Elephant Sass

So week 2 of my Thailand adventure was the week I was most excited for.. Elephant week! Located high up in the mountains is the town(?) of Umphang, home of Umphang house and elephant sanctuary. So basically, elephants! (Squeaaaal!). 

I don’t think I have ever been so excited to ‘work’, here we are classed as volunteers and expected to actually do productive things. Eurgh! Every day started with the preparation of the food for the elephants, banana plants. This involves cutting, lifting and carrying trees like this:

  
Apparently I completely suck at both the cutting and the carrying of trees, with my cutting skills being rather, um, hit and miss, and my carrying of the trees involving a lot of swearing, dirt and ‘oh my gods’. Oh, and dropping. Obvs. So by today (Thursday), I’d got it down to a fine art, carrying the very light leaves and standing around looking out of breath to avoid being made to carry any more trees. I am not cut out for this manual labour malarkey. 

However, feeding the elephants I was rather good at! Seeing six elephants appear out of nowhere was pretty spectacular, particularly as they greeted us by blowing their trunks. However, it later turned out this was in celebration of food, rather than us. Oh well…

   
 
Things about elephants: they really are the most placid animals ever (although this may be due to the questionable tobacco their owners were smoking). They are incredibly chill, with the only vague excitement coming from the delivery of the banana plants. Stroking them though? Not so much, they kind of feel like a dirty, leathery chair covered in hairy nails. As I discovered on day 1, riding them in hotpants. Owwwwwww. 

Feeding them is an experience I don’t think I’ll ever tire of (except when I do and have a nap before lunch for two hours). If you walk near the elephants with a piece of banana plants or watermelon, trunks will literally fly out of nowhere to grab for the food. The bottom of the trunk is kinda like a weird nose, sniffing around and not, as I previously thought, a way to inhale the food. Google is needed I think. 

 

Dinner time

 
My favourite of the elephants was Mundy. The baby at age 16 (but still a beast), Mundy is either super sassy or a bitch, depending on your viewpoint. As we drove down the road this morning Mundy sure was hangry, moaning and groaning, reminding me of myself. Despite elephants supposedly being trained like dogs (though anyone who knows my dogs knows this is questionable), Mundy does what she wants. So much fun when you’re riding her and she decides to stop and eat halfway… 

 

Sassy Mundy

 
Riding elephants is definitely something on a lot of people’s bucketlist and I’m glad I’ve done it but oh my god it is the most terrifying thing! And if you’re not exactly flexible like me (love my bed), getting on the elephant is bad enough. See below…

Attempt 1…

 

Attempt 2…

 
 

Up we go…

 
 

Traumatic…

 
Yep, much to the amusement of everyone else, it took me a fair few attempts to get onto the massive elephant. I think my face whilst riding says it all:

 
The highlight of my time with the elephants was without a doubt bathing them. The elephants here spend a lot of their time watched by their owners behind a wooden fence so it was amazing to see them in their element in the water, rolling around on their backs and splashing as we cleaned the (seemingly endless) dirt away. Obviously I couldn’t see elephants without washing them, but it was hard to remember this when it was bloody freezing and the ground was suspiciously squishy inside the lake. Sadly my suspicions were confirmed when Mundy let rip mid bath. My career as an elephant bather ended shortly after that…

And now I’m off to see a big waterfall before heading to the paradise island of Koh Tao. In a bit, Mundy…

PS. Cute elephant bathing video below!

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