As I write this, I’m sitting in my wet clothes in the warm sunlight, listening to the burble of the river and watching elephants bathe by the camp. Yes, elephants.
We walked for four hours this morning, after having breakfast at Mae Joke village. Finally we got to some hiking-only trails, through bamboo forests. We would have gotten lost without Piroon and our other guide. Down in the fields below us, we could hear the gentle tonk-tonk of cowbells – in this case, perhaps they were water-buffalo bells. We saw a dead squirrel near the path. Piroon said it was shot, and I wonder why the hunter didn’t take it.
After going down to the level of the water buffalo and crossing a stream, we went UP. Piroon said we’d get a break at the top, and it’s a good thing, because it was about 20 minutes of very serious up. And of course, after up comes down. And down and down. I dearly wished for a walking stick, and my toes (and knees) screamed for a break. But it took just as much time to go down as up. Finally we reached a river – a big river. A take-off-your-shoes-and-roll-up-your-shorts type of river. And we had to cross it 3 times in the next kilometer. It was all flat between, though, so I gladly changed into thongs. My feet were happy to be free.
We went for a swim at the last crossing, which was at an elephant camp. Then we had lunch, and watched the elephants swim. Then, finally, they led us to the elephant platform. There was a group ahead of us, with a bunch of topless (cute!) guys. They probably got horribly sunburned.
The elephants carry 2 or 3 people, which was perfect for us. The ones with 3 looked rather crowded, and the mahout (elephant keeper) doesn’t ride. Dad gracefully gave in, so I got to sit on the neck! Of course then there was the question of knees up or down, hands on the head or cutting off the circulation to Dad’s feet, and what prayers to say as she went down the steep bank into the river.
Added to which, we had a very disobedient elephant. She had a young one, which followed along, but she’d stop randomly, or decide to have a snack, or start to go down this REALLY STEEP part of the bank. I finally got the hang of it and started humming – she seemed to like it and obey more rapidly when I nudged her ear with my toes. She trumpeted at one point, which was freaky, and took a mini sand-bath at another, but hey – they’re wild elephants! I was sad to get off after an hour and a half, but my thighs hurt from holding on.
As soon as we got to the guest house, we were assailed by women asking “massage??” for 250B. Why not? It was very nice, maybe half an hour, full body. Way expensive compared to city prices, but I felt I deserved one after keeping that elephant in line.
Dinner was sweet & sour, pumpkin curry, and veggies, plus soup. After dinner we sat around the fire (again), but this time with a guitar. I played some, and so did Piroon and a few of the village boys. The Thai songs were very nice, and all the villagers sang vigorously, if not always on key or the same words. They had several English song books, which I could have had lots of fun with – if I had some time alone. Piroon and the others knew lots of English songs, and could play them well, but the singing was weird, like they didn’t know what they were singing and hadn’t heard the song before. At times they’d all stop singing to listen to me, which was kind of awkward as they were frequently playing it in a key I can’t sing very well. But I think we had a fun time all around. I miss my guitar.
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