Got to get that monkey off my back & no I’m not quoting Aerosmith

TBV tip:

1. When you make your budget don’t forget to factor in, “unexpected travel costs.”

For some, this is crashing your motorbike in Vietnam and needing to repair it. For others, the emergency fund is drained by not understanding the exchange rate and paying $150 for an $11 cab ride. But for the few, the bold, the untamable, they will have their deep pockets sewn shut thanks to getting bitten by a monkey and having to pay for a rabies vaccine. Take a wild guess what happened to me?

I know y’all are chomping at the bit for a new That Blonde Vagabond post, well get ready! This story is (pea)nuts, seriously this shit is bananas. (B-A-N-A-N-A-S)

The past few days I’v been in Ubud. A town nestled in the uplands of Bali. You are a motorbike ride away from waterfalls, temples, mountains, and rice fields. The surrounding rainforest is the perfect place for getting in touch with nature… a little too perfect.

The scene of the crime: The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. The grounds are beautiful. Thick with trees, gracefully aged Hindu temples scattered about, and a multitude of monkeys meandering about mischievously.

For less than $4 you can walk along the stone footpaths and see the little guys up close. Plenty of guests will buy bananas to feed the monkeys, but I wasn’t keen on this idea. My thought, “what happens when I run out of bananas and the monkies want more?”

Everyone I talked to told me, “oh it’s fun, such a great experience, you only need to spend an hour, blah, blah, blah.” No woes or words of warning except be careful with your personal belongs. The monkeys are known to steal phones or wallets out of people’s hands and run off. With my bag zipped & locked and hands empty, I entered the forest with no concerns. I went with guy I met a few days prior. We lazily strolled the stones paths watching monkeys chew sweet potatoes and groom one another. At first it was a truly neat experience. Chatting, I asked if he got a rabies vaccine before leaving the US. Like myself, the answer was no. I even went on to say, “yeah my nurse told me the vaccine is expensive so I advise travelers to stay away from the wild life.” The irony that would soon seal my twist of fate.

Supposedly the monkeys are uber chill and it’s not uncommon for them to interact with people. The sign leading into the forest instructs what to do if a monkey climbs on you:

  1. Remain calm (I did)
  2. Don’t scream (I didn’t)

No more than ten minutes of being there, a monkey ran up to me and tugged on the bottom of my Aladdin pants. Not wanting to moon the forest I grabbed the waistband. Maybe this monkey thought I was challenging him to tug of war or he was mad I wouldn’t drop my pants on a first date. Either way this primate was not prime on being my mate. In a flash, he scampered up my leg and immediately bit me on the shoulder and head.

A third piece of advice the sigh gives, don’t look the monkeys in the eye because they find it threatening. I know they say hindsight is 20/20, but trust me I don’t have eyes in the back of my head. Maybe this particular monkey was a bit senile and thought my golden hair was a bunch of bananas. I don’t know, but after his unconventional hello, he perched on my head and showed no sign of making moves.

So there I am: half crouched, hands shielding face, rendered motionless. I envisioned having to wear this monkey like a fetching hat until the day shoulder pads come back in style. Y’all I wasn’t just up a creek without a paddle, I was up a creek without a damn canoe. My defacto Tanto offered his flip flop as an alternative chew toy. After a nibble, my knight in rubber sandals pretended to throw the shoe and luckily the monkey jumped off. (Told you a rather fetching hat) We hightailed it outta there.

I asked if I needed to get a rabies shot to which my friend answered, pancakes hands. The bite wasn’t bad, (yes it was still painful) at first I didn’t think it broke the skin. Well we walked no more than a block down the street before I noticed my shoulder had begun to bleed. We popped into the pharmacy for antiseptic wipes and the pharmacist said just keep it clean, put some cream on it and I should be fine.

