Blog Day 58 Sun 3rd July 2011
Today we are off to Ran-Tong Elephant Camp!!
The camp itself is about an hour outside of Chiang Mai, the beginning of the journey is fine, but when we get closer to the camp the roads become very muddy and uneven & we find ourselves holding on for dear life. After what seems like a life time of bumps and slipping and sliding we get to 'literally' the end of the road, we are quite a way into the jungle and we are told that we have to walk the rest of the way to the camp. On the jeep we meet Daryl & Liz who are the only other couple accompanying us today. We have to cross pools of water and walk through mud tracks, we all start off being cautious & scared of slipping but our guide Willo tells us that we will get a lot more muddy today so we may as well just get stuck in & not worry (okay for him to say when he's wearing waterproofs & wellies). On the way we get led up a steep mud track to see a mum & her new born baby, elephant that is. It's just 1 week old & we stand there watching for ages, the baby is so cute & really furry. We get told some elephant information which we will share so you all can learn too:
Female elephants are pregnant for 22 months before they give birth!
Typical calf weight is 120kg!
They live 50-70 years!
The baby's feed off their mums milk for up to 4 years!
They eat for almost 20 hours of the day & only sleep for 3 hours of the day!
It's always good to know these things.
Once we reach the camp we see a group of elephants hanging about through the trees. Whilst one of the little Thai tribesmen scurries off to fetch the elephants we get changed into our uniforms and sit down for a lesson in elephant lingo.
Crouch down and let me 'gracefully' get on - Song
Forward - Bai
Reverse - Toi
Left - Kwa
Right - Sai
Stop - How
Ok I've had enough, my arse is broken and I would really like to jump/fall off - Melong
Then the elephants turn up and they are lumps! The mother, Boon, is ridiculously big and the other three are of average size for young elephants. We get to feed them bananas & sugar cane their two favorite foods. Apa means open wide in elephant, and on saying this they do exactly that lifting their trunks over their heads and opening wide. After throwing the food in there is another command, capcoon, which makes them squeak like a dolphin to say cheers for the food. Next up we have our 'elephant driving lesson'. Daryl is up first and does a great job. It's nice when you get to watch someone else attempt to control a wild animal of that size before you have to. Dan's up next and gets left and right royally mixed up, he tried blaming the 'dyslexic' elephant but we all know better. Apart from that he does a pretty good job. Liz's turn, and she does a stunning job. On the sidelines Trish has gone a new shade of white, apparently this is scarier than Great White Shark diving. Dan puts it down to the fact that the elephants must seem even bigger from Trish's point of view. After reaching the summit of the elephant she also does a stunning job, not that the elephant was on auto-pilot at all.
Next up we the boys are introduced to their elephants. Dan, who our guide has nicknamed Rambo, can't believe his luck, he's landed mummy elephant Boon. Now he knows how Trish felt. It's a hell of a long way up on Boon and she is so strong and powerful that Dan is told to sit on her neck. It's probably because she is so strong and such a beast that all the commands go straight out the window. Not because Dan forgot them but because Boon was going where she wanted and Dan was just along for the ride. After a 15 minute ride through the jungle it's the girls turn, and if Trish wasn't scared before then she defiantly was now, as she is also given Boon to ride. She to is along for the ride and what an amazing ride it was.
Lunch is served wrapped in a banana leaf, its Pad Thai and it looks fantastic, but Trish just can't face it at all. Liz kindly offers her a cereal bar she has in her bag. They had them left over from a mountain biking trip, its high in sugar & at least a couple of bites will help. Meanwhile Dan polishes of the Pad Thai but skips on the desert of fruit as per usual. We get told we are now official Mahout's (owners) to our elephants. We share riding our elephant trying to remember the commands to waterfall where we go in with them & get off. We wash Boon & scrub her with a brush. The little elephants with us are 4 & 8 years old & they love playing in the waterfall & spraying everyone with their trunks. They get the elephants to give us a kiss on the cheek & once they've finished drenching us we get back on & head back to the camp. Day 1 is now complete & we all feel absolutely shattered, the experience of today has just been so amazing. We trek back to the jeep & a 30min scary ride later, we swap details with Daryl & Liz & head off to what is to be our bed for the night. It's an authentic bamboo hut, extremely simple but rather ok. We wash ourselves down with a hose (there are no showers) & spray our room & selves with bug spray, before having dinner which is boiled rice in pork stock with boiled eggs. Trish manages a little bit but promptly ends up sitting in the hut toilet for about an hour, which turns out to have really good acoustics. We struggle to settle down with all the outdoor noises but once gone we sleep surprisingly well.