Here’s part 2 of our awesome one day tour in Chiang Mai. You can read about Part 1 here. And a disclaimer….there are photos of elephants doing poop – giant poop!!
After we left the Karen Hill Tribe, our guide informed us that we would have about 40 minutes drive to get to the elephants. We were pretty excited about the elephants, not so excited about that long drive in the back of a ute with seats (but no seatbelts!!)
We set off at break-neck speed through the traffic. I secretly marvelled at how calmly we take this now.
After a while there was some gravel on the road and we started to get blasted with the little bits of dirt. Ouch!!
Finally we turned off to go to the elephants. The road winds up a hill and goes through a kind of residential area before it gets to the good stuff!!
And before it gets to the good stuff, it gets rough! Really rough! Hold-on-to-the-metal-bar-overhead-or-risk-injury rough!! I hung on with both hands as we bounced and lurched over pot-holes, road slippage and generally worn and torn roads!
Cars roared up behind us and sat a few inches from the bumper bar – that was exciting I can tell you!!
Suddenly there was squealing from the back of our pickup. We could see elephants on the left side. Not just a few elephants. LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of elephants!!
Big elephants, little elephants, even BABY elephants!!! The babies brought on more screaming of course!!
In the western world we are always told that elephants are rare. They are endangered. They are special! When we got to our local zoos we usually see a handful of elephants and this makes them seem even more special.
I am amazed to report that it seems like we saw hundreds of elephants on this short stretch of road. At regular intervals on our left side (that’s the side that would kill us should the pickup slide off the mountain!!) there were elephant camps. With lots of elephants in each.
As we climbed higher and higher, we started to see elephants on the road!! There were groups of them with people riding them. And any that had babies had the baby along as well! THEY WERE SO CUTE!! They followed along with mum all the way up the hill!
Our road trip hell wasn’t over yet though. Apparently we had to go to the very last elephant camp in the world before we would be let out of the car!
Before the elephants appeared and distracted all reasonable thought, we were discussing how we now just take in our stride getting into dangerous vehicles. After around 50 days in Asia, I would happily stick the kids on the roof of a bus as long as there was somewhere to hang on! We get into tuk tuks that travel at break-neck speed and don’t even blink as they squeal around corners!! Here we were in the back of a pickup with no seatbelts and open sides and back – if that thing crashed at least one of us would probably be dead! And we were in the planning stages of a 3 days odyssey to get to Laos which involved 2 full days in a slow boat that we’ve heard is frequently overloaded!
It was during this discussion that the road became a dirt road. The pickup didn’t slow down however, it just continued on at the same speed! The bouncing around in the back became VERY exciting and everyone had to hang on! At one point I’ll secretly admit that I closed me eyes behind my sunglasses and hoped for the best!! And took back all the things I’d just been saying about how brave we all were!!
Eventually we reached the place where we were to meet our elephants. I’m not sure why we had to travel to the pinnacle of the mountain – all the other camps looked perfectly good to us and our poor bottoms would have been happy to stop sooner!!
We pulled in and were immediately in love with all the elephants! They are amazingly large and I personally was surprised at how rough their skin was. I’m not sure why I was surprised, or even what I expected – they don’t exactly look like they have velvet skin do they?
There was a sign saying you could buy bananas to feed the elephants for 20 baht (about 60 cents Australian). When we went to buy some they said there was only sugar cane to feed them. So we sent Jono over with 80 baht to buy some. This is how he returned!!!
He said he gave the lady the money and she started loading him up!!! I can tell you he was suddenly very popular with the elephants that were waiting to take us riding and we had to quickly get the cane off him!
We waved our pieces of cane around but the elephants just kept swishing their trunks around. It was like a bit of a dance…we knew we were meant to do something (and the elephant knew what we were meant to do) we just couldn’t work out what it was! Finally we realised that we had to hold them out so the elephant could wrap his trunk around the cane!
They shoved the cane into their mouths and the loudest crunching I have ever heard came out! There must be some big strong choppers in there to crunch up rock hard sugar cane. I started to worry that I might get an up close glimpse of those teeth and quickly handed my cane over to these giants! One of them at one stage had two pieces in his mouth and was still trying to get more in his trunk! When I had given him everything I had he started touching me with his trunk. It was kind of wet….like he had a snotty nose!
By this time Gert, Brittney and Jono were up on the platform ready to start riding. Kate and I weren’t sure how to get up and were worried we were going to get squashed between two elephants!! Here’s Kate scrambling to get up before these two moved together!!
Finally we were all up and clambouring onto the seats. Our elephant was having a go slow day and kept stopping – we’re pretty sure he was dirty that he got the two heavy adults when he could have had Kate and Jono!! Brittney was up front with another tourist who was on a 3 day trek. Here’s their pic – How thrilled does Britt look?
As we set off we had lovely thoughts of a quiet walk through the bush and maybe a bit of a walk on the road like we had seen the other elephants doing. I was freaking out a bit and Gert had to remind me to move in rhythym with the elephant. That made things a lot better, until Gert pulled the metal bar keeping us in our seat (and alive!) out of the holder!! He quickly put it back in under threat of death!!
We glanced forward to where Brittney’s elephant was heading. She seemed to be going downhill. Oh-oh!! We didn’t want to go downhill!! We were freaking out!! We gradually calmed ourselves and then I hear Kate and Jono frantically discussing from their elephant behind how they don’t want to go DOWNHILL!!! Here’s the pic of what downhill actually meant….please note the uneven ground, the rocks and the very close proximity to certain death on the right hand side…..
I started to wonder how many people had died doing this trek and made a mental note to google it. (I did this after our trip to the Grand Canyon too!!)
Turns out elephants are extremely sure footed. Our elephant very carefully picked a path through the dust as though there was nothing to it!! Down, down. down she went….then we discovered we were also going up a cliff to get to the road!! Gees – would the terror never end???
Once again our elephant was extremely sure of each step and we had nothing to worry about. We soon realised why the elephants kept stopping. Apparently they have to make toilet stops. Lots of toilet stops. And this is why…….
I guess I’d have to stop to expel that too!!
About this time I noticed my already sunburned legs were really stinging so I took off my shirt and laid it over my legs. The kids were mortified but I had my swimmers on underneath so wasn’t really sure what they were on about. There was no way I was risking more damage to already delicate layers of skin!!
We returned to the camp and took loads of pics with the elephants. We didn’t really want to leave and were pleased when lunch was served at this camp. We ate our Pad Thai and fruit while we looked at the elephants and other groups came through to have their tours.
I’m pretty sure at least one kid utterred the words…Muuuumm…I want an elephant!!!
Part 3 of this post showing the rafting and waterfall will be posted shortly…….
You may like these!: