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February 22nd, 2011 | Asia

Encounters with Elephants…

I have always been fascinated by elephants…

Their sheer size, their obvious intelligence and the fact that they can move as silently as ghosts through the thickest of bush will always amaze me… I have walked up to within a few yards of elephant and never saw them until they “allowed” themselves to be seen…

Usually this took the form of an angry trumpet, or a sudden shaking of the shrubbery they were hiding behind… Either way, it was always enough to set my nerves jangling…!! And my feet moving in the opposite direction…!! Although trying to outrun an elephant is not a recommendation I would put forth… They may look cumbersome beast, but they can put on a frightening turn of speed when necessary…!!

You can imagine my excitement then, at the sight that greeted us when we went over to see what the fuss was on the banks of the Rapti River…

Down below us on the banks of the Rapti River, elephants had been brought for their daily bath...

Mahouts and their charges were splashing about in the shallows… The elephants were being rubbed down with mud and handfuls of gravel, and seemed to be loving it…!!

"Ooh yesssssss....!! Just there, my boy...!!"

"And don't forget to wash behind my ears...!!"

Tourists were flocking down to the riverside to take part in the fun, and for a small donation of about R10.00 were allowed to clamber up on the elephants backs and then be dunked into the river when the animals were instructed to either sit or lie down in the water….

Tita and Manuel waded out to take their turn...

And knowing what was coming, Manuel took cover behind the unsuspecting Tita...

Elsewhere, the Blonde girl from Denmark was getting a face-full...!!

It is better to keep Memsahib's mouth closed...!!

The three girls on the left took a tumble after their first jet of water...

I wandered out to check on the equipment, and found Paul's brother already soaked...

While the Danish girl took another hit...!!

"No Sahib...!! You've pushed the submerge button again...!!"

GB gets a trunk-full...!! It is surprising just how much water those bloody things hold...!!

But emerges unscathed and even has time for a few high jinks...!!

I spent nearly an hour messing about and in very close contact with the elephants… I scratched behind their ears, stroked their tough hide and marveled at being able to get so close to them…

I waded out into deeper water to take some "Surface to Ellie" pics...

It was at about this moment when I remembered the large crocodile that had been sunning itself on the bank downstream...!! All that was missing was the theme song from "Jaws"...!! I don't remember getting from the deep water back into the shallows, but afterward, some folk suggested I try out for the Olympic Swimming events...!!

Another sucker climbs aboard... Ethel hid her smile behind her trunk...

I seriously cannot remember when last I had so much fun…!! I went down the next day and did it all over again, and I would gladly visit this part of Nepal again, if only for the opportunity of splashing about with the largest land mammal on the planet… It is an amazing experience and one that I consider privileged to have been able to partake in…!!

"Raji...!! Have the tourists gone...?? I've been pretending to be dead to stop them climbing all over me...!!"

When most of the tourist had proffered their cash gifts and wandered away, I still stood awestruck at the majesty of these animals, they seemed so calm and collected… I walked up to the one I had most interacted with and held up my money for the mahout… He uttered a command and the elephant plucked the bank note from my hand and handed it up to her rider…!!

The she brought her trunk back and sniffed my face, and finally lay it over my right shoulder… I looked into her intelligent yellow-brown eyes and wondered what she must be thinking…

As much as I had enjoyed myself, I could not help thinking that within a few hours, she would be back in chains…

I watched as she walked up the steep bank and headed back in the direction of the stables on the far side of town…

I felt a lump in my throat and sharp pain behind the eyes…

©GBWT 2011

3 comments to Encounters with Elephants…

  • Mark Behr

    I too, love elephants. They are such intelligent, gentle beasts. It would be hard for me to accept seeing them in chains.
    What am awesome experience !

  • Charmz

    As I have said before and will most probably keep saying it “You one lucky bugger”, oh how I would love to do what you did today. It looks like fun was had by all including the ellies.

  • Åke

    Me and my wife – Marion – were riding a elephant in Thailand in january this year,and elephants are so nice
    and intelligent ! ( But we didn’t “take a shower”)

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