Mon­key­ing around in Ky­oto

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - KA­TE­RINA BRYANT

A word of warn­ing about Ky­oto’s Arashiyama Mon­key Park. It of­fers a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity to see wild mon­keys go­ing about their day but it is on top of a steep, an­kle­buck­ling moun­tain.

We stand at its base. My soft, undis­ci­plined legs start to trem­ble at the jour­ney ahead and for the first time dur­ing my win­ter in Ja­pan, I start to sweat.

“Let’s read the signs,” I im­plore, be­tween puffs. Did you know the mon­keys eat more than 200 types of food from the moun­tain? I re­ally need the 10 or so “fact breaks” on the way up. A sprightly Ja­panese woman, who looks to be in her mid 60s, over­takes us. She thrusts her­self for­ward with a might I have not once pos­sessed in my 21 years. I salute her diet, stamina and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Fi­nally we make it through the mossy for­est and meet our next chal­lenge: the maple grove. My spirit is wan­ing, but my urge to see pink-bot­tomed pri­mates re­mains. I push my un­yield­ing body to­wards my metaphor­i­cal pot of gold: the snow mon­keys. Sud­denly I can make out the tourists who have passed us long ago and, soon enough, we are pass­ing a clus­ter of red-faced Ger­mans. Take that! I shed my coat, ig­nore the screams of my thigh mus­cles, and put on my game face.

A troupe of 120 mon­keys is quite a sight. They scram­ble around me, eat­ing and scratch­ing while re­main­ing obliv­i­ous to my pres­ence. I en­ter the feed­ing pen, where the hu­mans are caged and the mon­keys roam free. I feed them bananas, peanuts and pears. They are non­cha­lant about the whole ex­pe­ri­ence.

I don’t think I will ever for­get my mon­key facts (Did you know snow mon­keys can go bald?) or my time ea­gerly spend­ing yen to cater to their in­sa­tiable food whims.

On the de­scent, we spot a clus­ter of mon­keys in a tree above five mo­torised scoot­ers. Pre­sum­ably, the scoot­ers are for the staff.

“Well that’s a bit lazy, isn’t it?” I re­mark to no one in par­tic­u­lar. “It’s such a nice stroll.” Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@theaus­tralian.com.au. Colum­nists re­ceive a set of men’s botan­i­cal skin­care prod­ucts from The Aro­mather­apy Com­pany in­clud­ing face and body balm, nat­u­ral soap bar, hair and body wash, face cream and shav­ing cream. $120.70. More: shop.david­jones.com.au

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