Monkeying Around in Shimla

At 3 in the afternoon on our first day in Shimla, Chao nad I decided to visit the Jakhu temple. The previous night wed seen and enormous statue illuminated on the top of a hill overlooking the city, and we were determined to visit it. Consulting our Lonely Planet map -which we’d found to be notoriously unhelpful – we started walking towards where we thought the temple might be. After about 30 minutes of choosing on gut instinct where to go at countless forks in the road, we miraculously hiked up to the foot of the temple. A covered pathway wound up in front of us.

Chao and I had picked up some hefty sticks to defend against monkeys on the walk up, but we decided it would be more respectful to not being monkey-beating sticks into the temple.

We cautiously made our way up the walkway. Some moneys got close, but we stuck close to some dogs that the monkeys shied away from. We reached the end of the covered path and saw the enormous statue. A giant, red stone figure that easily rose 100 feet in the air. He wore a cloth around his waist, excentuating his enormous legs. In its right hand it held a grand scepter, and his monkey face had a slight grin as it watched over the hilltop city in front of it.

Also, it was surrounded by monkeys.

Chao and I hesitantly made our way around to reach the temple – monkeys ran around us, and we very much appreciated the company of the stray dog who tagged along. We deposited our sandals in the shoehouse and went to the temple, ringing the large bell over the doorway. Inside, we looked around at the depictions of the monkey god – Hanuman – and his experiences. Satisfied with the modest temple, we walked out, determined to make our way safely back to the hotel. We steered clear of the large monkey that sat in the middle of the path, edged close to a dog that was chasing monkeys for fun, and stood next to a man who was walking confidently. It all seemed like it was going well, we’d almost made it back to the covered walkway.

We walked into a large family, and stopped to talk for a moment. Suddenly I saw a large monkey making its way towards the group. It moved quickly, and towards Chao – I yelled her name as the monkey, quick as you could blink, hopped up onto her backpack, reached an arm around, snatched her glasses and took off.

I ran after it, determined to try to get the glasses back. However, the animal ran away and made its perch on a fence in a large group of the dastardly animals. As I stood there waiting, the same family yelled at me, telling me not to go after it. I walked back and a boy handed me some pellets of food to lure the monkey into releasing the glasses.

As it sat, chewing on the pair of glasses, Chao yelled to me that she had an extra pair of glasses, but that monkey looked really smug about his victory, so I stuck around. The family took Chao by the hand to get more food to lure the monkey with, and I threw some food to try to tempt the thief (unsuccessfully). It sat with its prize in hand until the man came back with Chao. They tried to entice the monkey to come over, but it jumped from the fence and sat on a building 30 feet away. A young boy climbed onto the roof and chased it back towards us. Through a quick exchange, someone grabbed the glasses back, gave the monkey the food, and walked over to Chao, glasses triumphantly in hand.

We nervously talked to them and took some pictures of the monkeys. Chao kept her glasses safe in her pocket, then we hurriedly went down the walkway. Chao was pretty shaken up, and insisted that we get some new sticks to fight off any monkeys. We bought two monkey sticks, and safely made our way down the steep pathway. Safe and sound, glasses chewed slightly, we returned to the hotel unharmed.

Since then we have both been terrified of monkeys everywhere.

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