I’m in Kerala, India, possibly the most fascinating country I’ve ever had the privilege to visit, and I’m about to experience an elephant ride for the first time ever!
I’m very excited as our tuk tuk winds crazily up through narrow streets and dirt tracks to the elephant camp. It’s monsoon season, but it’s hot and humid. Arriving at the camp, I catch my first glimpse of an elephant, feeding on plants and grass. They look so serene, relaxed and graceful. We ‘book in’ and patiently await out turn. It doesn’t take long before we are being ushered onto our elephant, who waits patiently at the side of a 10 foot tall ledge whilst we gingerly clamber onto its back.
It’s a very strange feeling initially, being sat on a giant creature when all I can see is it’s few wiry hairs on top of its peach-like head. It starts to move very slowly, and I feel like I’m gliding through the air! Gently we meander along a well worn path through the spice plantation, passing cardamom, cocoa and pepper plants on our journey. Occasionally we stop so the mahout (trainer) can take some photos of us and our elephant (who I have aptly named Nelly as I didn’t catch her real name!) in various poses along the way. The journey lasts about 30 minutes and is possibly the most exciting form of transport I have experienced in my life so far!
It’s really quite a humbling feeling sat atop a 12′ foot elephant. They seem such gentle, calming creatures, and even though I’m fully aware they are wild animals I feel totally relaxed. Afterwards we stand next to ‘Nelly’ for more photos and I feel completely at ease and trusting of my new friend.
Following this we then had the opportunity to bathe an elephant. Not being one to say no to any opportunity and enjoying the experience so far, I eagerly waited as Nelly was led into a man-made bathing area and the mahout gave us each a hard scrubbing brush. Whilst he hosed Nelly down we were told to scrub her back. I did so very gently, not wanting to press too hard on her leathery skin! It was a surreal and fascinating experience, and must have been even more so for nelly, lay on her side, with 13 people excitedly washing her back!
Following this, the mahout ordered us one by one to climb up the elephants leg and onto her back where she filled her trunk with water and then seemed to take great pleasure in soaking us with it – probably pay back! An incredible experience to be so close to such beautiful creatures in such a beautiful country.