A stony demon stood in the middle of the path, baring his fangs to remind us of impending perils that lay ahead. The moss infested kingdom was home to lawless brutes that followed their own code-of-conduct.
Moments later, I looked back towards the entrance; a tourist appeared, swinging his camera in one hand and clutching a bunch of bananas in the other one.
Pointing at the sauntering sitting duck, my friend,Shannon said, “Is he stu-”
The man screamed, the bananas were snatched, and his noble quest was over. Only bravest, rather naïve, visitors would think of feeding the monkeys. Surely, there was a symbiotic relationship between the monkeys and the banana vendor, who stood at the main entrance of the forest.
The stony path led to a serpent that held in its coils meters wide pool of water; a pool that indulged the juvenile primates in diving games, that was common amidst their human counterparts. Branches of dead trees stood next to the water providing them a perfect perch. Beside the pool laid a feast of yam and sweet potatoes. While the mature males of the troupe were busy stuffing their faces, the youngsters monkeyed around in water. Next to a massive banyan tree, not far from the water,were rocks. It was the place to dry up in the sun.
The tailed acrobats had us under their spell and we watched them for a while. Suddenly, one of them dashed towards me. Having worn a white shirt, there was no possibility that I would let a soaking wet feral monkey on me. I swung my shoulder bag and deflected the marauder, who quickly deflected atop Shannon. After thoroughly wiping himself on Shannon’s hair and shirt, he left.
On walking a bit further, I heard a monkey squeal. No sooner had I turned my head than he jumped on my back. He rummaged through my bag. As instructed by the handlers, I avoided any sharp movements. We handed him a piece of Fisherman’s mints. He licked it, frowned and dropped it to the ground. He already had fresh breath. Soon, he lost interest in us, and I lost my latest live accessory.
The protected forest area of about 27 acres was in the village of Padangtegal,Ubud. Four groups of more than 300 crab eating macaques call the sanctuary home. Islanders believe that forests are an abode of spirits. May be that was why Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal or Temple of Death, dedicated to Dewa Siwa or Shiva, was built in the forest.
On our way to the Temple of Death , we came across a mother macaque with a baby clung to her. She sat and dozed on a platform soaking in the sunlight that filtered through rainforest canopy. She looked content and reminded me of Madonna and the Child. No wonder they call her home the Sacred Monkey Forest!