I have met an elephant!!
We woke at 7.30am and had breakfast. The bus left at 8.15am and we were all quiet in the bus just slowly waking up.
We arrived at a house in the countryside. This is where the elephants live!
The elephants are working elephants. The family have 3 elephants, and the PMGY pay the owner to release one of them from work for a year at a time. This is very expensive and so they can’t pay for all 3.
The elephant that is currently released is a large male, however he is going through mating season and so is too aggressive.
We therefore have his mother and and an 80 year old elephant. Today they were both having a day off and so there were two between the 7 of us. Going forward, there will probably be only one at a time as the other will be working.
They work as temple elephants, so they don’t give rides but bless the visitors when they come to a temple.
The days off where we scrub them is like a spa day for them!
We got out the bus and there was a huge elephant in the garden! It was at least double my height and had a huge fat belly.
Our first job was to clear their bed areas. We all worked together on both rather than split into teams.
The boys were very gentlemanly and took up the job of shovelling the mound of poo into the wheelbarrow and then emptying it onto the pile a little way away.
We had to use our hands to pick up the palm leaves, branches and bits of trunk that the elephant sleeps on. It was wet with wee and sweat, and covered in bugs.
It was hot work and it smelt.
When the boys had each had a go at the poo they offered it to us girls. Rhian took the shovel and scooped up one lot and then the Mahout (elephant carer) took the shovel from her. It seems they don’t like to see a lady doing that job. He used his foot to push the last bits on the shovel.
We washed the wheelbarrow and shovel, whilst the mahout sprayed the concrete square that was now clear of all the bedding.
It was then time to walk with the elephants to the lake. The elephants have chains on them but this is a law so that they cannot cause mayhem and escape. With them being just in someone’s garden they are close to people’s homes.
Each elephant has a mahout who looks after the elephant. He can command the elephant and carried a large stick to use if required.
They walked slowly, but elegantly. There feet are so big but you can’t hear their footsteps.
Each mahout stayed by its head, occassionally shouting a command.
Both did a poo on the way, just on the road and the mahouts kicked the freshly dropped poo to the side with their bare feet. The poo is perfect circles like rabbit droppings but bigger than a tennis ball!
We walked passed a school where the kids were in the playground. They all ran up to the fence to watch us go past. As they shouted “rupees” at us we realised they were coming to watch us and not thenelephnats which I guess they are used to.
We smiled and waved but obviously gave no money to them.
We reached the lake, luckily the part we were going to be working in was under the shade of a tree.
There was quite a steep drop into the water but the elephants seemed to know what to do and they both climbed down gracefully.
They knelt down and rolled into the water. Their bellies and half their head was above water. They breathe by using their trunk as a snorkel!
We were given dried pieces of coconut husk and shown to use the flat edge to scrub the elephant.
The boys took one elephant and the girls the other. We had the 80 year old and she looked happy and relaxed.
The mahout had to do the face and so we started on the back.
Elephants are so hairy! Black, wiery hair that covers them. It is like human and pigs hair, not fur but just individual hairs that stick out.
The skin is so thick and some bits felt like a rock she was so solid.
The tail of an elephant is so weird! It’s heavy and feels like leather, but it is covered in hair and at the top there is a fan of hairs that look like another animal has attached itself!
We were scrubbing for about 40 minutes, arms achey slightly.
The mahout had been following us round to make sure the scrubbing had been done properly. The skin needs to be scrubbed to get rid of all the pollution from the elephant. This makes the skin healthier and will hopefully mean the elephant will live longer.
The mahout shouted a command and the elephant rolled onto its back and over. We had a whole other side to do!
By the time it got to 12pm which is when we finish we had pretty much done the 2nd side.
We climbed out of the water and were given cucumbers to feed the elephant. She took each cucumber in her trunk and then into her mouth from our hands.
As Brittany was climbing out she caught her arm on the mahout’s knife that he had sticking out the back of his sarong. This was the only time we saw him smile!
The bus was already with us so we didn’t have to walk back. We were all quite tired from the work but very excited that we had spent the morning with an elephant.
We got back in time for lunch and spent the afternoon relaxing in the house and on the roof.
I went to bed early as for a trip we had to get up at 2.45am!
Malbec making friends with an elephant will draw Sazzle out.