April 07, 2008

the baboon experience

we were just entering the Cape Point National Park, driving along talking about what animals we hope to enjoy seeing. then up ahead dash and i notice a whole family of baboons, walking along both sides of the road! we inform the children with great excitement and take out the camera. in a moment, we are able to witness and marvel at several mama baboons with babies grasping on for dear life -- and right after i snap a photo of this wonder, i hear dash yelling, 'Dyami, close your window!' dash noticed a papa baboon approaching our car in a way that one knows is full of danger! but dyami couldn't coordinate himself quickly enough and in a split second that baboon was on our car, with its long claws clinging on the inside of dyami's window and its body pushing its way through the open space! a moment later he was inside the car, sitting on dyami and ayana's lap, searching for food! while i frantically put away the camera, dash helped dyami open his car door. as soon as he opened his car door, i opened mine and climbed out - 2 more baboons, one of which was a baby, climbed in, and the first one climbed through the front to grab the small bag with a muffin in it -- he stopped by my feet, just outside the car, with the bag in his hands and grunted with his vicious-looking teeth at me as if to say, 'Don't even think about it!' the children sat traumatized while dash helped the other 2 baboons find their way back out through the back door.

we sat there in shock. with the windows now rolled up and tears in the children's eyes, dash and i watched in amazement how the baboon craftfully tore apart the bag and ensured that he ate every morsel of that muffin. he sat there on the side of the road with great contentment and satisfaction. dyami was so upset; the second baboon walked away with his bag of colored pencils. if you know dyami, you know he loves his art materials, and this seemed more painful to his heart than the actual scare of the baboons' claws and teeth in his face. the driver behind us walked over to collect the ripped-apart bag of pencils, and as he handed them to dyami, he cautioned us about having any food in the car with open windows (we smiled because it was obvious now how to protect ourselves around the baboons' territory).

this experience was like an initiation into the world of baboons. we drove on like soldiers that survived an attack. dash and i kept laughing -- it was such a crazy experience! we felt grateful that none of us panicked and that God protected us from any attack by the baboons. the children wanted to go home and implored us not to take them to a game reserve in the future!

onward we drove, determined to reach cape point where the atlantic and indian oceans meet. the hike up the mountain was refreshing and full of beauty, with a quick glimpse of a few harmless lizards, but when we came back to rest at the welcome center, a baboon's quest for food was in full effect. he went right for a lady's unopened snack bags - he surprised her as she walked around a bend and quickly grabbed 2 out of 4 bags. he sat eating them for a while; when he finished he walked around until found a woman's pocketbook sitting on a ledge by itself. this is where the show began to attract many people. he sat on the ledge and dumped out all of the contents while he searched for what he sensed was in there: a pear, a box of chocolates and a container of butter. for a moment he walked a short distance away from it -- the owner of the bag quickly ran to grab her pocketbook but instantly the baboon went after her and knocked her down, scratching her back as she stumbled, and took the pocketbook back from her. that's when the crowd began to disperse. it was all fun and games until she interrupted his groove and disturbed what was now his possession until he decided when he was done with it. that lady was shaking!

the lesson to the children was clear: leave the animals alone and they will leave us alone. the baboon didn't want to hurt anyone or bother anybody; he just wanted to eat his food.

domani now tells his brother and sister how he's gonna do some karate moves on the baboon next time, as he skillfully demonstrates his power of punching and kicking -- but ayana and dyami are quick to tease by saying to him, "Domani, you are all strong and courageous now, but when the baboon was on our laps you were like 'aaaah!!'" :-)