Betty’s and baboons

One of the many things to like about Betty’s Bay is my mother’s garden. She’s understandably happy about this young King Protea (cynaroides).

Then there’s the rest of the fynbos, the soft light, the fresh salty air, wood fires to warm us at night, soccer on the flat screen, views like this one (taken from the loft) …

Just posting this picture reminds me of a story. A couple build their dream house at the coast and then invite their neighbours to come and admire the view. “Isn’t that just the most stunning view?” they ask proudly.
“Yes certainly,” says the neighbour. “It’s gorgeous. I know it very well. In fact, it used to be mine.”

I must tell you briefly about our encounter with a family of baboons in the nature reserve this past weekend. It was sobering and calming and disturbing at the same time. L and I had been to see the waterfall at Disa Kloof and we were walking back at dusk with hardly anyone around. Just as we crossed the concrete bridge a family of baboons came towards us, effectively blocking the path. Not wanting to provoke them, we backed up over the bridge to let them past. Which they did, the mother carrying a baby on her back and showing good coordination to swing over the bridge into a tree to get out of our way. The male baboon had a cut on his bum and looked a bit worse for the wear. I was worried that he might take us on and felt a bit pathetic raising my thin Wynberg Girls High umbrella (called the toothpick) as a warning to him. He swung into the trees after the mom and the other kids and that left the youngster (maybe a teenager, quite mangy) sitting there, calm as you like on the bridge, looking at us with a mix of what seemed like curiosity, amusement, affection or hunger perhaps. I felt a bit mean with my toothpick raised like a short-stabbing assegaai in case of trouble. It made me wish to have a more peaceful relationship with baboons and I felt sad that baboons and humans generally have quite a difficult relationship in Cape Town. We chase them away from our houses where they try to scavenge what they can. People shout at them and chase them with sticks and then act quite suprised if they show aggression in return. Just outside Simonstown they can be a real pest, climbing into cars and stealing bags from unsuspecting women. The lure of easy food has become ingrained now for them and it’s hardly possible to imagine that they’ll just return to the mountains and live off the land anymore.

I’ll be back next week with a book review for a change. Not sure what it is yet, either a memoir by a former psychology lecturer of mine or the rest of Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson.

As for the World Cup, my prediction for the final is Brazil to meet Spain on July 11th. Should be tense (and fun).


11 Responses to Betty’s and baboons

  1. natalian says:

    Betty’s sounds like an idyllic retreat! We have the same difficult relationship with the Vervet Monkeys here on the East Coast – if they get into your house they leave not only a few “calling cards” but wreck havoc beyond comprehension! I do realise that it is not entirely their fault as their habitat is decreasing with an increased demand for housing and office buildings.

  2. Beautiful photos. It’s hard for me to imagine baboons as common as raccoons. At least our raccoons don’t steal bags. They just root through garbage and poop on our deck.

  3. Lovely pics of a place I knew well as a student. And I remember skinny dipping in the waterfall.

    I’ve had a horrible experience with baboons on the Cape Peninsula: We left the back door open while we were on the deck eating lunch and a huge male baboon got in. We managed to chase him off with a toothpick equivalent (golf club), but not after he wrecked the kitchen and pooed everywhere. The worst thing was that we had three small children in the house and if I hadn’t been such an anxious first-time mum (my toddler daughter was ON me), he might have encountered one of them. I had nightmares for weeks afterwards.

  4. Pete says:

    photography free 4 all – Thanks for the visit!

    Natalian – That’s interesting about the vervet monkeys. I have a lot of sympathy for animals whose habitats are being eroded but I suppose I’ve never had my house trashed by an unruly primate.

    Lilian – The bag story can be quite funny though. I remember a male baboon trying to take P’s bag not realising that there was no food there but only Scrabble and wine!

    Charlotte – Sorry to hear about your distressing baboon experience but glad the kids were safe. There was a story the other day about a child who got bitten by a baboon (near Kogelbay). I think he got between the baboon and the rubbish bin. As for the waterfall, they’ve put signs up now saying that you can’t swim there and that you need to be careful of snakes and baboons. Don’t think too many people will risk a swim if they think there are snakes in the water! But in summer it’s a real treat.

  5. doctordi says:

    Gorgeous photos, Pete, it looks really stunning. I had NO IDEA about the baboons… I can imagine that being really frightening, actually, even though your description of your latest encounter made me smile. They’re quite large, strong animals to have just freely roaming about the place – of a different order altogether to our possums and Canada’s raccoons and England’s squirrels. It’s difficult, isn’t it, this uneasy cohabitation, but Charlotte’s story is frankly terrifying.

  6. litlove says:

    How I love the look of Betty’s Bay. It’s become a mythic location in my mind! And I just loved the detail of the umbrella. Those girls’ high school girls are a potent symbol of terror. 🙂

  7. Pete says:

    Di – Yes, I think those baboons can be terrifying and this seems to be what makes people react to them aggressively. These ones had their mountain razed by a fire so I think food was a bit harder to come by.

    Litlove – I also love it that Betty’s Bay is taking on more and more layers of associations for me. I was telling L about recuperating there with Virginia Woolf for company, and then there’s all the years of holidays. I still want to take a month off and just write there. In time I’m sure.

  8. Grad says:

    Lovely photos! Baboons?? I thought I had it bad with the squirrels in my yard! Imagine getting in your car to drive to work and finding a baboon sitting behind the wheel!

  9. Peter says:

    I’ve never seen a baboon in the wild or anywhere else but a zoo. (I’ve never seen “the wild,” either.) I wonder how much my family running into their family on a walk would feel like watching a version of ourselves. I wonder if some of the violence toward baboons is caused by how much they resemble people.

  10. yogurt says:

    Who would have guessed the Netherlands? I’m torn. Have a neighbor from Scandanavian region but husband working for a customer from Spain.

    Regarding the baboons, I find this fascinating. It sounds extraordinarily exotic to encounter these human-like creatures on a regular basis. But I do believe I, too, would be waving the umbrella high in the sky. I’m not one to risk a wild animal bite.

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