Saturday 19th - Hazyview
Saturday was officially the first day of our holiday! Ben and I went to leave at about 9am, but some of the others had stopped on the airstrip in their cars, so we took Candace and Dan with us to check it out. There were the most beautiful male lions that were hiding in the bushes. They were the head of the pride that have their territory around here, and we had seen one of them before, but the other male had the biggest, darkest mane I had ever seen. He was gorgeous! So we sat for a while before going back to the farmhouse to drop those two off, and then around 10am we actually left Garonga and started on our holiday!
Our first stop on the journey was Hoedspruit, where we stopped for food, petrol and printed maps for the trip. Then we had a lovely drive down to Hazyview where we found the beautiful guest house Nwanakalilie and unpacked our bags. The place was exactly as I remembered it, and the view of the mountains and forest that had the last wisps of morning mist disappearing before our very eyes was just a beautiful sight to witness. It was actually better than I remembered it. So once we got there I immediately fell onto the comfiest bed I had slept in in 5 months and promptly fell asleep (it's hard not too when a bed is that comfy!). So for about half an hour I had a little snooze, and then at about 3pm we got ready to go down to the Elephant Sanctuary down the road. I was so excited, all the way there I could not stop grinning!
When we arrived I could barely stand still, I was far to eager to go and see the elephants. The place looked so majestic with the wooden walkways over the streams and the buzzing sounds of the forest, that it made the whole experience that much more special. Eventually the other guests arrived, a family with a little boy not more than a couple years old, and I think we were probably in competition over who was more excited about the elephants. Our guide took us to see where the elephants slept, and what they ate etc, and then wwe were taken down to a boma and had a lesson on elephants. When the little boy spotted the elephants during the lecture he promptly started going crazy for them and we all fell about laughing, it was far too cute! Then after the lecture we were finally allowed to go and meet the elephants. They have two boys, Casper - the oldest, and Kitsu - the youngest. As they walked down the mountain path to the opening where we were waiting for them Casper was holding onto Kitsu's tail and leading him into position. Finally the little boy was allowed to go and see the elephants, but as soon as his dad took him close the poor thing started crying and ran away, I thought it was hilarious until I was allowed to go up and see Casper, when as I stood next to him I thought bloody hell its huge! But I was so overwhelmed about actually finally getting to meet an elephant that I stopped feeling scared almost immediately and instead felt only pure happiness and excitement. I was allowed to feel the skin on his ears, feet, body and trunk then touch his toenails and even his tongue! It was amazing to find out what all the different parts of the elephant felt like.
Once I met the Casper I went to meet Kitsu while Ben went to meet Casper. Kitsu was a bit smaller than Casper and very friendly, he demonstrated this with a big slobbery kiss (more like a raspberry) that left me covered in elephant snot, but I didn't care! Then I was allowed to give him a hug which was so weird, because even though he was the younger one, he was still so huge once you get up that close to him. I finally went to join Ben for a picture with Casper, before Ben went for a big smooch with Kitsu too.
After meeting them, we walked to an open area where all of us were allowed to take the elephants for a walk around the forest path, so hand in trunk off Ben and I went with the elephants walking behind us as if it were perfectly natural to be taken for a walk. I could not help but keep looking over my shoulder and seeing this towering elephant behind me and think if Kitsu got too excited then that would be the end of me! But it was wonderful walking around with him, maybe I should get a pet ele? Once we had walked Casper and Kitsu, Ben and I got to thank them with a bit of food. We took a handful of Pellets and put them in the top of the trunk then the boys would put them in their mouth and chow on them. It was fun loading up the trunk with food, but I did wonder if they really were good for them or more like giving kids sweets.
Once that was done Ben and I got to have a ride together on Casper. We rode up the mountain pathway, which was a beautiful, and so high! We were sitting among the canopies of all the Mango trees we were so high up. It was amazing sitting on his back and feeling how the shoulders moved and how he walked taking us uphill. Then Casper's ears would flap to keep himself cool and beat on his sides where my feet were, so through my sandals I would every few seconds get this leathery skin sliding across my feet (and itching my mosquito bites!) which was amazing to feel. On the way back down the mountain, my love for riding elephants changed just a bit as I thought that I was going to fall off the poor thing. Their limbs are just like a human who crouches on their hands and feet, with the knees and elbows pointing towards the stomach, now imagine a human trying to go down a hill or stairs on all four and that movement is like an elephant. So it was a little bit nerve wracking coming back down, and I was quite happy when we made it back safely to the bottom.
At this point the other guests had finished their elephant experience and Ben and I were left to carry on with ours. Ben climbed back onto Casper and I got into little Kitsu, then the two of us went for a ride up the mountain, through a river, over rocks, up a steep hill and finally emerged onto a flat area with a beautiful dam and a deck where we were to have sundowners while watching the elephants. The ride was amazing, and when you think that the elephants are never going to get up the hill or wade through the heavy mud, they completely surprise you! I just had to remember to lean forward going up the hill so that I did not fall off Kitsu. Once we were by the dam the elephants were told to lay down so that we could get off, and that was hilarious, little Kitsu put his back legs down but it took him ages to put down his front ones, so the guide and I were sitting there for ages trying not to fall off and hope Kitsu did not fall over. It was hilarious, and though I probably should have been a little worried all I could think about how amazing it was that I was sitting on an elephant.
Well eventually we were off and the two elephants immediately ran to the dam and dived in. Ben and I joined the head guide on the deck for a drink and some nibbles, and we sat there and chatted while watching the elephants for ages. We got the rest of the handlers to join us on the deck and help finish all the snacks, at which point Casper and Kitsu obviously thought they could join us too. So while I sat on the deck talking to the guys I suddenly turned round to see this elephant right behind me trying to lean over and steal some crackers. Oh I did jump a bit, and Ben was roaring with laughter, but I soon got over it and went to give Casper a scratch and take a few pictures. It was lovely standing on the deck with Ben and the elephants while the sun began to set over the dam, a perfect moment that no-one else would ever get to experience. I felt so lucky to be there, and I enjoyed every minute of it. But, alas the elephants had to go to bed so we said goodbye to them and walked back down through the forest, over a rickety bridge and back to the reception where we said goodbye to the Guide and thanked him for what was the most amazing moment of my life. I could not stop grinning all the way home, and when I looked over at Ben he was still grinning too. It truly was magical!
We finally got back to Nwanakalillie and I was shattered after the 3 and half hours that we had just spent with the elephants, but Auriol the owner told us to go to the pool and enjoy a swim, so we popped down there for a bit and sat in the pool listening to all the beautiful sounds of the forest that surrounded us. Once it got a bit too dark, we went back to the room and I went and had a shower to wash off the last of the ele smell while Ben sat and looked through the hundreds of pictures that had been taken at the Elephant Sanctuary. Once I was out the shower I was so tired that as soon as I sat on the bed to look at the pictures I promptly fell asleep on the bed, and did not wake up till the next morning when I was still grinning from ear to ear after our elephant encounter.