I came back from the river on Saturday night and realised nobody else was home. Faced with the prospect of an evening in my own company (believe me, there is nothing worse) I decided it would be a good move to get in touch with my neighbour Pete and see if I could tag along with him when he headed out, as he does most evenings, to have a couple of drinks at the local watering hole.

Pete is good company. He has good stories to tell and on Saturday he told me about a time he came face to face with a monkey in India.

It so happens that, back in the sixties Pete used to run overland trips from Liverpool to India. They loaded up a couple of Land Rovers and a camper van kind of thing with provisions and a dozen or so adventurous spirits hopped aboard. Their journey took them down through southern Europe, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, along the Khyber Pass into Pakistan and then into India.

It goes without saying that you would have no chance today of repeating this epic journey. For one thing it would be too dangerous but, back in the sixties when Pete was in his mid 20´s things were a little easier. It was still risky though and so, as a precaution, they brought along a pump action shot gun and a .38 pistol.

Anyway, back to the monkey. Their littles convoy arrived in the Taj Mahal which, in those days, was far more accessible and less of the tourist draw than it has since become. They drove right inside and made camp there, amazing as that may now seem. In the cool dawn, with everything shrouded by a heavy mist, Pete unzips his mosquito net and pops his head out of his tent only to discover, a big male monkey staring him right in the eye. It was about 15 feet away.

By the time I heard this part of the story I had downed a couple of pints and Pete, with a couple vino tintos inside him, had travelled through time and was right back inside the Taj Mahal during that brief moment when only two things existed; Pete and this monkey. Each was staring into the eyes of the other with unrelenting intensity and, while this was going on, time simply stopped.

The monkey was clearly top dog in those parts and showed the self-assurance of one who will simply not back away.  Pete, for his part, remained unfazed. He had the confidence of a man who sleeps with a loaded shotgun in his tent and who had it close to hand.

For what may have seemed like an eternity but was probably only a short moment, the standoff between these two continued. And then, emerging from the mist, came a whole troop of monkeys. There were young and old, babies suspended beneath their mothers´ tummies, others bareback riding on their mothers´ backs. The adult male locked into a visual dual with Pete was simply the escort and protector of this group. It is probably fair to say that that he was overseeing their safe passage of his relatives in much the same way as Pete himself oversaw the safe overland passage of the band of adventurers he led from Liverpool.

In a matter of a few moments the troop was gone, then the dominant male withdrew without a sound and vanished also.

Pete spoke about this as if it had happened only yesterday.


In the original telling of this tale, Pete suggested he had come face to face with a baboon but baboons seem to be restricted in their distribution to Africa and Arabia. I would suggest that he might have instead come across a rhesus monkey which are commonly encountered in this region. This photograph was pinched from a story in the telegraph which is well worth reading. Here is the link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/11386681/Indian-brides-wanting-perfect-wedding-day-hiring-large-monkeys-to-scare-off-smaller-ones.html