Monday, May 30, 2011

I now have my elephant license

Feeling slightly hungover was probably not the most ideal way to start out a day of elephant riding and jungle trekking but that's how it began.

We got up and checked out of the hostel, leaving our bags at the front desk and taking just some stuff for overnight. We were picked up by a name named Hansome who was to be our elephant trainer. On our way we picked up a girl from Holland, two girls from the UK and two girls from upstate New York.

We drove about an hour to the elephant camp where all of our breath was taken away at the scene in front of us: lush green forest, hazy skies and elephants galore. I don't think I have ever seen so many elephants at once!

We were given traditional Mahout clothing to wear while with our elephants, so we all got changed and headed over to the common area to learn how to communicate with the gentle giants.

Handsome taught us the basic commands:
Put your leg up: sungsoon! (you grab an ear and some skin and use the elephants leg like a step before pulling yourself up on the elephant)
Go forward: huuuuhhhh (basically a grunt) while kicking both legs into the back of the ears
Stop: how!!! (while squeezing the neck with your legs)
Go back: Tuoy!! (while scooching your butt backwards)
Turn: Couy!! (while kicking the opposite legs from which way you want to go)

After repeating the commands over and over we went and practiced on tr elephants. What a completely weird feeling, hauling ones self up and onto the back of a creature who is at least 13 feet tall. It definitely took some time to learn to be comfortable way up on top, using your legs to hold on and resting your hands in their head for stability.

After practicing we took a bunch of photos with Dodo, one of the young elephants at the camp who was extremely smart. He posed with us, giving us kisses and putting hats on our heads and playing dead etc. It was absolutely adorable.

It was about lunch time so we took a break to eat before our trek through the jungle. Handsome brought out dishes of yellow curry with chicken and potatoes, stir fried veggies and rice. We all ate so much, not realizing how hungry we'd become. Once the main course was finished some pineapple and watermelon appeared, beautifully displayed.

While we were eating Champu, the little baby of the camp came to visit us. She tried to steal some fruit from us, but mostly just barreled into the table before her trained came and wrangled her back. Just like a little human she kept trying to sneak back over to us whenever he wasn't watching.

When we finished eating it was time to go actually ride on the elephants. We walked over to the main camp and waited while the men brought us each our elephants. Being guys both Ren and Eric were given huge elephants that stood about 18 feet high. Luckily the massive animals were told to bend down so that the guys were able to climb aboard.

I wad given a slightly smaller, however much more dirty elephant. He had mud caked to his back. And he'd been in the process of trying to wash it off when they brought him over to me so he was both slippery AND muddy. A slightly unnerving combo to say the least.

Once we were all comfortably on top of our animals we set off into the jungle. Up we climbed through the forest, grunting and kicking to make the elephants go. Mine was content being at the back of the pack, so I spent a lot of time attempting to coax him along. "Huuuuhhhh!!!" I grunted, kicking him in the back of the ears. It didn't work. He only listened when the old Mahout man that was following along beside me used his elephant whispering skills.

A few times my elephant attempted to eat the luscious leaves located on the edge of the road which also happened to be cliff side. I would be lying if I didn't think I was going to fall off my elephant and tumble to my death. I tried to use my skills and convince him to back up but it failed miserably and i ended up just begging my Mahout man to convince the elephant to back up and resume a non life threatening postion.

Because we were just sitting on the necks of the elephants a lot of leg work was required to stay balanced... Especially when going down hill. And double especially when my elephant decided that going downhill would be a good time to become tired of being at the back of the pack and start passing everyone. I think everyone in the group had the same feeling while going downhill.

When we got to the bottom of the hill there was a river that we walked the elephants into. They kneeled down and we were able to dismount. Handsome started to hand out brushes and we were able to wash our elephants. Finally i could scrub all the dirt off my very dirty elephant.

After the bathing we fed the elephants bananas as a thanks before they were sent out to the field to graze. We piled into the back of a pickup truck and headed back to the camp. Once back at camp we changed back into our dry clothes and prepared for our trek through the jungle.

We said our goodbyes to the rest of the group, since we were trekking alone, and headed off into the trees...  But that's a story for another day.

No comments:

Post a Comment