Have You Seen Us Lately? Dot Org

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Backpackin’ With Pachyderms

In this post I will test the theory that dates back over two thousand years:

“You can never have too many photos of elephants in a blog post”

-Confucius ~7 B.C.

Early this morning we received a call in the hotel room. It was the front desk letting us know that our ride had arrived to take us to the Patara elephant conservation. We hopped in the van and after a few brief stops to pick up 4 more people, we were off on a 45 minute ride up some windy roads into the jungle.

After a brief briefing from our guide about elephants in Thaliand, we snatched up a bushel of bananas…

…and headed out across the planes the find our new four-legged friends…

Now you can’t exactly walk up to a four ton animal and just expect to shake it’s hand and suddenly be all buddy buddy. They need to know you are friendly, and you need to know that they are in a good mood. One sure fire way to befriend an elephants is to feed it of course!

Mouthful after mouthful of bananas. They would lift their trunks, and open wide. With 3 or four bananas in hand you would shove your hand into their warm wet mouth and they would delicately slurp the ‘nanas from your hand using their soft and mushy pink elephant tongue.

Be careful not to get your hand caught in their teeth! Those suckers crush tree branches with ease!

Oh and be wary of the tusks too, they can poke an eye out if you’re not careful.

Once you’ve made nice, the elephants will flap their ears and fly away swish their tails. A sign that they are comfortable with you and know you are friendly.

Me and my buddy Boonpakwould be spending a lot of time together today.

Now that we could get close to them and them close to us, it was time to check to make sure they were in good health.

Are they perspiring in a healthy manner? Check the toes.

Yup. Sweaty toes. Check.

Is the dung aroma that of celery and bean sprouts?

Yup. Turds are on point. Check.

Are the females pregnant? Nipple check.

Affirmative. She’s expecting. Baby’s kicking. All is well.

Our group passed their health exam with flying colors, so it was time to prepare them for their daily walk. The first order of business is to clean them off. Since they can’t reach their own backs, they tend to toss dirt on themselves in order to keep insects away. It’s not recommended for you or the elephant to sit in a dirty back as it would be like sitting on a double-sided sheet of extra-course sand paper. Ouch!

Now unless you are wearing stilts, it’s very difficult to reach the back of an elephant to clean it. So, if you can’t go to it, it must come to you. And that means getting them to lie down for easier access.

Then you take hold of a large handful of branches with leaves, and you sweep the excess dirt of their backs.

With most of the large particles gone, it’s time for a more thorough washing. So you grab ahold of the ear lobe..

…(don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt them) and you lead them down to the river…

…for a nice scrubbing. It’s sort of like washing a car…

…except the car has an unfinished leather interior, and the car is inside out.

Once the dirt is gone, it’s time for a rinse. With baskets in hand it’s scoop and toss. Scoop and toss.

It takes a lot of water to rinse and elephant. But not surprisingly, very little water to rinse a human as Boonpak demonstrated to Jay. SQUIRT!

Okay! It’s time for our walk!

There are several ways to board an elephant. One is by having it lift it’s front leg which you then use as a stepping stool to hoist hoist yourself up. The next is to have them lie down and you just climb aboard.

And the third option is to have them kneel down and you go head first.

But wait!

How do you steer an elephant?!?

Well… in Thailand you say Thai commands.

Here’s our elephant lingo Thai cheat sheet.

It comes in really handy when your ride wanders off into the shrubbery near by.

We’ll that’s the idea at least. Either my Thai is really bad, or my elephant was really hungry, or my elephant just couldn’t give a rats ass what I said and he wanted to let me know who was in charge. Fair enough. You win Boonpak. But only because you outweight me. I’ll just sit up here and wait until you’re ready.

We rode on the backs of of our friends out of the medow…

…past some farms…

…across some rivers and through some trees…

After straddling an elephants head for a while…

…your legs can tire (and I’m not even carrying anyone on my back!)… so if you like, you can extend your legs a bit and tuck them in behind the ears to stretch.

It took us a while (elephants aren’t exactly sprinters) but after walking for about 30 minutes, we eventually started to descend upon our resting point…

…the waterfall.

We all took our turns crossing the river…

…and after some exploration on foot (human foot that is)…

…we gathered around some large banana leaves for our lunch.

Once we finished our grub, we gave the excess non-meat food items to our rides, and I even fed Boonpak the tablecloth. He loved it! In fact, he loved it so much that he offered to go swimming with me. What a sweetie!

I couldn’t exactly say no, I didn’t dare say no, so I hopped on his back and he lead us straight into the deep end for a refreshing bath.

He plopped over on his side and just lay around for a while. Every so often he would stick his trunk out of the water — just like the periscope on a submarine –for some fresh air, before submerging it again.

Such a doofus that Boonpak is! Like father, like son. I’m still not sure which is which though.

After our little swim, we all mounted up again and took them down the road…

…so that they could grab a bite to eat too.

After they snacked on some shrubs, we learned a new technique for getting back into the drivers seat. Straight up the trunk. Like a ladder of sorts.

Only this time, we would sit on their head!

Yeah, you read that right. SIT ON THEIR HEAD! And they didn’t even complain one iota!

The view from up here is amazing…

We rode like this the rest of the way back home.

In the end it was sad to say good bye to our friends. But the good thing is that elephants never forget, so we will always have a friend in Chang Mai, waiting for our next return. See ya next time Boonpak!

And please remember…

1 Comment

Wow – I never thought I’d see you sniffing dung! Was this an elephant sanctuary (i.e. rescued elephants)? I’m sure this will be an experience you will never forget (like an elephant). Mom

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