As the Crow flies from where I sit towards PNB 118, about 40 metres away a 20 strong group of Monkeys are moving easily, fluidly and in orderly fashion through the middle-upper tree canopy just above the gridlocked street. These trees are part of a skinny, hilly and healthy roadside patch of remnant inner Kuala Lumpur jungle 10 minutes slow walk from Merdeka Square. There are vines wound in and around the trees and the Monkeys are swinging through with absolute ease! (stunning rhyme and prose that last bit – credit to Tarzan)
This group understands exactly how and where to carry out those slight, but sometimes abrubt deviations on their journey. It is mesmerising to watch this coordinated procession of mixed ages, youngest under Mum, not so young possibly doing their first tree to tree launch, older and bigger Monkeys bracing themselves into the junction of certain branches to assist with steady and always successful launch of the young ones. The leaps are much longer than imagined with just one stretched out hand sometimes the difference between landing and falling. Outriders are front and rear, managing the movement and looking out for all.
No one is left behind. The group is just about out of my view, almost finished their path to their nightime tree of safety, rest and sleep. They stop. The rear outrider dissapears back the way they had come, perhaps 50 metres. Sounds and views of foliage rustling and the occasional crack of something is all I witness as the outrider moves through the canopy. Then leaf and branch movement stops, reverses and with the sound and views of rustling foliage, moves back towards the main group. Our outrider, two youngish ones and possibly Mum meet up with the back of the waiting group. Without a word, away the lot of them continue to their nightime goal well up into the nooks and crannies of the Canopy of the tallest tree.
Meanwhile in the street below, cars are temporarily parked as the peak hour jam backs up.
Windows up, air-cons on, exhaust emissions pumping out, heat from hot engines, drive trains, tyres and brakes, leaks and permeates the outside world providing an additional heat bath for the end of workday walker, struggling to prevent that first bit of sweat breaking out before he arrives to the cool of home. Avoidance of sweat is too late though. Doing the stationary traffic dodge in this human/machine induced heat bath has proved too much. The shirt becomes instant sweaty cling wrap and this reminds the walking worker to make sure they shower before catching up with their high rise crane driver buddy later (see Crows and Cranes) .
There is no cooperation or care for the besieged walker navigating through the jammed cars. Traffic rules are out the window, with a single lane road becoming triple laned, cars rightfully travelling on the non-jammed side of the street are prevented from doing so due to the self made peak flow from 1 to 3 lanes. So these cars back up as well. Cars too eager to join the jam block a T junction further along the street shutting down all entries and attempted exits. A Tour Bus is in the middle of this chaos without any hope of moving anywhere quickly. The driver is constant on the Horn that reminds of 2000Vuvuzelas pumping at once – truly terrible and the DB rating is over the top. Noise and heat everywhere. Absorbed heat from the days warming rays is just starting to ooze out of the asphalt as well, pumping up the relative heat for anyone on foot. A Police car on routine patrol has had enough of this temporary carpark and adds to the cacophony, wacks the siren on and expects everyone to get out of his way when there is nowhere for anyone to move to. The Siren is a wailing banshee that moves at the speed of a Sloth which just adds to the pain of having good hearing.
There is no let up sometimes for over two hours, illegal driving, traffic lights totally ignored, dodgy U-turns, constant horns, abuse, no safe path for the walker as all the motor bikes carry out Jam avoidance by riding on the footpaths generally at high speed and have the gall to honk their horns at the walker to get out of their way. Everything hurts – our environment, our senses, our body, our clothing and all for what? To go from Point A to Point B. It should be so simple.
Meanwhile, now well above this hell on earth, the Monkeys have found their rest spots, not bothered by the noise of 30 metres below, just comfortable knowing all are safe and accounted for as the Sun presents it’s last fading glow of the day. After what felt like 10 minutes of viewing this settling in and marvelling at the sunset salmon pinks, my vision and hearing wanders to the street below which to my surprise is no longer jammed. My senses, desperate for some respite had forced their way into the forefront and demanded I look away and up. Normal transmission had resumed.
No tour buses, no Police cars, no triple lanes, choked intersections or footpath riding motor bikes, just the odd late work leaver. The temperature has cooled and the sound dimmed to sounds from the remnant urban jungle – Cicadas, crickets and Bats can be heard, the odd bird call and the uncomfortable sound of a distressed kitten probably dumped. The snakes here will most probably enjoy a bonus snack. That is the nature of things in this living urban ecology of crows, monkeys and cars.