Monday, January 19, 2009

Trip to India: Day 7: Elephants

Day 7:

Finally the elephants!! When Stephen and Jasleen asked what I wanted to do in India, I didn't really have any idea, but the one thing I wanted to do was ride an elephant.

We headed up to the elephant training center higher up in the mountains where we were going to be able to wash some elephants (!!!). We parked and headed down a rocky slope to the

incredible riverside. The landscape looked like something out of National Geographic, it was so perfect. As we were all chatting and taking pictures, the family behind us started gasping and ooing and ahhing and we turned around to see the first of the elephants coming down the slope.

You don't get that many chances to be that close to an elephant in your daily life, and you forget how enormous they actually are. They move so gracefully and surely, it's an amazing sight to see. Especially the first elephant, the older female, who I developed a slight crush on. She had the most beautiful amber eyes.

She slowly slid down on her side into the shallow water and the trainers began scrubbing her skin with a halved coconut shell.

As they began to clean the female, 3 adorable babies paraded down the slope and into the water. Elephants are extremely alien creatures when you look at them for a long time. Their trunks are spotted and prehensile, like another limb. Their enormous feet bulge out from their comparatively puny ankles and on the soles of their feet are enormous craters like the surface of the moon. Their skin is so thick that when you push on it, it feels like a leathery wall. They have bizarre hair on their bodies which feels like how facial stubble might feel if you magnified it 1000 times. The babies, when wet, don't have the same majesty as the adults and look more like bizarre, leathery aliens.

Being next to these incredible animals was such a wonderful experience, and the way it was conducted was extremely Indian. Nothing like this would have been possible in the US. We had complete and total freedom with the elephants, and really no safety precautions or instructions. It was incredible.

(I love this photo because it looks like I was just out in the wilderness and happened to find this huge elephant to draw.)

After we were done washing we went back to the zoo area to wait in line to ride the elephant (!!!). Stephen and Jasleen weren't too enthralled with the idea of riding the elephant, but it's the one thing I needed to check off of my to-do list, so we were doing it whether they liked it or not! We climbed up a small staircase and all four of us slid gently onto the elephant. Again, you kind of forget how big elephants actually are until you're teetering up on top of one.

The ride is extremely wobbly and you feel like you're swaying dramatically from side to side (particularly my mom, who was determined to tilt herself off of the elephant (see photo)). The stubble-y hair I mentioned before turned out to be extremely painful if you're bright enough to wear shorts to ride the elephant. I probably wouldn't choose an elephant as my means of transportation for any long ventures, but I am completely satisfied that I finally got to ride it! Plus I even have a drawing from on top of the elephant, and how many people can say that!

(Not Pictured: Stephen's upper half)


gabi campanario said...

what an experience! thanks for the reportage, terrific work!

Ellis Nadler said...

Really good reportage

totalwatsansrilanka said...
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