Elephant Camp

This is going to be a HUGE post, not just because its subject is large, but because I got so many great photos.

When the half-day trip I asked for isn’t available, the agent wants to sell me a full-day trip to the elephant sanctuary, discounted to nearly the same price. I consider it, but more is not better: I don’t want to be exhausted and overheated for the last half of the experience. So she finds another elephant camp, where they do have the half-day tour happening. There are how many elephant sanctuaries around Chiang Mai? Three of four, at least. And they all thrive on the eco-tourist traffic. Green economy!

 IMG_0866The van picks me up at 7, drives around town for an hour to pick up another 10 or so passangers, another hour to get to the camp. It’s surprisingly close to the city, considering its big area.

An elephant family is hanging out by the entrance, browsing. A keeper tosses a bunch of bananas into their—um, paddock? Corral?… Anyway, watch Mama eat some bananas.

We are given a supply of  sugar cane, the elephants’ favorite treat, so we can feed them by hand. One hand holding the sugar, one hand holding the camera—if you think you can get a better shot of an elephant eating from your hand, be my guest!

I had a hunch that a little stash of sugar cane might come in handy later, so I kept a few pieces in my jacket pocket.

We get a brief lesson on how to “command” the elephant. The practical results will be comical, but that story comes later.

Climb aboard Manoi, and hit the trail! My companion here is Jan, from Poland. (He came with two friends, so what we have in common is being a odd number).

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Easy, wide, flat. Manoi grabs snacks along the way.

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Then, climbing the hillside, steep, rugged, and narrow. Our guide is taking the video while calling directions to Manoi. Here’s where our “training” comes in handy: it’s good to know what the guide is yelling while the elephant calmly does pretty much what she pleases.

From the higher part of the trail, view of the camp, and the village beyond…9020 Landscape

It’s all fun and games until, on the steep narrow trail, Manoi steps off the trail and bends down to pick something to eat. Suddenly, it’s a challenge just to stay on. Whew!

a6865 uh oh!

After our safe return (and more photo ops) it’s bath time. Getting down from Manoi’s neck after she has waded into thigh-deep, muddy water is a leap of faith, but after that it’s all pleasant.

But here is where she discovers that I have kept some sugar cane from our first meeting, and nimbly picks it out of my pocket!

We hug each other goodbye, Manoi gets ready for the next tour group, humans to the showers. Altogether a delightful experience. May these sociable, peace-loving beasts thrive.

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