Sunday, July 5, 2015

Elephant Trekking, Pooping, and Washing on Koh Chang Island, Thailand

Speeding on my scooter down the island's main road, I catch sight of the sign: "Elephant Camp --->";  U-Turn, then left as directed by the arrow; the forest becoming thicker as I zip down the road.
An elephant meanders around to my left. I park my bike, and walk carefully, watching the ground to make sure I don't step on snakes or giant shits (not sure which would be worse.)
I sign-up for the trek, and a short while later am atop an elephant who introduces herself as Ellen. A mahut mounts her, riding on her neck, barking instructions in Thai, while I ride on a wide chair strapped to the Ellen's back.
Ten minutes later the mahut disembarks to clear some stuff off the ground. "Can I switch places with you," I ask.
"You know, ride on neck like you do," I gesture, waving arms.
"Dangerous," comes the reply.
"Can I?"
the Thai jungle- how'd you like to see us coming around the corner?
He chuckles. "Be careful."
My elation quickly subsides when I realize I'm 10 feet off the ground aboard a moving beast. Gingerly I climb over the chair's railing, placing a foot on Ellen's shoulder.
"Easy Ellen, eeeassssyyyy," I coax her.
Holding onto the seat, I throw my other leg over, and gently plop down on her neck, adjusting my position until both Ellen I feel comfortable (she told me.)
Mahut smiles at me, then yells in Thai for Ellen to move. We plod through the forest, each step testing my balance as I hold dearly onto her skin, coiling my legs around her attempting to stay clear from gravity's clutches.

Introducing you to Ellen Elephant- I never said I was a great speller :)  

Ten minutes later the lead elephant becomes excited and speeds up. Ellen following suit, and suddenly we're running the equivalent of a human sprint, and let me tell you, I'm hanging on for dear life, at the same time enjoying the thrill of riding bareback on a galloping elephant. My mahut races beside us, yelling at Ellen, who thankfully calms, and goes back to her plodding walk.
got the hang of it, look ma, no hands
As we prepare to cross a stream my improperly secured backpack falls from the chair and onto the ground. Watch the video below to see how I got it back-   

Ellen Elephant picks up my back-up, hands it to me, and sprays the mahut

We soon arrive at a river. A slow current drains a large pool of water downstream. Ellen almost dances in, submerges herself, her trunk behaving like a periscope occasionally rising to breathe. My mahut tosses me a brush, I begin scrubbing her rough skin, removing both parasites and dirt from skin. She seems to understand I'm helping her, and I take pleasure in that connection, that bond, with this huge animal. She might not know how to thank me, her vocabulary being limited and all, but she doesn't have to, we've enhanced each others lives.
Love, it's what makes the world go round.   

Scrubbing down Ellen, part I

Ellen poops in the river. My reaction. 

Why you need an elephant as a member of the family! 

Feeding my Ellen the Elephant for a job well done

Post scrub down discussion