What is it like to live your dream? Mine was travelling, for a year, with a backpack, living simply and experiencing culturally. Those moments that remind you consciously and may seem bizarre or surreal that you are actually there, seeing what you see, doing what you do and being who you want to be and now you ARE there! I wanted those every day – and I got it!
In Chiang Mai – riding an elephant bareback through the jungle in Thailand was one ‘peak experience’ I had on this journey. A journey in real life, practically, really (but also a journey in life emotionally and psychologically too for me too!)
I hadn’t quite planned to ride one, just see them as the cruel training put me off. But I found this one, Eddy seemed to love them, they were happy enough, we had fun and fear riding with nothing to hold on to …and rather than watching Wandee’s footing along a narrow path on the edge of a drop, as he swayed along beneath me, feeling a little nervous at his apparent rebellious trumping, I just looked up ahead…and saw a trail of elephants with their passengers slowly, carefully and gently making their way up the hillside in front of me and moving left on the jungle path. And I was, for a moment, wholly there, in the moment, seeing this magical picture of peace and tranquillity, of what it was once like for jungle life and from an elephant’s point of view, too! My breath stopped, I thought: “Wow! Amazing!” and tears sprung a little, wonder to my heart and I was ‘peaking’ my experience of something I didn’t expect or would probably do again! A once in a lifetime experience …
I will never forget that ‘moment’ in time, nor the many other moments I experienced that year. The chuckle at the end of the ride when my mahout had been shouting for ‘Amy’ to look at the camera, I had assumed he meant the elephant beneath me but thought that was my name! I had come to care for ‘her’ when in fact I think he was a he!
His rebellious trumpeting at one point when he took the right side of the path round a stone – towards the edge, and a drop I could see from the tree tops to my side! – when all the others had gone left I noticed! But he was sure of his footing of course, because not only I would have toppled but him – unless he decided to say too far …!! Arrgh! But they know the path, they travel it daily, since, like the baby in front with his mum, from an early age, learning behaviour, routes and commands from the mahouts that cared for them. Nor the wetting I got from an elephant behind me, watching the changed faces of my peers on the ride and then realising why as we bathed ‘our’ elephants in the river that we were wading through, and stopped. it was fun, watching them rolling in the water, touching each other, letting us pour water on them and brushing their tough hides too. Nor the huge whole bunch of bananas tossed up to me that I thought would send me toppling from my unsteady perch, by the mahouts, as we arrived at a rest stop for the elephants to feed. Wandee demanding banana after banana with his trunk bending back to me, calling urgently and never stopping! This was their reward, our fun and experience and a chance to reflect on the survival, feelings and achievement we felt on riding an elephant in the jungle! Cool!
I sadly lost my CD on route of the rides, river washing and photos, so I will have to rely on the memories of that day, a few photos of those wonderful animals – and the people like Eddy and his mahouts, and my fellow riders …
Eddy, of Eddy’s Elephants, Chiang Mai, I am sure was a caring owner, taking his fathers gifted elephant and those of his siblings to start this business, learn English in England and make a healthy living from the rides and the fun!