There are 2 elephants here in Ngapali, they belong to a young man with lots of business sense. He and his family run the Angel restaurant and arrange the elephant tours. 7 AM pickup in a little van. The driver asks if we would like to stop in the village along the way for a snake. WHAT?? Oh, no, a SNACK. Well, ok then. He hops out in the village market, and comes back shortly with a big bag of something, and a little bag of sweet sticky-rice snacks for us. We continue to the end of the road, in group of small houses. Our guide is on his cell phone, the elephants seem to be a little late, so we hike up to meet them. On the way we pass a chicken farm ( he tells us that these chickens are “organic”..and somehow this is not hard to believe at all!!). A woman is putting a basket of betel nuts to dry on her roof. The kids are going to school…( Fall full-moon 4 day holiday is over now). We come to a clearing…and can hear the mahouts talking to each other and to the elephants ( can also hear buddist chanting coming out of some loudspeaker at a monastery). The elephants come down the path through the rice fields , and back up to us. They have had their morning shower! Theses are two females in their 40’s who were working in the teak log industry. Heavy pulling for $100 per month. Even though they could still work for many years, they are making much more money now for their owner carrying tourists. The guide gets out his big bag..which is full of elephant treats! Bunches of bananas! He distributes them to us,and we get to feed the big girls. Annie offers a whole bunch at once, which gets stuffed in the pink mouth….glm,glm a big mouthful. Better to give one at a time.
Time to board now! These mahouts are very kind to their animals. No hook here, just voice commands, and a small bamboo stick for emphasis. The big girls get down, back first, then front and we scramble on to the “saddles”. Then UP and we are off! Steering and speed control is done by a barefoot massaging of the elephant ear on the appropriate side. Lots of munching of vegetation was happening along the way, also stream slurping. Lovely early morning ride. When we arrived back at our little van, one elephant explored the inside with her trunk… Maybe she wanted us to take her home?