An example of pancake hands aka the universal TF if I know

As we continued to walk down the street we passed a doctors office and I figured I’d get a third a opinion. Ya know, a fully licensed MD third opinion. Basically a first opinion. The doctor said rabies are definitively present amongst dogs, cats, and monkeys on the island of Bali. There’s no way to know if the monkey actually had rabies, but he strongly advised I get the vaccine. He poked around my head to check for any possible wounds, but thanks to my mane it’s unclear if this bite also broke the surface. Now that I write this down I’m realizing this probably looked similar to a mama monkey picking bugs off her baby. Cool.

The vaccine consists of four rounds of shots. Normally I am downnn, but I prefer $2 tequila shots to $850,000 HDCV shots.


Before anyone starts a “Help Rita Afford Life Saving Medication” GoFundMe page 850,000 Indonesian Rupees = 64 US dollars. Although if someone does want to start a GoFundMe I certainly won’t stop you. It’s not peanuts, but I’m not going bankrupt.

A note to anyone such as myself, whose life resembles a three ring circus; if I would have gotten the pre-travel vaccine I would still have to get the post-bite vaccine. All the pre-bite vaccine does is buy you more time and instead of four rounds of shots, it’s three. Like the flip side of a new penny, I’m looking on the bright side. I’m technically saving money because the cost of three rounds of shots and the pre-travel vaccine would certainly have been more than I’m paying now. Also I forever call dibs on “heads” in all future coin tosses, I think y’all can understand why. Before giving me the first two shots, the nurse had to clean and disinfect my wound. While she rubbed down my shoulder I got to lay on a cushioned table that was uncomparingly more comfortable than some the hostel beds I’ve slept on. I actually could have fallen asleep because I was quite tired.

Fun side note that has a point I swear:

Y’all know the cute little rhyme, “sleep tight don’t let the bed bugs bite.” You know it’s one of those things you say, but don’t give much thought to? Well some places in south east Asia bed bugs are an insomnia-enabling, real possibility. (From what I’ve been told,) the bites itch like hell and once bed bugs infect a mattress or clothing the only way to get rid of them is extreme heat. I’ve been lucky enough to be spared. I’d knock on wood but that’s where they like to breed, a real Catch 22. Anyway, the first night I stayed in my hostel one of they guys I was hanging out with said he thought he had bed bug bites. In order not to go mad with paranoia every time the double B-bomb is dropped I tell myself this person might just have wicked mosquito bites. Well the next day I saw the hostel staff ironing mattresses on the balcony. Instantly, my mind interrupted whatever I was thinking about, “shit this place really does have bed bugs.” The night before my monkey debacle, I minimized my mattress time and barely slept at all. As I was laying on the doctor’s table I thought, “awesome I’ll grab a quick cat nap on a bed that is 100% bed bug free.”

After the nurse finished cleaning my wound my shoulder was gleaming bronze. I’m quite proud of my January tan these days, but y’all this spot was next level tan. I laughed to myself, “she either rubbed iodine on my shoulder or in the well over five minutes she was cleaning, she buffed off a layer of dirt that’s perma-formed on my skin.” The laughs quickly stopped because what was painted on the wall behind the doctor as he administered my shots? A child’s growth chart with a whimsical giraffe and monkey. All I could think was, “you cheeky bastard.” Don’t worry I am almost positive I won’t be forever scarred by the site of monkeys. Sure I’ll probably wince the next time or two I hear Steven Tyler’s melodic screech, “gooooooot to get that monkey off my back.” But that should fade with time. I always said if I played baseball my walkout song would be “Glory Days” because The Boss is boss. Now I think I’d walkout to, “I’m a Believer” or any other song by The Monkees for that matter.

Rabies shot extra fun fact: it follows a very strict schedule. I have to get shot number three exactly one week from the day I was bitten and shot number four, exactly two weeks after that. Perfect for a free spirited traveler… For the first time in the three months I’ve been backpacking I’m on a schedule. I have something I have to do thag I can’t scratch off the calendar, or let life’s random interjections postpone. It’s funny Alex, my big bro, the elder Serra, is currently visiting me. He arrived in Indonesia midnight on the day I got bitten. The night before he posted on Facebook saying he was excited to travel in my style aka with absolutely no plans and no need to be anywhere at a certain time. Ha.

But wait! It get’s funnier, I have to get my forth shot two days after my Indonesian Visa expires. Haha.


The doctor said I should be able to get my last shot in Malaysia. Let’s hope this is not a shoulda, coulda, woulda, but rather a sure, we can, and will situation. I’ll keep y’all posted.

It came time to pay the bill which rang up to 2.4 million IDR. I knew it was going to be high, but my cat nap tuned out to be quite pricy. Not only did they tack on a consultation fee, but a wound cleaning feels well. This really rubbed me the wrong way. I wanted to shout, “Seriously!? It’s not like I had a choice in the matter?” Instead of going ape shit I kept my composure and left the office. On my walk back I swear far less taxi drivers asked if I needed a ride, probably because they could see I was foaming mad. (Too much? Not sure if I’ve crossed the vine from tasteful pun to creating real concern I have rabies.)

On my walk back from the doctor I heard a “Rita!” and across the street stood Taran. (Ironically my iPad autocorrected Taran to Tarzan.) A delightfully, wonderful human I met the night before. Just when I was about to turn in for the night he walked past me and said, “Hi what’s your name?” We chatted for about 20 minutes before he invited me to go to the beach with him and his friends. I responded to his Rita! With, “I just got bit by a blankety blank monkey!” He invited me once again to join the gang on their adventure, so I threw what little caution I had left to the stale wind, and hopped on the back of his scooter.

​​​

​The seven of us spent the day zipping past mountains swaddled in coats of palms. We gazed upon mystic lakes peacfully adrift under idle clouds hanging so low it could have inspired “Smoke on the Water.” We found a swing fit fore a daredevils playground.

Look ma (Linda don’t look) I can do it with no hands

Because when you could possibly have a viral disease why not tempt fate a bit more and totter to ‘n fro over the edge of a mountain? We made it to a sparkling beach blanketed with black sand before our journey brought us to a floating temple. Not to be stiffs, we did the mannequin challenge. On the way home we found a road side stand where we feasted on sticky rice, fried bits of this & that, and beef noodle soup.

Y’all know me, even if my glass is cracked and sand clouded it’s half full. If I had not gotten bitten I would not have crossed paths with Taran and I would have missed out on what turned into a fantastic day. Life is just about rolling with the ups and downs. Speaking of which, while we twisting down a tantalizing steep stretch of road comprised of a series of hairpin turns so tight it resembled my hair, Taran says, “oh shit I just lost my breaks.”

Houston we have a problem

We managed to roll to a stop in the grass that lined the road. Luckily we “parked” next to house whose residents told us the bike was just over heated. They let us hang out for ten minutes while the bike cooled, once we got our power back we were off. The moments we were riding on an unresponsive, rouge machine were scary hell, but them’s the breaks right? Sometimes your heart needs to palpitate at 100mph to remind you, you’re alive. Speaking of which the bite left a bruise on my shoulder that at the right angle resembles a heart… maybe it was just a love bite after all?

So there you go, that’s the end of my crazy tail.

If you find yourself in Ubud, don’t let my experience stop you from going to the monkey Forrest. Just know I would not 10/10 nor 5/7 recommend. For me the Monkey Forrest was not a barrel of fun. Instead it was a can of root beer pulled from a cooler that’s sitting in the back of a moving car driving down a bumpy road: Super cool, full of promise, a real treat… But in an instant it goes awry and blows up in your face. But hey, “Life is like a box of {animals crackers} you never know what you are going to get.” Forrest Gump

4 thoughts on “Got to get that monkey off my back & no I’m not quoting Aerosmith

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