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Elephants, snakes and planting - all in a day's work

By Alexis Francis 4 years ago
Categories Jalova

We started the day bright and early to start our hike before the sun was in full swing. I had hike 3 today, which consisted of the elephants Kha Moon, Khum Suk, Mario, and Wan Mai. All that really mattered was that I would be able to see the Kha Moon’s baby, Wan Mai. As we began our trek down to the elephants I was thankful for the cool morning breeze and hoping that it lasted all until it was time to come back up the mountain for lunch.

As I was thinking to myself about the day’s journey, Dee (Khum Suk’s Mahout) stopped us and held out his hand warning us of a danger ahead. I looked past his hands and saw a snake with a crimson-red head that faded into a bright yellow that blended into his normal brown scales until the tip of his tail. It was so startling that it took me a moment to take a picture but before I had a chance to grab my camera it had conspicuously folded its brown scales over its vibrant colors and was a typical snake once again. I happen to love snakes, so for me it was a good sign of an eventful hike.

When we finally reached the elephants we were covered in sweat and reaching for our water bottles exhausted from the hike. But once we saw Wan Mai my energy was rejuvenated and I scrambled to get a better look at him and what he was doing. The hike up at times was strenuous but seeing the baby interact with his mother and grandmother was worth the effort and reminded me of how rewarding the hike is once you have finished. We sat there for a bit watching Wan Mai and taking note of his movements and the other elephants reactions to him.


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Wan Mai and his mother, Kha Moon, enjoying some shade in the forest


Of all the elephants Mario seemed to the most curious as to our whereabouts and chose to visit with us against the wishes of his Mahout, affectionately known as Old Chief. He slowly made his way towards us eating leaves and branches along the way and taking time to brush the bugs off his leaves before putting them in his mouth. When he finally reached us he stuck out his trunk looking to see if we had brought him any snacks. Before coming on this trip I was unsure about whether or not I would feel intimidated by the size of the elephants, but seeing Mario right in front of me wasn’t the least bit frightening and it was exciting to see how comfortable he felt around us. We moved out of the way anyway though, just in case he decided to step on any toes or eat any of the trees that we were near.

It was a great hike and I was happy to come back to base and relax. We enjoyed our meals made by our homestays and then played card games and heads up for our free time. The next thing on the agenda wasn’t for a couple hours and right as I began to wonder what we would do until then Sateesh came onto base and asked if anyone wanted to help Root, a local villager, plant trees on his field. I reluctantly said yes thinking to myself “not another hill” but it turned out to be one of my favorite experiences during my time at the village.

We hiked about twenty minutes to reach Roots field which was conveniently placed at the top of the hill. Right when we got to the top it began to pour with rain and the visibility was extremely low. I wondered if we would still be able to plant but in about ten minutes the rain cleared leaving behind a gorgeous blue sky and from the top of the hill we could see the entire village below our feet, it was a breathtaking sight. After admiring the view we got to work and Root showed us how to plant the trees.


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Volunteer Alexis helping villager Root plant in the fields


He took off his shoes and placed the little tree inside a whole and then piled the mud around it. To make things more interesting he compacted the mud down with his feet and I was excited to give it a go. I happily took off my sandals and felt the mud squish between my toes as I tried to follow his exact technique. It was a downward slope and the rain had made the ground extremely slippery. As we made our way down the slope we found ourselves gripping the ground for stability but falling countless times despite our efforts. It was an absolute mess but in the best way possible and as we walked back to base I was glad that I had not missed the opportunity.

By the end of the day I was exhausted and ready to a good night’s sleep. I was grateful for the experiences the day brought, but fully aware that each day would bring just as much excitement.