On February 5th we woke up after a night with NO city/road sounds. After experiencing the mosquito swarms of Chiang Mai we had worried a little about how bad the jungle might be but it was never really a problem. The odd mosquito might come by at dusk/early evening when lounging at the open-air restaurant/bar but they never got into our rooms and never seemed overly enthused about biting (unlike Chiang Mai!).
First thing in the morning we headed to the restaurant for breakfast. They serve a decent, if basic, western breakfast. If only the coffee wasn't instant. Ah well, such are the great sufferings one must endure to ride elephants. Rod decided to enjoy some squeeze-bottle jam, only to discover that someone had left it open to trap ants at some point in the past. Mmm, antwich!
The previous day we had left out elephants in the jungle so first thing to do was to collect 'em. Pavan enjoyed giving Boon-mee a morning snack tremendously.
Rod's elephant required dusting.
With the elephants fed and dusted it was time for a morning dip!
Once in the water the elephants are enthused when asked to sit and roll over. This can result in the mahout unexpectedly disembarking into nearby waters.
Rod's Real Mahout, Sak, kept issuing orders to sit, roll, etc from the shore. We're pretty sure he was hoping to cause Rod to take a dip but no such luck.
Despite numerous attempts on Rod's part Satheep would never steal the Real Mahouts hat!
After bathing time we headed back to the training circuit to prep for a picnic. Satheep was loaded with supplies.
Pavan expressed her affection toward Boon-mee.
Satheep expressed his affections to a nearby a stump.
Once everyone was done being affectionate we headed out down the side of a lake into the jungle.
Regular stops at ride-through restaurants were made.
As they have HUGE feet, elephants apply relatively low PSI to the ground when they step. This means, sadly, no huge godzilla style footprints.
As we got into the jungle, aka cafeteria, the elephants were increasingly inclined to pick their own path. Rod rejoins us after an unexpected detour.
Being the transport vehicle means easy access to water!
Shortly thereafter we reached the picnic spot. Riding the elephant barefoot is much easier. However, for us tender-footed city folks, jumping off the elephant into the jungle floor barefoot is less easy. Particularly given the number of twigs and bloody large and vicious biting ants!!
At the lunch spot the mahouts and some support staff who came by foot or moped prepared two meals. One was "normal" thai food for us. The other, which they seemed to prefer, was an assortment of raw meat, herbs, and blood mixed up in a bowl and eaten by grabbing chunks (through a cloud of flies) with sticky rice. The latter was for the mahouts and support crew. They offered us some but none of us could make ourselves do it.
As we waited for lunch we tried a small green ridiculously sour fruit and some small, exceedingly hot, green peppers. Pavan ate one without batting an eye so Rod chomped at one and spent the next ten or so minutes desperately trying to put out the burning. Neither sour fruit nor water helped much and no milk was available so it was pretty much a matter of waiting it out.
A rather delicious unknown root. You peel it and consume the interior.
A number of fruits are available on-site.
Lunch is served!
After lunch we had a kind of siesta, admired the surroundings, and otherwise killed time for a while before collecting the elephants. We were feeling a little sore from the elephant shoulders grinding at us on the way out so the break was pretty welcome.
After a nice break it was time to ride home. We collected up the elephants.
It was starting the really hot part of the day as we started back. After a short walk the elephants decided they needed cooling and unexpectedly turned off the trail to go visit a nearby stream. This demonstrated they can more or less ignore rider and mahout if they see fit!
The elephant over-heating issue worked to our advantage as the mahouts took us for an unexpected bonus elephant bathing when we got back to the lake. Riding the elephant into the water is awesome. At one point we had an elephant collision and as Tanya's elephant rolled over Rod almost got pinched between the two!!
A watery duel ensued.
By the end Rod was blinder than usual and had to do some impromptu glasses cleaning.
Elephants sure do muddy up the water.
After cooling we took the elephants a short distance into the jungle and left them to their favorite activity.
We spent the rest of the day touring the elephant hospital, seeing baby elephants, and various other aspects of the TECC. In the evening we watched a video the mahout who runs the 10 and 30 day treks generously provided of the training of baby elephants.Great day!