Watch it ... depth charge!
Spent the morning with some Czech lads we'd met, cycling around the area on mountain bikes with no gears, heavy frames and very hard seats. We cycles down bumpy and dusty roads ringing our bells and saying hello to the locals, while swerving around cows and ducklings (oh! And rhinos too .... aparantly they don't like bicycles either!). Children chased after us, giving us a helping push. We took a canoe over the river to where the elephant breeding centre was. They were all chained up, rocking to and fro in a bored and frustrated way. Some of the workers ran over to tell us that some of them were on heat and a little bit dangerous. Some had escaped a little while before and destroyed some of the huts in the village.
Later we went on our 3 hour elephant trek. We climbed up a platform and then squeezed ourselves into a box frame on the back of the elephant, along with a Nepalese family. Increadibly tight and uncomfortable. After 15 minutes we realised that we had had enough ... with only 2 hours 45 minutes to go. 20 minutes we lost all sensation from the waist down. We trundled along in a flotilla (or is it a gaggle) or about 8 elephants to the park checkpoint. Our driver jumped out, which was the cue for our elephant to start having a fight with the elephant next to us. Quick bonk on the head with a crowbar for you young lady. We then forged a path through the jungle and tall grasses, desperately holding on to the elephant and trying not to get thwacked off by whiplashing branches. Hang on! Something heavy has fallen off the back of our elephant ... ooo no! It's doing some kind of smelly contemporary adaptation of Hansel and Gretel. Ooohhh .... learn back and avoid the washback from the depth charges while crossing the rivers. Must conclude that I don't like it when they stop to scratch, standing on 3 legs and leaning to one side while we passengers grip on white knuckled, dangling from the basket as it's rotated through 45 degrees. Didn't help that the belt on the basket was coming undone, so we were in constant fear of ending up between the sweaty underside of the elephant.
Pushed through the jungle in search of rhinos (gulp!), and then through 5 - 8 meter high grasses ... even the elephant wasn't too impressed by this idea. We could bearly see the tops of the heads of the people on the other elephants. The sun was turning red, casting the grasses into gold. Oh for a pith helmet and blunderbuss! All of a sudden there was a right old racket as the elephants and rhinos ahead exchanged insults and we galloped over just in time to see the blunt end of a rhino disapearing into the undergrowth.
Getting dark and without the benefit of elephant headlamps, we returned back to base while watching the stars peep through the tree branches. Occasional fire-flies flashed by while gloomy candle light illuminated us, casting elephant shaddows against the mud huts. The silence was only broken why the trumpetting of the lead elephant as it mowed down a clumsy tourist.
All diplomatic relations and communications between my bottom and the rest of my body are stopped for the forseable future.