Day 7: Elephant Wrangling

The car to elephant Paradise was waiting as we finished breakfast, so a quick scurry back to the treehouse collect our gear and we'd be on our way. Except maybe not when you're with Katy, whose definition of "on time" is "when I get there!"

Barm was our driver and it turns out, also our "mahout" (elephant wrangler/farmer, near as I can figure). First we changed into mahout clothes, then had to learn elephant language like "yoot, yoot" (STOP!!!), "pai, pai" (come on you Mastedon, get going!), and a few other things they pretend they understand. 

We meet the pacaderms and have mini bananas to feed them. I found the trunk in the way the least of the obstacles however. The big, slimy, meaty jowls and pink tongue, well, made me think of something else.  But each one has done this routine before and had its own special response to the banana treats: one made a deep guttural two-syllable sound remarkably like "thank you"; another placed its tentacle like trunk on your neck and inhaled, the effect more hickey than kiss, but cute the first time.

There is a way the big fella lift, brands and hoists the rider up to where the finish clambering into position, first the passenger (riding 'bitch' for you bikers!). Katy took that first, while l took the cockpit which is knees and feet in behind the ears. Where are the reins? I ask. Evidently they follow verbal and physical cues from the "pilot" (right) ... And let's not forget the mahout kid with the stick walking beside.

Our "mr everything guide/driver/ wrangler" Barm, Soon Barm - he answered to any sound from our mouths - works the cameras first standing, then rushing ahead for a coming-at-you, head-on angle. Hard working guy, always smiling or singing...or playing Justin Bieber on his mobile while driving us through the mountainous rainforest winding, jungle roads. By the end of the day he felt like a new buddy.