Published: June 28th 2006June 25th 2006
Riding like a Pro
Halfway through the adventure our guides got off and let me ride the rest of the way on the head of our elephant.
On the last day in Chiang Mai I woke up early with anticipation for what I have a feeling will be the highlight of the entire trip. Since our group here in Thailand is rather small we've had a little more flexibility compared to years past, so on the last day in Chiang Mai we decided to scrap the usual itinerary for another trip up into the mountains. This time however the our destination was to an elephant camp in the gungle where we had arranged for our group to go for a ride through the jungle. As soon as we pulled into the camp that morning I knew this was adventure was going to be amazing. We all piled off the bus and quickly made our way to pay for the excursion (a mear 1400 Bhat) and get the morning started.
After taking care of business we were walked over to the covered area where all the elephants were hanging out just waiting for direction. In the way we passed some nice little ladies selling bunches of little bannanas to feed to the elephants along the trail, so we all picked up a few before climbing the ramp to
Walking along the path through the jungle.
the "boarding area". From the platforum we were quickly assisted onto the backs of the elephants where they had secured a bench seat with a safety bar that strapped us in. Within the first few steps I was glad to have that bar as we bounced around with every step of the enormous elephant below us. On top of the elephant head sat our guide who was clearly used to the bumpy ride as he barely held on while we headed down the trail.
Just outside the camp we came up to a rather large river, but this didn't even seem to phase the elephants as the walked right into the water without heasitation. The river was surprisingly deep, but considering the size of our carriers, it didn't seem to phase them. On the other side of the water we walked along a beautiful trail through the forest and got to take in even more of the countryside from our elevated position. About halfway through the elephants decided to stop for a break, so our guide hopped off and motioned to Chandra and I to see if either of us wanted to take a turn driving. Without heasitation I
Forging the river
Here we are crossing the river on our way back to camp.
climbed out of our carier and onto the neck of this amazing creature. Despite the appearance and thick skin he was surprisingly soft and quite harry. Sensing a new handler the elephant quickly reached back with his trunk begging for a treat. So as instructed I held out a bunch of bananas which he thankfully grabbed and devoured hole. Apparently they were quite good (or he just knew I was a sucker) because he kept comming back for more until all of our bunches were gone. But by that time the caravan had started up again and we were off to follow the leader.
The ride was pretty cool from the chair, but that was nothing compared to the feeling of freely riding on the elephants back. It's a little hard to describe the feeling as the elephants skin was leathery but soft and the hair prickly but smooth at the same time. I wrapped my legs around his neck and held on tight so I could continue to take pictures of this sureal experience as we continued down the trail. When we got back to the river I had to give up my seat so the guide could
Now that's talent!
The show ended with several of the elephants painting pictures with their trunks. Is he painting what I think he is...?
lead the elephant across the river and back to the camp. After we dismounted the elephants we had an opportunity to buy more bannanas and sugar cane to feel to our elephants as a thank you. It really was cool to see how agile they were with their trunks as they picked up the bunch and placed it into their mouths.
From there we hopped on an ox cart and rode back to the main part of the camp. Our next stop on the adventure was for the elephant show. This was a little more like something you'd see at the zoo, but it was still pretty cool to see them do things like play sports, do tricks, and paint pictures for the croud. The final leg of our adventure ended with a nice lazy ride down a river on a bambo raft. The day was absolutely beautiful so we all enjoyed the nice relazing time in the sun. After leaving the camp we were all pretty tired so instead of spending more time in Chiang Mai that afternoon we opted for an earlier flight back home to bangkok.
The last few days have been spent in class and I just actually finished my final. So in order to celebrate a group of us are heading down to the island of Ko Samet for a little R&R on the beach before returning to reality in Chicago. I'll try to post one final entry when we return to campus on Friday. If not, I look forward to sharing more pictures and stories when I get home.