You know that feeling you get when two elephants, that you don’t know personally, walk up and tower over you? Well today was my turn to experience it. I was sitting by myself on a wooden seat overlooking the river, watching a couple of elephants bff’s bathing together. Lolling about they were, schmoozing their heads in and out of the water, rolling their bodies this way and that ecstatically, unfurling their trunks now and then to touch each other in silent solidarity. ‘Twas a long, quiet moment with an almost sepia setting – orange and grey elephants, beige water, sandy river bank and a beach of grey pebbles in the foreground.
I pulled out my camera and took continuous shots of them doing their thing in the water, then heaving themselves up and exiting their bath. They walked towards me, getting closer and closer through my lens, then it dawned on me that they weren’t going to stop at a comfortable distance. Oh no, they plodded right on up until they came to a halt right in front of me then stood there, ears flapping and feet meeting mine. I craned my neck and looked up right into their mouths – open and ready to receive. Erm, this was not quite what I was anticipating, and I just sat there like a stunned possum – probably with my own mouth wide open – wondering what to do next. How does one go about entertaining two leviathan vegetarian guests that one isn’t familiar with nor expecting to relate with in quite such a sudden manner? It’s not like I usually carry large amounts of lemonade or cucumber sandwiches in my pockets. To my relief, a mahout appeared from around the corner with a huge basketful of bananas, came and sat in front of me and proceeded to push the bananas down the awaiting maws. Neither of us spoke, nor for that matter did the elephants. They just made chewing noises and did the banana disappearing trick until in no time they were all gone. Then the three of them, two huge pachyderms and a correspondingly tiny human, turned and wandered around the river bend together and I was left sitting there wondering if that had really happened. I guess when you hang around for long enough in a place full of elephants, the odds are something unexpected will occur, right?
At breakfast I amused myself watching the guy in charge of the toaster. When I say toaster, I mean a big clay bowl full of embers with a grill over the top. He waved a large piece of cardboard at it to encourage the heat, and the sparks made for some pretty photos. It worked really well and gave the toast a yummy char-roasted taste unattainable by any electric contraption I’ve ever come across.
Once again, we breathed a collective sigh of relief this morning when we were relegated to Ele Pooh Duty, rather than the corn truck adventure. Hot and sticky work, but not too problematic and pachy pooh is hardly offensive to the nose. Elephants stomachs aren’t really all that efficient and large amounts of what goes in the front end comes out the back end only partially absorbed, so you’re picking up balls of a grassy texture delicately laced with a hint of banana and watermelon. I’ve had far worse jobs while raising my three kids, living with two dogs and cleaning up after an uncaged nectar-eating parrot…
Ursula and I had rather a job on our hands trying to get our hand washing dry. We had hand wrung it to within inches of its life and hung it all over everything available in our room that poked out or stood still for long enough, with the fan going in front of it. The theory of it was great, but due to the intermittent power supply, the fan wasn’t actually going around very often and thus there was a tremendous lack of streaming air flowing helpfully over said garments and towels. Outside was humid and raining off and on, and inside wasn’t much different – apart from the rain. So the washing just hung there in all sulky-like and we started to feel a slight bit of alarm as our clothing supplies got thinner and thinner. Correspondingly, we became less fussy about our outfits and ended up just putting on whatever wasn’t actually dripping. Heck, we were just going to go out and sweat in it anyway.
In the afternoon all the volunteers went out to the front of the park near the dog compound and resisted the urge to go and pat all the puppies, instead planting little trees that would eventually grow up and become elephant food and medicine. And it rained. And rained. Oh goody – more wet clothing. It was nice though, to have us all together with Lek and several of the park staff mucking in as well. It’s amazing what a large crowd can do in a fairly short time. After an hour or so, a potential forest was stuck in the ground and we all meandered back to make what would be largely pathetic attempts to become dry again then off we went for another of the park’s fabulous dinners. A quiet evening ensued with the mandatory plunking of the ukulele then once more into the nightly battle with the mosquito nets over our beds and a background of the almost quiet elephant evening choir.