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Les Éléphants

The gentlest of giants

sunny 25 °C
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We spent our final 2 days in Lao at an elephant sanctuary before our flight to Krabi, Thailand. Once again I can’t rave enough about the gorgeous scenery and setting.
A relaxing shaded hut that demanded you to stop everything you’re doing and take in the view.
Just when you think you can’t stand the beauty anymore, the elephants come strolling through. It felt like Shangri-la.
Thinking back the actual time we spent with the elephants wasn’t very long, perhaps only 4 hours. There was a total of 11 female elephants catering to the numerous tourists. Each elephant has its own mahout; it’s caretaker. This was our first experience, learning to climb up and riding the elephants. I was supposed to grab the very top of the ear with my right hand, and place my right foot on her raised leg and then swing myself over the 8’ high animal. It was feasible but very awkward. Shamefully I’ve already forgotten the name of my elephant & mahout.
At the sanctuary’s information center it provided the history behind each elephant and their mahout, a very interesting read that we would test ourselves with at each meal. It also explained via large signs what commands to use with the elephants. And very importantly, how to act & behave & around these massive animals so that you don’t hurt yourself or aggravate them and put yourself in danger. I believe here I’m carrying out “DON’T #5: Do not touch the elephants trunk”.
Now pulling a double negative, the previous 'Don't touch the trunk' and disobeying “ALWAYS #1: Approach the elephant from its right side”.
I only posed for these photos at the urging of our English-speaking guide and the mahout, even though it conflicted with what the information center provided. I’m left thinking, what else is total bullshit then?
Giving my elephant a mid-day cool down.
As I mentioned since we didn’t have a whole lot of interaction with the elephants we ended up just hanging around and observing the locals around us. Here are some young men attempting to spear fish in the water. Their interaction sounded much more light-hearted and fun rather than work or finding their next meal.
This was another group in the water.
And another, they were slapping the sticks on the water making very loud sounds. I highly doubt it attracted the fish, but I’m sure for some reason or another it must have helped.
This is our 2nd encounter with the elephants, this time riding in baskets seats strapped to the elephants. We had a moment of freak out as our elephant strolled down this ridiculously narrow and steep path, all the while, not walking straight but swaying from side to side snatching little branches & leaves to snack on.
And in the water we go.
The view from the water.
A local home & hut.
These 3 local boys that were fully clothes seconds before and stripped down bare to enjoy the waters.
This man fed the elephants the chopped trunks of a banana tree.
She was very pleased with her treat. Elephants eat 10% of their body weight daily. That’s a solid 250 kg, no wonder they were constantly picking at plantations along our walks.
A man with his musket.
Local home.
I would have liked to join this group huddle. I think they were eating.
A herd of water buffaloes submerged.
Avert your eyes if you don’t care for shit. But hey! We all do it.
She obediently laid down by the water.
We rode our elephants to their rest spot into the jungle early in the afternoon and our guide took us out to discover our surroundings.
He took us ziplining, for an extra fee of course. Our climb to the 1st zipline platform involved us squeezing through a crevice.
This was my first time ziplining, but I was told this place differed from others because rather than starting & going from the same platform, they dropped you down a free fall of 10-15m to another platform below before continuing.
It took a lot more to build up the courage to do this drop than the actual zipline. Although this photo doesn’t show it, by the end, I was attempting to coast upside down & no hands. LG!
Our final interaction with the elephants involved us picking them up from the jungle drop off.
I'm still in awe how these massive animals could move with such ease & grace.
Jenn got lucky and was the only one who got to ride her elephant alone without the assistance of the mahout sitting from behind.
Bath time!
We were handed stiff brushes to scrub down our elephants. With such thick skin, even scrubbing with heavy effort I kind of doubted my elephant felt anything more than a gentle caress. Our mahouts spent their time splashing the tourists. I tried to focus on my task at hand rather than the fact that there was a lot of elephant dung floating by. Poo water.
Goodbye elephants! Goodbye Lao! You and I were great together.

Posted by chang2n 07:54 Archived in Laos

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