Monday, July 11, 2011

Twisted Vagabondage Tale From Tanzania

"No more monkeys jumpin' on the bed!" is a cute children's song. I should know, having two boys who adore the tune as well as acting like monkeys, which often includes jumping on my bed before sunrise. Little did I know I'd have actual monkeys jumping on my bed while traveling abroad - well, not actual monkeys, baboons rather.

My husband and I were vacationing in Tanzania, which is on Africa's East Coast next to Kenya. Crossing the border from Kenya to Tanzania is not unlike crossing from Mexico to Guatemala, where one moves from shitty bathrooms to even shittier bathrooms or mere holes in the dirt.

Tanzania is significantly poorer than Kenya, which is saying a lot. I remember how our Rover bounced over the unpaved road to get to our hotel. This particular resort overlooked a deep valley. Within this valley, Maasai tribesmen roamed with zebras, elephants, lions and cheetahs - plus baboons. We were told upon check-in that we must keep our hotel room doors shut under all circumstances. Why? Because otherwise the baboons would invade.

Now, I'm already freaky about keeping windows closed all night at home. Not to keep animals out, or at least not the safari kind, but to dissuade the gun-toting variety that lurk in my hood covering the walls with graffiti. Every night, I descend the stairs to ensure the first floor windows are locked. By that time, my own little monkeys are safely asleep as I wanna keep them.

However, this was Africa. My children were yet to be born and we were pretty far from urban California. We were in a luxurious hotel that was surrounded on all sides by high walls. Weren't the clerks at the front desk overreacting? Plus, it was sweltering out. By the time we returned from a full day of safari and stuffing our bellies with roast meats and veggies for dinner, we could hardly recall the warnings about keeping our balcony doors shut.

My husband and I slid beneath our mosquito netting and fell into a deep sleep. The night was hot, but we were well-rested by morning. We were ready to enjoy the hearty breakfast that none of the hotels along the road had ever failed to provide.

That was when I heard the pitter-pattering rush of feet across the hotel's tin roof. The same feet ran down the hallway outside our room then over the roof again. It sounded like an army of wild barefooted children. I wondered if some of the Danish or English tourists we'd met on the way, who'd brought along their kids, were suffering from a pint-size mutiny worthy of Lord of the Flies.

The pitter-pattering continued. The problem was it was now inside our hotel room. “Get out! Get out!” I heard my husband yell in a gruff voice I'd never heard him use before. I was still in bed with my view hampered by mosquito netting folds. I noticed tufts of black flying past. “They're in our room! In our room!” my husband shouted. It was then I realized we had primate guests. I braced myself for the blows and clawing, as I figured it was a matter of seconds before animals assaulted our bed and started, well, jumping.

The pitter-pattering of soft five-toed feet like my own sounded near my head. I sat up. Noticed my husband was lobbing anything within reach (mostly towels) at the baboons that had invaded our room. The baboons were dancing across the curtain rods. A couple of them crapped on our suitcases. I'll never forget the look of their small leathery black fingers curled around the bags that held my toiletries with their little opposable thumbs firmly in place, pulling the luggage toward the open sliding-glass door.

“No!” I protested, while my husband threw more towels. The thought of going the rest of the trip without shampoo... but then I saw one of the animals had his clutches on my purse, which held my passport! “Stop! Stop!” I yelled, but these beasts had a couple more links to cross before being worthy of Dr. Leakey. Did I think they were going to heed my requests? My bags were being drawn out the window along with the culprits. Luckily, a few more lobs scared the primates off. They released their little hand-holds and vamoosed.

I quickly scurried about collecting my bags, which were now out on the balcony, and carried them back into the room. Then I plonked down upon the bed. My husband and I both breathed heavily, exhausted and scared from our baboon encounter. I stood and slid the glass door shut. Who were we to think we didn't need the advice of the front desk? Still, we were safe now.

Only then did I spot that same black human-like hand on the knob of the glass door. The hand slid it open and baboons recaptured our room! Once again, my husband was yelling “Get out! Get out!” Once again, the primates deposited feces on our stuff. Yet again, the baboons were clawing at my belongings. More towels were lobbed. Humans finally won the war and animals retreated. This time when I rose to shut the door, I put the lock securely into place.

Lara Sterling authors Twisted Vagabondage Tales for travelers who like it rough. She is prettier than Vagabonding author Rolf Potts (though Rolf is very pretty) and could kick his ass (though only if he'd like that). She has written for Playboy and Larry Flynt Publications but now hosts an online radio show and blogs at


  1. I am crying I am laughing so hard! I am definitely not made for this type of traveling! You can figure that out by reading the stories back on my blog. I have my hands full with two big German Shepherds. Hope you'll visit my blog and enjoy my stories as I enjoy yours. Donna

    I am tweeting this story. Too good not to share.

  2. Donna,
    I just read some of your blog. Thanks for the link. Lara does spin a good tale, but let's be realistic: once you've had a man in your bed a monkey is not really such a new experience. I shouldn't be talking like this to a grandma - then again, how'd you get to be a grandma?