We had been up since 3.30am and driving since just before dawn, in search of Africa’s iconic wildlife. Splitting the day into two and keeping out of the searing midday heat, we decided to take a post lunch snooze before our afternoon/evening drive. The safari tents in the southern section of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park were our base for this trip. The canvas and surrounding bush provided shade and ideal cool sleeping conditions. There could be a common theme in some of my stories as I recount them. I lay on my bed drifting in & out sleep and on his bed lay my, co-pilot & father-in-law Barry, very much deep in sleep. Above his snoring my sub conscious was rattled, literally by rattling and banging. Half-awake I glanced out of the tent and over towards our separate kitchen. The rattling was caused by monkeys climbing & swinging on the metal kitchen shutters which we had mistakenly left open. The banging was cups, pans, even the kettle being scattered around our kitchen. We had inquisitive & hungry guests. A whole troop of vervet monkeys were in there. One eating an apple, one trying to open the fridge and one emptying the contents of our sugar tin into his mouth. I chased them off, like the saying, after the horse has bolted, and locked the kitchen up.
That evening sitting on the tent’s wooden deck we laughed at the site of the monkeys in our kitchen, knowing we had got off lightly, and acknowledged we must always ensure everything is always locked. Fetching refreshments of whisky & beer, I tossed a packet of cheesy puff chips (crisps) to Barry. It was a poor pass, what we call a hospital pass in rugby, where one player puts his teammate in danger. As the chips landed on the table, they were quickly intercepted by a vervet monkey, who at speed made his way up a tree with his prize. He sat above us, taunting us with them. It rained cheesy puffs as he threw some, spat most, only occasionally eating some. Barry, like a cross Dr Dolittle, Barry politely scalded the culprit. Standing up, whisky in hand, with a slightly raised voice he used some choice language and threats whilst pointing up into the tree. The monkey stared down, his blue balls and yellow cheese dust covered fur prominent in the fading light, seemed to be mocking him. I had a feeling he was not finished with us.
The next afternoon we returned from our game drive. We had the most amazing sightings & encounters on that trip. From wildebeest to wild dogs. Monkeys erased from our memory. Unzipping the tent there was a fowl odour coming from inside, clothes were scattered around; my map book was shredded, and my passport had bite marks on it. In the bathroom all the toilet rolls were wedged into the toilet. The scene resembled some wild student party. Assessing the damage, just about all the clothes, a wash bag, including many pills & tablets, were Barry’s. And the smell, well there was a monkey turd in a shoe also belonging to him and another in his bed. The smell indicated to me that vervets eat far more than just cheesy puffs. Two things to this story, lock everything, and I mean everything. Secondly, do not throw idle threats at a monkey who knows where you are staying. He will shit in your bed.