Passing Time With Baboons

Like the tormented ghostly sailors of the legendary Flying Dutchman, we feared the Cape of Good Hope would be our purgatory, though it was not the treacherous waters that threatened a poor fate.

At the entrance to the Cape of Good Hope national park we spot a troop of Chacma baboons. We pull over to let Holly, our 18 month old, have a better look for she is most partial to all things simian. The baboons seem a safe distance away, tucked behind the fence of the ostrich farm. “I know”, think I, “I’ll get Holly out her seat so she can see them better”, at which juncture the plentiful road signs warning of ‘baboon danger’ had clearly not registered.

Merrily I busy myself unbuckling Holly’s seat and with child unrestrained I become aware of the alpha-male, comparable in size to Amy, our 8 year old, lumbering towards me with intent. I abort the removal of Holly from her seat with mild concern, shut her door and peg it round the other side of the car. Here I find my beloved, Andy, hanging out the driver’s door, eyes bulging with terror, rasping “I can’ t get out, I can’t get out”. “Get back in then!” screech I, helpfully. In his panic it doesn’t register that he still had his seat belt on, thus preventing his escape from the car! I notice, now, that the snarling baboon is sat inches from Andy in the passenger seat (me having thoughtfully left my door open for him), bearing his teeth at my beloved and rummaging through my bag. Somewhat unsure as to what to do for the best I momentarily climb in the back seat with the girls, where Amy wimpers hysterically and Holly looks bemused. I climb back out and suggest rather firmly that Andy get out the car and do something manly about removing the threatening primate! He has a jolly good attempt at shouting the baboon away, but alas the baboon just looks like he is about to rip my beloved’s arm off and beat him about the head with it. I go around the front of the car and look for a stick to poke the baboon with, in order to retrieve my bag and its strewn contents. (A stick, yes! For but a second did I think a stick might be a suitable weapon). Happily a coach full of tourists comes along at this point causing the baboon to scarper, but not before wiping his bottom on my journal and drinking Holly’s juice. Andy (now free of his seat belt) and I see our chance, quickly gather up bag and contents, hop back in the car and drive off at quite a lick; hearts pounding and hands shaking, as the coach load of tourists look on, amused and incredulous.

One would be wise to heed warning signs in future. Baboons do not suffer foolish travellers gladly and have developed a fine sport of their torment.

R Pointer

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