Travelling Light

Rishikesh, India – Day 840-860 (Jan 17-Feb 6, 2016): The Monkeys of Rishikesh

Monkeys RishikeshRishikesh has a LOT of monkeys.

It is in the mountains, with plenty of national parks nearby. There is an endless supply of soft-hearted or soft-headed tourists, who can be cajoled or tricked into giving the monkeys food. And there is a growing cadre of vendors who cater to the tourists and aren’t always quick enough with the stick or the rock to prevent themselves from also catering to the monkeys.

Monkey, Laxman JhulaThe bridges are prime monkey territory.

They climb along the suspension cables, walk along the handrails, and occasionally launch themselves at a plastic bag that isn’t held closely enough to a body.

At Laxman Jhula, there are two different species of monkey living in a somewhat tense detente.

There are the macaques, the brown, slightly smaller ones, and the larger, pale grey ones.

Not all the monkeys cluster around the tourist attractions, though. Plenty live a much more natural life in the forest, avoiding the hustle and bustle of the rapidly-growing town.

Monkey, RishikeshJenny captured this picture of a meditating monkey on a rock beside the Ganges just north of town.

It seems deceptively peaceful, doesn’t it?

The monkeys are smart.

They don’t waste any energy, but when there is an opportunity to grab a snack, they are lightning-quick.

You may have seen these young monkeys larking about in an earlier post. Those are electricity cables they are swinging on!

Monkeys RishikeshAt the top of Ram Jhula, there is a large troop of the grey monkeys. They were there every afternoon, and were quite relaxed around people.

Ravi with monkeys




Monkeys RishikeshThe monkeys look very cute, but as we would find out, the macaques in particular can be quite aggressive.

We were crossing Laxman Jhula, and Jenny had to stop because a man in front of her was teasing a baby monkey – holding out food, and then pulling it away when the monkey reached for it.

Monkey biteThe baby monkey got very worked up, and started screaming, and at that very moment, someone sunk their teeth into Jenny’s arm!

Jenny whacked the back of its head, and it let go and ran off.

Fortunately, she had been wearing a long-sleeved top, and our pre-travel checklist included rabies vaccination.

Monkeys RishikeshIt’s expensive to get vaccinated for rabies, but less expensive than getting the rabies treatment every time a random animal bites you.

We peeled back the sleeve and applied alcohol soap to the broken skin, and there was not a hint of any infection afterward. Phew.

Monkeys RishikeshYou’ll notice we have many more photos of the grey monkeys than the macaques. It was a macaque that bit Jenny, and we like the grey ones much better.

Macaque Rishikesh

Jenny was very cautious around the macaques after the biting incident. We assumed the bite was related to the teasing. Maybe it was the baby monkey’s mother that bit the nearest human to try to stop the teasing, or maybe they have learned that when you bite someone, they are likely to drop food.

It took some time, but by the end of our time in Rishikesh, Jenny was willing to try hand feeding this macaque that turned up at the gat one day.

It was very polite, and didn’t make any sudden movements. That did something to restore Jenny’s appreciation for the macaques!