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Seattle, Washington, Afghanistan
December 2, 2004
From journal Barbados
February 6, 2004
The monkeys gave me the cold shoulder. I looked high and low for them, to no avail. Friends who also visited the reserve later gleefully reported their monkey encounters. I, however, seemed to be emitting some sort of peculiar monkey-repelling pheromone: "LOOK OUT, MONKEYS," it broadcast, "HERE SHE COMES!"
But the rodents? Ah, now that’s another story.
This Place Is Awfully RockyI’d just entered the reserve, clutching the park brochure. Let’s see, where are the monkeys? Shuffling along the pathway, I’m too preoccupied to notice the large rocks on the forest floor. Then one of the rocks moves.
Crikey, this place is full of tortoises!
Consulting my brochure, I’m disheartened to learn there are now more tortoises here than on the rest of Barbados.
I’m still marveling at the lumpishly beautiful tortoises when a motionless taupe shape nearby flicks a delicate ear: Brocket deer. Then, in quick succession, flamingoes, geese, and guinea fowl emerge. It’s clear that some species do awfully well when the likelihood of becoming someone else’s dinner (or road kill) is reduced.
I make my way through the aviary, where the internecine squabbles of geese vie with the antics of macaws, then on to the information center, where I read all about the monkeys, originally brought from Senegal some 300 years ago. The monkeys are a bit of a pest, though, and farmers hunt them. As the free-ranging monkeys know a good thing when they see it, many cluster at the reserve.
Bringing Up BabyWalking up the path to the iguana sanctuary, I stop dead in my tracks. What on earth is that? It looks like a cross between a rabbit and a whippet, and whatever it is, it’s defiantly blocking my path, all 15 pounds of it. "Don’t come any closer," it seems to be saying, "Or I’ll...um, I’ll...I’ll..."
Then I see the baby whatever-it-is, wobbling on long, spindly legs, nestled against mama whatever-it-is lying beneath a bush. The baby has just been born. Brave papa is standing guard.
I consult my brochure: Hutia conga, a large rodent from Cuba.
Lord, now I’ve seen everything.
After a few quick photos, I back away.
Shades of Dr. DoolittleIt’s that torpid hour in the late afternoon when all sensible people are taking naps. I’ve searched all over the reserve for monkeys, finally coming to rest on a bench near the feeding area. I stretch out, looking up at the trees. A soft breeze rustles the canopy, and I doze off.
I waken to sounds of chewing. Chomp crunch chomp. I open one eye, finding myself eyeball-to-eyeball with a peacock. He cocks his head impertinently, then resumes his attack on a piece of yam. I sit up slowly. Very slowly.
I’m in a peaceable kingdom, surrounded by animals. And, with his peculiar dog-rabbit gait, here comes papa hutia conga.
Who needs monkeys?
From journal I'd Rather Be in Barbados