I Was Bitch Slapped By A Baboon. Bizarre Adventures in Africa.

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

Experiences you can only have in Africa

One of the things that makes a place special, to me, are the adventures I have, and the people I meet, that are unique to a country, or a continent. Whether it be because of the animals found only there, or the language and customs, part of what thrills me about travel is the fun stories I live. Here are a few from my time in Africa.

I Met the Whole Family While Shopping at Greenmarket Square

Greenmarket Square in Cape Town, South Africa, is full of vendors. You can find tshirts, bags and souvenirs of all kinds. One day I decided to buy a small bag and a pair of Africa pants; the ones with 14 different patterns and 26 colors that make it clear you’re a tourist. I found exactly what I wanted at a vendor on one corner of the market. She recognized me since, by then, I had been in Cape Town for a month and regularly passed by. Unfortunately, she wanted 800 Rand (roughly $55 USD) for the items. There is nothing worth even half of that so I tried to bargain with her. She refused to go below 500 Rand. 

I walked away, intending to leave, but found another stall with some pretty bags and stared just a little too long. The woman running this stall asked if she could help. I declined, explaining I was looking for smaller bags than she had. She asked me to wait, saying she had a friend that might have the bags I wanted. She ran off and returned with three of them.  They looked exactly like the ones I had just seen. She offered me a lower price than the first woman, but I didn’t see the design I wanted. She insisted on walking me to her friend’s stall so I could see other patterns. We ended up back at the stall on the corner. The woman there seemed annoyed to see me again and I learned I was speaking with her Aunt. She made me a last price of 480 Rand, but I wanted to get to 400 Rand or less so I walked away, again, intending to leave.

My “Africa pants”

Trying to make my way out of the market, the aunt suddenly ran up to me. She escorted me to another stall with the same bags and pants. This woman was willing to take my offer! I was about to hand over the money when the first woman suddenly appeared. She shouted to the saleswoman, “Mamma, don’t sell! We can get a higher price from someone else!”

I Got a Gift, Gave It Away, and Got Another

Admiring the weather at the beach in Camps Bay, South Africa, I met Gomez from Zanzibar. He sells bracelets on the beach and we ended up chatting for a while. (The guys on the beach here will try to sell to you, but they are also lovely and seem to enjoy connecting as much as selling.) Before I left, Gomez insisted on giving me one of his bracelets because he enjoyed the conversation. It was a lovely shell bracelet and when I looked at it, I was reminded of our meeting. A few days later, I met a man from Nigeria. He insisted that I give him my bracelet because it went with one he was wearing. I felt badly giving mine away, but decided it was just stuff and to give is to receive…but I ended up feeling empty and like I gave away something precious.

I returned to the beach where I met Gomez, but couldn’t find him. I ventured over to some amazing sculptures on the beach. A man had created The Big Five out of sand and it was stunning. I spoke with the artist and then a thought struck me – he might know Gomez. So, I asked and it turned out he did! He asked another of the beach vendors to find him and soon enough I was in another great conversation with Gomez. I bought another shell bracelet and then Gomez gave me yet another bracelet with a bead colored like the flag of Africa. He told me to give it to my true love. 🙂

Gomez and I on Camps Bay beach.

I Rode a Motorcycle to a Drug Deal

Marijuana is now legal in South Africa. Within a week of my arrival, I had my very first drug dealer. I don’t do drugs, but I found it fascinating that I actually had someone I could get marijuana from! Towards the end of my time in Cape Town, my arthritis was acting up and I decided it would be interesting to try some THC oil to combat it. Lucky for me one of my new friends called my dealer and arranged the pickup. The compromise for me was that I had to ride on the back of his motorcycle, which scared the hell out of me. Side note – as a teenager I almost died on a moped in the Carribbean and have been scared of ever setting foot on another motorcycle again. Lucky for me, I was distracted from my fear by the fact that the dealer wanted to be paid half in cash, and half in biltong. (Guess he had the munchies!) I rode to the pickup spot with a bag of biltong at my belly making me look like a pregnant passenger.

We transported the THC oil safely and mixed it into some Aqueous cream so I could rub it into my skin. I carried it to Portugal and France before returning to the US, hoping I wouldn’t be sniffed out by a dog at the airport. 

Keeping the biltong safe.

I Was Bitch Slapped By A Baboon

While at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe with a friend, I saw my first Vervet monkey. I couldnt get my camera out fast enough to photograph the most amazing thing I had ever seen; a monkey with turquoise testicles and a bright red penis. It was so colorful I became obsessed with finding another monkey to get its photo. Luckily, I spotted what I thought was another one and began taking photos, waiting for it to show me his business so I could get my perfect shot. While taking photos, my friend squeezed her empty water bottle and it made a loud crunching noise which made the monkey jump in surprise. Not in a good way. It had been walking away from us, but the noise made him stop and he looked up, saw my camera, and I realized he decided that annoying noise was made by me.

This is the monkey I thought I was following. As you can see I wasn’t paying attention to the color of his fur…this photo was taken later in my trip, at Kruger Park.

I became alarmed when the monkey, who had been walking away from us, started walking in our direction. My friend and I stopped moving so we could allow him to walk by, and everyone could remain calm. As it got closer, I realized the monkey was, in fact, a baboon. A baboon with a beef against me was walking towards us, teeth bared, and my calves were exposed because I was wearing bermuda shorts. Shit. But the baboon was walking a path that would, if it continued straight, lead it past us with a distance of a few feet. However, when he got close to us, he started running, right at me. Shit, shit. As soon as he touched me, I was screaming and ran off. I figured my leg would be gashed with blood everywhere and I’d have to get a rabies shot. I silently thanked myself for getting travel medical insurance. When I got a safe distance away, I realized there was no blood. I looked down at my calf and there were 3 red finger marks. That’s when I realized I wasn’t bitten, I wasn’t scratched, I had been slapped by the baboon. Though scared shitless, I was amazed that he could express his (misplaced) anger at me with a bitch slap! And, well, I guess it served me right for being so naughty! 😮

The very baboon that slapped me!

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