After our regular morning chores we had a couple of shorter walks with the elephants. The first, before lunch, was through the forest. There’s always a trade-off. This was bugs for shade. It’s amazing to watch the elephants eat bamboo (one of their favorites). They wrap their trunk around a stem of the bamboo and pull, but with just enough strength to strip the leaves off and leave the thick branches. It’s incredible what they can do with their trunk! It’s like an arm and hand, no bones, very muscular and flexible. The manipulation is fascinating.
The second and slightly longer walk was after lunch. We spent more time on the road. Imagine seeing that come down the highway at home! It was HOT, so we were all glad to have this end in another swim to bathe the elephants.
There’s a lot of elephant butts in my photos. 🙂 There’s a reason for that. You would much rather be behind them than in front of them if there’s someplace they want to go. We get phenomenally close to these elephants, but that does not mean they are ‘safe’ from being an elephant. You must constantly be aware of your surroundings and on the walks especially. For such a large animal they are very quiet coming up behind you. It’s a bit of a shock to look over your shoulder when you sense someone is trying to pass you and what you see is a blurry glimpse of a trunk and ear as they try to catch up with their friends.
How do the elephants know to follow you? Do you use verbal commands? It does not appear that there are any leads or chains, and there are many of them on your walks! They are so magnificent! It has been quite an adventure for me, being able to vicariously take this trip with you. I am so grateful. The envy I speak of is that of your strength in doing this on your own. Something I am terrified of. You are an inspiration to me.
Each elephant has a mahout and they never go out without them. You can see in some of the photos there are guys standing near the elephants. They help direct the walks, but once there’s a direction chosen the elephants know the trails so well they can pretty much lead without too much prompting.
As far as doing this alone… You meet people along the way. I’m not incredibly out-going (in fact, not at all until I get to know someone) so that made me nervous. In the end it’s been really easy. You’re capable of so much when in certain situations.