Thursday, 19 June 2014

Ecuador - Beware: Pickpockets Operate in This Area

It is every tourist's nightmare - you feel a hand reach inside your pocket and before you know it your wallet has been snatched.
I'm sitting in the central square in Misahualli in the Amazon basin and someone (or something) is doing its best to get into my trouser pocket.
Fortunately, I have him under surveillance - I'm filming the whole thing on my iPhone (and I'm holding very tightly to that). You can see the evidence by clicking here.
The monkeys of Misahualli, a port town on the Rio Napo, are natural thieves. A troop has taken up residence in the town and they're tolerated because they're good for tourists, but shopkeepers are constantly on the watch in case any of their stock disappears up the nearest tree.
We'd literally just sat down when two or three monos came bounding up to see what we might have to offer. One tried to snatch Lucy's water bottle, one went to sit on Tom's knee and another came to investigate what I might have that he might want. He very much liked the look of my iPhone; it's only a 4S and he'd have preferred a 5, but he'd take it anyway.
I wasn't letting go, so he thought he'd check out my trouser pockets. The monkeys (monos in Spanish) can undo zips, buttons are no problem and they're always on the lookout for something to steal. While we were in the square, a couple of them stole a Platypus water bottle and drinking tube from a shop opposite and escaped onto the roof where they sat trying to work out what they'd got and whether it was of any use to them.
You have been warned!
The shop owners stood below throwing stones to try to make them drop it. One monkey went on with his investigation, while the other tried to catch the stones. In five minutes, they'd left in search of more mischief, leaving the shop owner to climb up onto the roof to retrieve the stolen goods.
They are very fond of eggs - hard-boiled or raw - but their favorite food is an Amazonian grub, the sort of thing they feed to so-called celebrities on reality television.
They soon grew bored of us - we had nothing to steal and we weren't feeding them - so they disappeared back into the trees or went to sleep in the afternoon sun.


Caught in the act - mono pickpocket in Misahualli. Below: Lucy
keeps a tight grip on her water. Photos by Maggie Primavesi.