Today we went to the Dante Elephant Reserve. We woke up at an unGodly hour (7:00 in the morning) and got picked up by Mr. Big (yes, like the chocolate bar) and he drove us to the reserve. In the car with us was a guy named Richard, from Holland. Richard sat in the front with Mr. Big, Mom and Dad were in the middle and Allegra and I sat in a makeshift back seat that was the trunk. There was zero leg room and the seat was six inches off the floor of the SUV. When we got there the first thing I did was climb out of the back and stretch my legs because they had fallen asleep for so long in the car that they were probably in a coma. I massaged my calves for a second and then looked up and that is when I saw the elephants. They were actually bigger than I was expecting and they were doing what elephants do best: eating. I could see about six in total but Mr. Big told us that they had a total of eleven elephants and one was a baby. First we . . .
donned our Mahout uniforms. The "shirt" was made of two rugs sown together and the pants were about 10 sizes too big. It looked absolutely ridiculous but were surprisingly comfortable. The first thing we did was feed a pregnant elephant about a thousand bananas. It was really fun. She grabbed each banana with her trunk and tossed them into her mouth quite efficiently. Mr. Big told us that each elephant eats a tenth of their body weight a day, which means they poop about a tenth of their body weight a day and on average they weigh 3000 kilograms. They drink about one hundred litres of water a day and can hold roughly twenty in their trunks.
After getting familiar with the elephant we started our Mahout training, which involves four basic commands for riding an elephant. Bai and pushing both ears with my feet means Go Forward; Toi and wiggling your bum means Go Backwards; Quai and pushing on one ear means Turn (pushing on her left ear means Turn Right and vice versa); How and squeezing your thighs means Stop. After learning these four basic commands we each got to ride her. I was first. Getting on was fairly easy for me. All I did was grab one ear, reach over, climb onto her bent leg and then jump up and over. It was so cool, I was really high up and sat on her neck, right behind her ears. As soon as I was on, I ran through all the basic commands by riding her around the reserve. I felt really in control and the elephant was really gentle. We all took turns doing this and soon enough it was time for lunch. We all had a great meal and couldn't get over how cool it was that we just rode an elephant.
In the afternoon we each got a different elephant. My elephant was ten years old and a lot harder to control than the older, mature elephant that I had ridden in the morning. Her name was Mae-Dee (Good Lady) and she was a lot of fun to ride. We took our elephants on a trail into the jungle. I kept picking leaves and fruit off the trees for Mae-Dee and feeding them to her. She would put her trunk over her head and I gave whatever I had picked. Some leaves she spat out: I learned that she didn't like the harder waxy leaves. After an hour of riding in the hot sun we came to a river. While the older elephants were a little hesitant to go into the water, Mae-Dee ran into the river and immediately she was belly deep in water, just like a ten-year-old kid! She drank for a little bit and then put her nose behind her head as if she wanted food, which I didn't have, when suddenly a huge jet of water sprayed from her trunk and hit me right in the face. I was completely drenched! I had to get her back so I jumped off her back and splashed into the water. I was splashing her with a bucket and she was spraying me with her trunk. A couple of times she almost stepped on my foot so I made sure to keep my distance while we were playing. By then Mr. Big had coaxed the other elephants to come into the water and we all cooled off and had fun in the river. Time passed faster than any of us had realized and it was time to get back to the reserve. When we got back we had at least another hour to feed the elephants and say good-bye. We had an excellent time and I slept all the way back in the car. Elephants are my new favourite animal!