Edit Blog Post
Published: April 10th 2009
Hi everyone, we are now in Chiang Dao which is in Northern Thailand near the Burmese border and our hotel is in the middle of no where - which is the whole point as we need a day of rest.
We have spent the last 2 days in heaven. Actually only a mountain within the Elephant Nature Park is called Heaven but to us the whole place has been heaven. After having Jack, Tracy and I believe it has been the most incrediable time of our lives and yes I have taken HEAPS of photos - almost an entire memory card. I just couldn't help myself.
The Elephant Nature Park was set up by one small lady who as a woman in a male oriented culture and as a Burmese hill tribe person with no rights in Thailand, has proven that one person can make a difference in this world. To me she is an inspiration and a hero!!!! The situations and states that she has saved these beautiful animals from was hard to hear about but in the same moment here we were with them and witnessing for oursleves how happy they now are and will be for
the remainder of their lives.
Despite the fact that elephants are revered here, it is incrediable just how badly they are treated by most people. Lek has set up the park so rescued elephants can live without chains, torture, drugs ( except the medicines they need ), shows or rides and with a relative freedom to roam where ever they choose within her large property that includes a jungle or to choose what loving family groups they fit into or to be alone if that is what they want.
The park has 31 elephants, one of which is a cute baby who thinks the dogs are his own personal play things. 50 rescued dogs have also found a safe home as has buffalo, a pony, 20 cats and some pigs. There is a staff of 70 and around 20 volunteers at any one time. It costs 1/2 a million NZ dollars a year to keep this place running and most of this money comes from donations around the world from people and groups who believe in Lek's work. One man who visited the park for one day last October paid $20,000 NZ to buy and save an elephant
which he donated to the park for a birthday gift for his wife.
Not long after we arrived Jack became bored with a talk by our guide and went and sat on the ground away from the our group. An elephant called Lily walked over to Jack and began playing with him with her trunk. The first anyone knew was when Jack began giggling, we couldn't believe our eyes. Lily and Jack were playing together like she was a puppy rather than a 54 year old elephant. From that moment on the two of them were almost inseperable. There was a bond between them that surprised even the park staff. Guests more often than not gravitate to the younger and more naughty elephants life Hope who has a bell around his neck to warn you he is coming or Jungle Boy or Max the very old arthritic elephant or Jokia who was blinded by her owner poking arrows into her eyes when she refused to work when her baby was taken away from her, but there was something special between Jack and Lily.
Lily's Mahout, Boonchew was fantastic. He has been Lily's Mahout ( carer ) for four
years since she was rescued from illegal logging where she was a drug addict after being fed amphetamines and worked day and night until she nearly died. Jack could and did hang around her feet and trunk which freaked some staff out, but Boonchew believed Jack was safe with her and allowed him unlimited access to her even sneeking us away to the other side of the park so we could have her to oursleves. I saw no other guest do what Jack was doing and it was commented on many times by other guests about how comfortable and relaxed Jack was with her - it was truly and beautiful sight.
We walked around the park with the elephants learning about each one and met and witnessed how the five family groups worked together. It was amazing how a group of females that had all had their babies taken from them had become over protective aunties of the baby. We had to be really careful around this group however, but we still got very close to them and even closer to the baby as he came over to investigate / play with us - we were told to run
for our lives if he squeeled - thankfully nothing spooked him. Later in the day we witnessed how protective ALL the elephants are of this baby as he squeeled about something and every elephant from across the entire park stampeeded and trumpeted over to the baby and surrounded it - an immpressive sight and not scary for us as we were up on the lookout at the time but the mahouts all had to scramb out of the way in a hurry )
Over our 2 days at the park we got to bath the elephants in the river 4 separate times and this was a major highlight and a fantastic way to cool down. They elephants loved the water and we loved looking after them. Some of them have a real sense of humour and you saw them squirting people at times and two elephants in particular were always play fighting so we needed to keep clear of them so you weren't accidently stomped on.
Not only did we see that all the animals here were obviously happy, but we could also see that all the staff were happy too and they had a lot of fun
with their animals and with us tas well and there was a lot of laughter. Jack enjoyed a water fight with two other kids against one of the guides in the river who got absolutely drowned but he couldn't complain as he started the whole thing. All bath times ended up being a huge water fight in fact.
I have to admit that we all cried when we left as we had the most amazing time here and fell in love with Lily. Jack wants to be a mahout when he grows up and we have promised each other that we will come back and be a volunteer next time for a much longer time. Some volunteers never leave, one American lady has been here eight years so far.
Tomorrow we are going up into the mountains to find some of the most remote hill tribe villages so it will be a couple of days before we will find an internet cafe.
It was funny when Lily's mahout was trying to take Lily down to the river then Lily turned around and stomped on her mahouts shoe and then he had to
push Lily off to get it free.
And I got to take Lily back to her mahouts house and feed her some berries from the tree. Then she stopped eating berries from the tree and started eating his roof. Boonchew the mahout jumped up and hung on her trunk and he couldn't get Lily to stop eating the roof. I laughed, it was so funny that I could have laugh for 10 days.
Boonchew carved me a really good carving of Lily and I like it very much.
Mookie the dog was very friendly. Mookie had really funny whiskers that hung down like a moustache. I really wanted to take Lily and Mookie home.
Love from Jack.
Tot: 2.457s; Tpl: 0.056s; cc: 10; qc: 49; dbt: 0.0448s; 2; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb