholds where the Neanderthals held out against the H. sapiens.