Tuesday, February 20, 2007

We would like to introduce a couple of our new friends to you:

This is "Mae San", She is a female Asian Elephant (I think you could have figured that last bit out yourselves)

And this beauty is "Mae Cam" (Mae is kinda like Mrs for female elephants)

We told you we had something cool coming up, Well since we arrived into Asia nearly 5 months ago (Gulp!) We have had loads of chances to go on Elephant rides, but we never did, It was never quite right, The elephants never looked happy and all you got to do was sit in a wooden chair on their back and its not really what we wanted to do. When we arrived into Luang Prabang (Northern Laos) there were loads of places offering 1hr elephant treks to waterfalls etc, but yet again it didnt seem like you got to actually interact with the Elephants, just sit on their back in a wooden seat..... Then we heard about this place called Elephant Lodge, They do a 2 day Mahoot (Tribal word for a person who looks after Elephants) training course, Instead of just riding on its back, you actually look after your very own Elephant for 2 full days, You get to ride on its neck, Control it, Wash it and generally find out about them and care for them. It sounded amazing, Well it was better than that:

For the first introduction, you ride the elephant with the Mahoot sitting in a seat, and we take turns in sitting on the neck. How cool is that!!

This is the view from sitting on the neck of an female Asian Elephant. I was so excited about actually doing it, I didnt think about it being hard, but holy cow I spent the first 2-3 mins trying very hard not to fall off, Your about 10-12 feet off the ground and the feeling of power from her was just unreal, after ajusting my knees behind her ears, she folded them back to hold me on (not joking) I started getting the hang of it.

After the first ride, the seats were taken off and it was just myself, Charlie and the mahoots riding the Elephants (4 elephants in total).

It was a fair old trek back to where the Elephants slept. Since 1990 Logging has become Illegal in most S.E. Asian countries, As a result of this thousands of Elephants have become "Unemployed" and the people who were using them for the logging now cant afford to keep them (They eat over 100KGs of food everyday), These elephants cant be released back into the wild so alot of them are either killed or used in city's for tourists and not looked after properly. There are a few places like the Elephant lodge that take them in and look after them and by letting tourist like us to interact with them and look after them properly, and restricting them to working only 4-5hrs a day lets them have a much better life, all the the elephants we seen had all previously worked as logging elephants in the past.

Something that really shocked us was how agile they are, they could easily climb up very very steep slopes, slopes humans would have problems with. (Charlie is on the one at the top left)

Check out how steep that is, we really had to hold on as it was a bumpy ride! Although the Mahoots were spinning around on the backs, really relaxed talking to each other and it seemed like the were stuck to the Elephants.

When we got to their sleeping and eating area there was loads of food for them all cut down and waiting for them.

They were pretty happy looking while they were eating!

It was simply amazing just how calm and relaxed they were around us.

Each of them has quite an individual personality, some were a bit quite, others were very boisterous and wanted to see what was going on all around them.

But they all loved eating! There are more separate muscles in their trunks than in the whole human body.

After spending the whole day with them we headed back to the Elephant lodge, Which was across the river from the elephants. it was pretty well hidden in the jungle and was over an hour from any towns.

I had not really payed attention when the guide was talking about the accommodation, I just cared about the elephants, but when we were shown our room, it was just amazing, by far the nicest room have stayed in while we have been away.

The Private balcony looked over the river and over to the jungle.

Our room was inside a renovated 100yr old french colonial house. The attention to detail was astounding, the guy who did it, didnt buy anything new, he just reworked the old stuff and used local materials.

Swanky, With extra swank......

I especially loved the elephant mat.

After a quick snooze, we had dinner.

The view from the resturant was amazing:

How picturesque is that.

Amoungst the trees, were the area that the Elephants and the mahoots hang out during the day!

After an amazing first day, we layed back and just enjoyed the room!!!

