This week really was action-packed and we can’t wait to tell you all about it! We started our second week by waking up the chirping birds and misty clouds that filled the lush jungle in the north of Thailand. We were all very excited to make ourselves busy and our host Apple had plenty planned for us.
Within the first 24 hours at the elephant sanctuary, we had met all 3 of the elephants here: Molo, Tong Bai, and Bau Ban. Izzy was the first to step forward to meet a very muddy Bau Ban, she gave her a warm hug, one which got all of her clothes muddy for the remainder of the day. We would later meet the Sharman who gave us all a warm blessing that would make us feel right at home. We learned a lot about the lives of elephants, how riding them can cause significant damage to them, even breaking their backs in some cases, and that they eat around 300kg of food per day.
Throughout the 5 days we spent at the sanctuary, we had a well-structured day that was written on the whiteboard for all of us to see. Below we are going to explain what typical duties filled our days.
7 am: Wake up time. This was a peaceful time of morning for Dani, Natalie and Tyler who were always up early practicing yoga with some incredible views from the balcony. Marile loved to go for a run which was a fundamental part of her morning routine.
8 am: Group Breakfast - Toast, peanut butter, jam, coffee, cereal and plenty of fruits were well received by the group.
9 am: Work begins. Down the hill we walked in our mahout uniform for 5 minutes to the elephant shelters. Here we had different jobs to clean up the space. Joe was a willing hand on the shovel each morning ensuring that the football-sized elephant poop was scooped up and placed in the wheelbarrow.
9:30 am - 11:30 am: During this time we made our way to various parts of the property to cut sugar canes, grass and find bananas. We had some of the group cutting the plants and others carrying them back to the vehicle. We feed these to our 3 new friends and enjoyed the fruits of our labor seeing the elephants consume the entirety of our crop. We all had a bit of a soft spot for Molo, who is blind in her right eye and was on some medication. Unlike the other elephants, Molo was not allowed to eat bananas so we made sure she got plenty of attention with us helpers giving lots of pats and hugs. In this morning slot, we also worked together to pull down a broken shelter. We all put our thinking hats on and came up with a great strategy to clear this space safely and ensure no infrastructure around was damaged. We then used this space to mash up fruits and grains into a ball which we then disguised medicine inside. Molo had to consume 25 pills per day and this was our best plan. We were pleased to see that Molo enjoyed the balls we made her, yet she couldn’t be stopped from spitting a few of the pills out, very clever!
11:30 am - 1 pm: Everyone enjoyed this time of day… Lunchtime! The elephant sanctuary provided us with some incredible lunches including boil-your-own noodles served with chicken, vegetables and broth, yum!
1 pm: We had a lot of fun after lunch. One day we headed down to the mud pit. Here we cleared out the dirty water making a line of helping hands passing buckets of water between us. We then dug up some fresh mud and introduced some fresh water. We were made to work hard with our bathers to be waving their trunks about as we worked tirelessly to get the mud pit looking picture perfect. Throughout the next hour, we had all 3 of the elephants flap their ears in enjoyment as we looped mud ball after mud ball onto their large bodies. The elephants were very calm and happy to play with us. Natalie was more than happy to feed and stand still, feeding them banana after banana after banana.. you get the point they can eat a lot of Bananas! Joe, Tyler, Izzy, Finn and Ella all were coated in head to toe in mud and they could not have looked any more content. Ella and Izzy were also a formidable mud throwing team, at times missing the elephants (on purpose) and launching mud rockets in every direction. Following on from the mud bath, we all met the elephants again down at the river. This was welcomed by everyone as we washed off the mud which become our extra layer of skin for the past hour. We also splashed about, washing off the mud from all the elephants. We were all pleased to see a bit of personality from our girl Molo who lay down in the river, poking her head under the water and blowing out water from her trunk. Emma could not wipe the smile off her face as she splashed, splashed, and splashed some more help to get every last piece of dirt off.
3 pm: With all the chores done for the day we had some free time to relax. Quinn and Finn were busy at this time making the most of the rustic outdoor gym. Each day at this time they spent hours working out, enjoying the views and getting dumped on by some torrential rain. Jackie made the most of her free time, playing the guitar, dancing with the local kids who taught Jackie and some of the other girls some new dance moves.
5:30 pm: Dinner time. Oh boy did we all enjoy this time of day. Dani in particular said each meal she gets each day has been the best meal yet. We all got to enjoy different dishes including a Thai Green Curry, spring rolls and chicken skewers to name a few. All of these meals encompassed noodles or rice which we now were accustomed to.
6 pm onwards: This was a reflective and peaceful time for our group who lounged about, soaking in the lasting moments of light and writing in our journals. On our last night, we had 8 middle schoolers from the local school come to our place to perform for us. They played 5 songs and they did several dances they learned from their local hill tribes. At the end we all did a dance together, which was a real laugh.
Finally, our time had come to an end, we said our goodbyes to our fantastic host Apple and the 3 elephants. Reflecting on this stay, it is fair to say that many of us will not forget these moments.