Thursday, 18 April 2013

Mr Tusks and his naughty girl!

So today we awoke and went down to breakfast at 9am, and then we went to get changed into our mahout clothes again. The other girls were doing their 1st day of elephants, so we wouldn’t spend the day together, whereas me and Devyn were doing our 2nd day.

First of all duties called – poop-a-scooping! So off we went with our bags and shovels to collect the elephant dung, which wasn’t as bad as it sounds actually – except the fresh dung! Who’d have known elephant dung scooping could be so much fun? Then we were introduced to our elephants for the day, an older couple who were in their twenties and the female was very very mischievous, the male just watched her, probably thinking, ‘oh, there she goes again!’ I can’t remember the names of our elephants, they were Burmese names and hard to pronounce, so I just called mine Mr Tusks, as he had huuuuuge tusks – the biggest in the park and he was a massive elephant. The group that had just come in were all oohing and ahhing at how big he was – trust me to get the huge elephant!

It was then bath time, they’d already had one today but the mahouts take them down about 3 or 4 times a day to cool down and to get rid of ticks and lice. So off we went to a few oohs and ahhs from the groups coming in for their day of training, as these were some massive elephants and caused a few glances and photo ops! We then bathed, brushed and washed...including the mahouts, we had a mini-Song Kran and had a muddy water fight. My Mahout, from Burma, was the head mahout of the park, he’d been with the elephants 8 years and Mr Tusks adored him, he wouldn’t do anything without his mahout and would even check to see that he was still there, and stop if he stopped etc. We had a go at standing on the elephants while in the water, which was scary and got on their backs to scrub away and chuck buckets of water on them which they loved.

Then it was back to the meeting ground for feeding time and as we were now ‘one of the gang’ of mahouts we had to go get our own baskets of food and were told to just keep feeding them, which was around 3 baskets! Devyn’s elephant was greedy and kept requesting more food even though she had a whole stack of sugar cane in her trunk and chewing a whole bunch of bananas and even at one point was trying to steal sugar cane from Mr Tusks trunk! However Mr Tusks had his own agenda and on the third basket, took matters into his own trunk and just dug right in, I had to grab a load for Devyn otherwise mama elephant wouldn’t have had a look in!

After this we prepared for a longer trek with our elephants up deeper into the jungle. It took us about half hour to reach camp and then half hour to return. It was a long steep climb and along the way Mr Tusks and Mama elephant both grabbed an entire sugar cane tree each, pulled them from their roots and tugged them up into the jungle with them for a snack, munching along the way. It was so peaceful on this walk and my Mahout was singing Burmese songs along the way which made it seem like something from a documentary. The scenery was stunning, and because we were high up on elephants as well as high up on hills, it was even more stunning.

When we arrived at camp, the mahouts stripped a bamboo tree for bbq sticks, stuck a load of chicken drumsticks on them and made a campfire, sticking them in the ground to cook above the fire.
While they were cooking we sat and talked to our guide Ninh (pronounced Nine), for ages, about his family, his life and it was quite fascinating. He was from a poor family, who lived 60km from Bangkok in a little village. They had a rice field that was 4/5km from their house and had to walk there and back every day, they also had a small farm and jungle all around them, so for him, this is what he knows and loves, trekking through the jungle and being with animals. From the age of 11, he was approached by a monk and asked if he wanted to join a monastery for an education, as his family weren’t able to put him through school anymore, so he agreed and for the next 11 years he studied and lived as a monk. He graduated from Monk University at 23, it’s where he learnt all his English and he still practises Buddhism, apparently he absolutely loved being a Monk.  Meanwhile, whilst we all weren’t paying attention, Mr Tusks had been stripping bark from a tree for his lunch and Mama had disapeered! She’d gone off on a wonder through the forest and so her mahout had to go and find her.

We then had lunch, which was the BBQ’d Chicken, amazing egg and vegetable rice wrapped in banana leaves so it was still hot, plus half a pineapple each. It was amazing and we were both so stuffed after! Then it was time to round up the elephants, who were spraying dirt all over themselves. Mama eventually decided enough was enough and got a branch from a tree to whack the dirt off herself – they are such intelligent mammals. So we hopped back on and went back to the elephant camp, enduring a few more elephant snot squirts, then we took them to bathe again, but this time we took them to the other pool as all the groups were using the big lake, so it was nice with just us and our elephants. Mr Tusks didn’t want to get in at first but then I realised it’s because his mahout was taking pictures and wasn’t in the water, so he didn’t want to go in without him! Bless.

As soon as my mahout got on back with me he was straight into the water and off to the other side where the fresh water source was. So we bathed, scrubbed, chucked water over each other (the elephant included, he got me several times), and then it was time to take them back to their house for the night (they get taken out again later once the tourists have left, by their mahouts, for another walk and bath and get left to roam the forest for a bit). So once there, it was time to say goodbye to our elephants, Mr Tusk will be missed, you really get to bond with them. We then went back to shower, change and I said goodbye to Devyn and the girls – maybe see Devyn again in Laos and Chiang Mai and maybe see the girls in Australia, who knows! I had a beer, said goodbye to Ninh as he was leaving and I’d be getting a different guide tomorrow for the trek. Then headed back up the mountain to our cottage and chilled, and then was introduced to 6 new people staying the night, 4 guys and 2 girls: one are a couple; Thai and Austrian, then two guys from Denmark and an Australian couple.

Dinner was at 7pm again, we had a new guide stay over who is mental so that was interesting. Got to know each other better, the group was great, though not as great as last nights group. Dinner was amazing again, yellow curry, pepper tofu, rice and slow cooked pork in a ginger sauce with peanuts – amazing! We stayed up getting to know each other til around 8.30pm then we all decided to call it a night as some had been trekking today and some of us (me and the Australian couple) were off trekking tomorrow!

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