12 December 2014

On Patrol, Thursday 21st

I am always up early, usually by 5:30am and one of the first to appear at the human kitchen in search of a morning coffee. It is a great time to watch the dogs playing in the cooler morning air as the sun quickly rises over the hill. Breakfast time is shared with many of the dogs, although they are not to be fed our food as it can often lead to quarrels amongst them and besides they have a plentiful supply of nutritious kibble and fresh water.

Poo patrol this morning, it is our turn again for elephant clean up time. We got through the mornings chores quickly and finished with time to spare, so we pruned the bamboo hedge growing around the parking lot and meet-up point. The leaves were plucked from the cuttings to feed to the elephants, so as is so often the case here, there is not much wasted.

I had felt tired today; I think partly due to it being day 11 of not so much hard work, but being constantly on the go. The air quality was also quite poor today too and several of the volunteers I talked with felt a bit sluggish. I ate well (which is not hard to do here) and kept hydrated and I had a nap for an hour before we met up for the afternoon assignment.

As can often be the case, the work schedule was subject to change, and this afternoon, instead of painting our group went for a walk with founder Lek Chailert. It is always fascinating to listen to her elephant stories and watch her interaction with the herd. Like our walk last week, we met up with Faa Mai, the four year old female who just adores Lek. Of course, it was another great photo opportunity and every one had a chance to have the perfect picture with her that will be a lifetimes treasure. 

An after work tubing trip was delayed as one of the other volunteer groups were out and we had to wait for their return to have enough inner tubes for all of us. Some of decided that a dip in the river would be enough water time and we went swimming in our favourite spot, just upstream from where the elephants bathe. We hadn’t been there long when Lek came down to the river and asked us if we would mind sharing the water with the baby elephant. We were all a bit puzzled, what did she mean? Was she joking? The volunteer Coordinators are always pulling our leg about what is happening next, but Lek was serious. Navann was soon in sight accompanied by his mother Sri Prae and auntie Kam Pam.  We were ecstatic; surely this was going to be the highlight of the whole trip! What an amazing experience, to bathe and swim with a baby elephant and his family …. just incredible, something I will never forget.

The most perfect day, Saturday 23rd

I awoke and it was daylight already - the first time in my two weeks here at Elephant Nature Park. I had been setting my alarm clock for 6:00am but was always awake before then. The last couple of days I haven’t bothered, so this morning I slept through and was surprised by the light filling the room, it was 6:25am and the day had started without me!

This morning our group had the Ele-Walk scheduled as or morning chore, as you may have read before, it’s not work at all, but a leisurely walk around the park with lots of photo opportunities. There were many highlights and one of them was leading Jokia and her companion Mae Perm back towards the group of volunteers. I almost felt like a Mahout .... if only for a few minutes!

After the walk we had to clean out the main mud pit, the water is changed and several of us broke up the surrounding ring of earth with hoes. It wasn’t long before the first handful of warm sloppy mud was flung and it was 'game on' from there. Within fifteen minutes we were all covered from head to toe in reddish-brown goop. A clean up in the river was necessary before heading back to our rooms for a proper shower.

After lunch we had a group photo and then took several wheelbarrows around the park and out onto the main road cleaning up any garbage, we sorted five full barrows into recyclable material and the rest to be disposed of.

We were swimming down at the river when Navann and his mother and aunt came down for their bath. It was wonderful to have an opportunity to be so close to him and this time I was not standing back from the action taking photos! 

After bath time the family headed up to the steps and Navann was very playful and inquisitive. Lek took some great photos of that cute baby pushing against me, he weighs a considerable amount and it was hard for me not to be completely pushed over. He has so much coarse bristly hair on him, but his skin is like soft leather. Again at the scratching log he came over and used me as a rubbing post. It was just unbelievable and probably the highlight of my stay. Thank you Lek and Heather for these beautiful pictures.

Tonight was the traditional dinner and I shared a table with Annie the long-term volunteer and Benjamin and Sarah from France. It was a delightful evening and an excellent way to end week two and an unbelievable day.