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We were on our way to play with elephants. They have always amazed me, not only because of the sheer size and power they hold, but the gentleness behind their soft dark eyes. Wilderness writer Peter Matthiessen’s description of elephants fits best, “There is mystery behind that masked gray visage, and ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea.”

I am slightly torn when it comes to visiting with the elephants, and tigers. In one sense I am grateful to have the chance to be so close with them and I hope they enjoy their time with the visitors. And on the other hand, I wish they were completely free.

The ride to Eddy Elephant was about two hours. After a quick stop to scoop up loads of bananas for the big beasts, it was two exhausting hours filled with a Frenchman sitting behind us sneezing a countless amount of times. Many of them literally blowing through Derek’s hair. He carried on doing the same act the whole way back. But did not once while with the elephants. Maybe he was allergic to Americans. Of course this would lead to us being ill just a few days after. One last turn down a windy dirt road and one last sneeze and we were there.

The first part was to be instructed by Eddy himself on all the things to know and to look out for while being close to the elephants. He then followed with the few commands we would need to get our elephant to walk, turn, stop, and of course to bend down to let us up. Then we met a few elephants and fed them bananas. Next, we took turns getting on their backs and walking them through a small course to make sure we were all comfortable in control. We stopped to have a quick lunch before making our way down the road to the stable. Once there, we fed more bananas to our new friends. There was even a baby elephant who thought he could use us as scratching posts and kept trying to rub up against our sides. Derek and I jumped up on our elephant, Susie, and we set off into the jungle. It was a nice stroll through the woods, up and down a few hills. Susie would reach her trunk up from time to time and we would hand her a banana. She also took her time through the trail and stopped to eat branches and bushes whenever she saw fit to. Which was more often than any other elephant. She was a hungry girl. After finding our way down to the river, it was all fun and games. Susie let us down on the river bank and went right to play. It was unbelievably satisfying to take a step back and watch these huge animals rolling on their sides and backs, playing like a couple of golden retrievers in the water. We picked up a couple of brushes and scrubbed their sides. They seemed to enjoy it and would spray us with water as we stretched across them. I truly fell in love with these animals, as I knew I would. We took a couple final pictures with them and that wrapped up our day with the elephants.

After we got back, it was time for dinner and a few drinks in town. We made new friends with a few Polish and relaxed at Zoe’s Garden again. This day was really all about the elephants. I see why they mean so much to the local people and I surely won’t ever forget my time spent with them here. One of my favorite actors, and let’s face it, a true legend, Bill Murray, puts it perfectly at the end of the film Larger Than Life, “You know they say an elephant never forgets. What they don’t tell you is, you never forget an elephant.” We’ll miss you Susie. You are as beautiful as the mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea.

As Ever, J. Hart