Friday, March 4, 2011

Flashback Friday: Taking a Walk on the Wild Side

It's finally March and I have now been living abroad for 7 months! Hard to believe that the time is going by so fast. This week has been fully packed, and I couldn't be happier that today is Friday! For this weeks Flashback Friday post I have decided to write about one of my favourite excursions while travelling abroad. Back in 2006 I travelled with a group of physicians and my mother to Thailand. To be completely honest, I have been avoiding writing about Thailand because the trip had so many highlights and every day of the 2 1/2 week adventure could be it's own post. The thought of trying to articulate the expeditions and excursions are quite overwhelming, so I have decided to write about my Thailand adventure in stages.  What better way to start off my Thailand Chronicles than to blog about my favourite memory from the trip. Come back in time with me and take a walk on the wild side for an up close and personal experience with some of the most amazing animals known to man, elephants. 




I have always loved elephants, and when I discovered that our group would be visiting a protective elephant camp in the jungle of Thailand I knew that I was going to have the adventure of a lifetime.  My group departed from the city and made a four hour journey into the heart of the Thai jungle.  The entire time we were riding in the bus I had butterflies from excitement for getting the opportunity to get up close and personal with these gentle giants.  From the moment our group arrived at the camp, we were surrounded by these enormousness creatures who were ready to play and interact with us.  They seemed as excited to mingle with us, as we were with them and I loved every minute of it.   


 The camp had many mother elephants with their calves and the mom's seemed to be very protective of their kin. I loved this family of elephants and their little baby calf. Did you know that the elephant gestation period is 22 months?! I can't imagine carrying around a baby for almost 2 years. Maybe that is why the mothers have such a special bond with their offspring.




I remember standing at the camp and then all of a sudden I was hoisted into the air by a young elephant. It was amazing, and I never would have imagined their trunks to be as strong as they were. He picked me up as if no effort was required. Their shear strength was impressive to witness first hand. 

 To raise money for the protective elephant camp the elephants themselves painted art pieces with their trunks. It was surprising to see how well they were able to create artwork. 


After playing at the camp, my mother and I boarded an elephant for an adventure walk through the Thai jungle. There is no way I can describe how amazing that elephant ride was, and it was definitely my favourite experience I have ever had with my mom. 


Thailand is very lush and green. It is refreshing to see untouched natal beauty at it's finest.









 My Mom and Me

One of coolest parts of the ride was getting to feed our elephant sugar cane and bananas. We would be riding along and our elephant would randomly veer off course to a tree house that was sort of like a ''drive-through.'' We were able to buy food items form a little kid in the tree house and then feed our elephant. He would stick his trunk up to us and then grab the food and devour it. I think he made at least 5 stops at the drive through on our excursion. I can't really blame him- he was carrying quite a load on his back. 




 Many locals in the hill country of Thailand use elephants for transport and labour. As mentioned before they are extremely strong animals and can lift entire tree trunks right out of the ground. At one point we got to ride the elephants through the river, and I was so glad they knew how to swim! It was such a hot day and at least 90F (32C) so I am sure they welcomed the cool water. 



When we dismounted from our elephants we then took an ox cart-ride back to the elephant camp. That was another experience I will never forget- notice who has the reins.


 When we got back from our excursion through the jungle our elephants got to enjoy a bath. I think they have more fun splashing around in the shower than humans do. Side note- you may notice the chains on the elephants feet. Because chains can be scary for elephants trainers try to introduce them during experiences the elephants enjoy- for example eating or bathing. This way the chains are not negatively viewed by the elephants and they react more positively to the chains if and when they are needed. It did upset me to see the chains, but once the camp directors explained why they were there I felt a little more at ease.



Just writing about this experience brings a huge smile to my face. I have to fully endorse visiting a protective elephant camp if you ever get the opportunity. Getting up close and personal with these gentle giants will be an experience you will never forget! I never imagined that taking the road less travelled would include and elephant ride, but I am sure glad it did!  Until next time, I will see you on the internet. 

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