We could hear them.
The deep, throaty howl of the monkeys wake me up early in the morning at my aunt and uncle’s finca in Canjel. The howls continue on and off through the morning rituals and breakfast.
I search the treetops at the end of the backyard to see if I can catch a glimpse of one but no, they remain invisible, unseen, hidden in the canopy. Impossible to tell how close or far they are.
My aunt tells me she’s seen how big they can get. “As big as Felix,” she laughs, meaning 30 pounds. “But no one believes me.”
“I’ve also seen how they beat each other up,” she says. “Have seen their injured limping along unable to join any one family or tribe.” She pauses. “It makes you sad to see how mean they can be to each other.”
The howls continued so I ask Kristen and the boys if they want to see if we can find the monkeys. It involves walking across through a buggy backyard, avoiding scorpions (I didn’t see one), over-sized spiders (they call them pica caballo, horse biters), climbing through a barbed wire fence then bushwhacking along a creek bed. They decline.
I put on my boots, pull up my socks and walk across the yard. Pull up the barbed wire fence, crawl under it.
The howls continue.
I slide down the creek bed and make a note as to where I had been, then start bushwhacking toward the sound of the howlers.
About two hundred meters down the creek, high up in the trees sit five of them. A large male, a mother carrying a baby, and two smaller ones.
The largest one looks down at me and howls. When he stops, I howl back but then he howls more loudly. I try again, doing my best to imitate that intense, throaty howl. Again, he starts howling over my voice. I try once again and he howls aggressively, even more loudly. It’s as if he doesn’t want me to howl, doesn’t want anyone else to howl, probably wants to make sure the other monkeys know who the boss is. Not some on-the-creek human interloper.
I turn and walk back down the creek, heading back. The howls follow me home and stop once I’ve crossed the barbed wire fence.
UPDATE 8.18.2012. My cousin Felipe, whose parents own this finca commented: You got lucky !! I used to irritate them so much, they’d throw [shit] “bombs” and piss on me !! Hahaha