We were up at 6am the next day and we came across the river to the mahoots village, there was a wedding the night before in a nearby village, and some of the lads looked pretty wrecked, but they were well able for it after cooking a bit of breakfast. (Speaking of breakfast, Ive been having very vivid dreams about eating a breakfast roll (with hash browns) If anyone would be so kind to buy one and eat it on my behalf and then email me telling me EXACTLY what it was like id be a happy man, Stupid rice......)

Right, I dont know if it was because he was hungover or he thought I could handle it, but my Mahoot let me up on my elephant on my own and I took it all the way back to the camp.

This picture is a little blurry, mainly because my elephant started to run, he didnt like being behind Charlies and wanted to be the leader, I may look calm in the photo, but it was just terrifying at how much power they have. I soon realised that I had no say in which direction it wanted to go.

During the night they roll around in the muck and get all dirty.

They use their trunks to blow dust all over them to keep them cool and probably because its a lot of fun.

Now, what do you think we had to do to get all that dust and muck off them?

Wash them! They simply walked into the river and sat down (after a bit of playing around) and we started scrubbing, they were loving it and blowing water out of their trunks and completely drenching us!

After a quick clean behind the ears, my one started to make a break for it, we had not finished so she sat back down again and we got the job done. check out how relaxed the mahoots are while standing on them, it was really impressive.

After getting a good cleaning it was time to walk back to the camp and have a bit of a feed.

They obviously knew they were getting more food as they practically ran back.

All cleaned up and stuffing her face. They suck up the feed with their trunks and then blow it into their mouths, pretty handy if you ask me.

After their feeding we got to spend an hour or so just messing with them. They really are playful things and have a great temperment.

Charlie feeding them bananas.

Charlie trying to expain that it was the last banana.

Me trying to explain my camera is not food.......

We were just in Awe of how something so big could be so gentle.

Mae San

Charlie caved and went and got more sugar cane......

Mae Cam and Mae San.

They really have the greatest eyes Ive ever seen on an animal, they follow you around when you move about and you can almost see them thinking. Amazing.

Well our time was up with our new buddies, they were clean and fed and were ready for a days work. We were pretty sad to leave them, so we went and gave them a hug each before we went. It was truly a very special couple of days and its something that will stay with us for the rest or our lives. We learned alot about them and the problems that face the elephant in S.E Asia and by donating a bit of time and money into a place like this hopefully we have made a difference to the elephants supported by the Elephant lodge.

Now just incase staying with and looking after the Elephants wasnt enough, at the end of the second day, we had a choice to either trek, kayak or simply get a lift back to the town,

What do you think we did?

Yay, Kayaking!

It was about 40km back to town. It was a really nice day and the views were amazing.

We were in a 2 person Kayak, Charlie was up front because I dont think she would have seen much if she was stuck behind me.

A couple of hours in and we are still going strong. the whole trip was just over 4 hours and it was brilliant fun.

Charlie was putting me to shame with her stamina, She would look back and see me layed out "taking a break"

Looking pretty happy with myself after coming around the last bend, We were pretty wrecked and little bit sun burnt, but it was such a great way to finish off 2 of the best days we have had on the whole trip.

We are leaving Luang Prabang tomorrow to go on a 2-day slow boat to the Thai border and then a 4hr bus journey to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, the slow boat trip is ment to be beautiful and is a nice way to travel, but we will be very sad to leave Laos, It has been without a doubt the most beautiful country we have been in, the terrain is just stunning and the people are just sooo nice, The Climate is deadly (hot during the day, cool at night) Charlie is missing the vietnam coffee (It melts your face off its so strong.) but she has a couple of bags to keep her going.

We should bearriving into Chiang Mai early on the 23rd, so we will update some time after that.

I would also like to mention that we will be going crazy on the 24th for the Game, We managed to find a bamboo hut bar in Vang Vieng to watch the french match on (still too sore to talk about) but this match is going to be the best, England Vs Ireland in CROKE park, If I could fly home now to go to that game I would... but I think you will be able to hear my roars from over here!! anyway have a beer for me when your watching the game!

Lots of Love Sean and Charlie

No comments: