Chang Chang Chang
My love for elephants began the first time I went to the zoo, when I was just a wee one. From that point on, I always called them lelos because I could never pronounce “elephant.” I completed one of my life goals two short weeks ago at the Elephant Conservation Camp in Lampang, Thailand. It was my first Rustic trip and a memorable one to say the least. 31 students adopted 16 elephants and mahouts (elephant trainer) for the week. They bathed them in the lake, fed them sugar cane, taught them skills and put them to bed in the jungle.
Every morning we would wake up at 6:30A to hike through the jungle to gather the elephants. You could hear them say good morning to each other with loud roars that echoed for miles. Then the students would ride their elephants right into the water and clean their backs. This usually turned into a nice morning swim. The elephants dunked down to cool off and would roll around in the water. It felt like riding a mechanical bull, and I could only last 30 seconds, before I found myself submerged in the lake surrounded by floating elephant dung. The students worked with their mahouts to learn how to mount and dismount the elephants. My favorite way to get off of the elephant was when the chang bowed his or her head and I would slide off the trunk.
One of my favorite moments from the week was when we rode the elephants into the jungle on an hour ride and camped out with them. My favorite elephant was Tantawone and his 67 year-old mahout, Poon, who has been with her for 24 years. He takes care of her everyday and only gets 4 days off a month. He sings to her, hugs her and says “I love you” in Thai. Their relationship is very sweet and I was honored to know both of them. I look forward to seeing them and the other elephants in a couple of weeks.
Elephants are very special animals. They are kind of like big dogs, who wag their tails and flap their ears when they are happy. They are one of the most emotional animals and mourn the loss of their loved ones. Elephants are one of the few animals who actually bury their deceased and go back to visit their loved ones’ graves for years. When I went to the elephant hospital, one mother was there mourning her recent miscarriage. It was an amazing week that put elephants in a special place in my heart.
Morning Wake-up in the Jungle
Millie and Cole bathe their elephant, Big Mama
Emma gets a kiss from her elephant
Squirt Gun Fight
Dinner in the Jungle
Sleepover in a bamboo hut
Campfire songs with the mahouts