Elephant trek

Chiang Mai Travel Blog

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Woken up after an uncomfortable night at 4am by the roosters under the house. After breakfast it started to pour down. Didn’t stop before we had to leave, so our four hour jungle trek was made in the tropical downpour. It stopped just before we reached the elephant camp for lunch.


After lunch the mahouts turned up with the elephants (they allow the elephants to wander free in the forest until needed – tracking them with the wooden bells they wear – some ‘lazy’ elephants are known for silencing their bells) and washed them in the river and saddled them up. We were loaded two per elephant, with a mahout on each neck, except for the elephant of mine and Jodie’s.

Then we headed off towards the Shaw Karen village of Pa Kao Laam (Cimi and Te’s home village). Getting into the river was an issue as the steep embankment was muddy and slippery. The baby elephant in front of us actually slipped as he went down, and as our elephant lurched we wondered how long it would take for us to be crushed to death if our elephant slipped. Then into the river, which was an experience in itself. The unsaddled elephants were led off onto a path on the other side of the river, while the guided elephants curved back onto a path on our side of the river. Neither Jodie nor I, having poor training as mahouts, were able to ‘steer’ our elephant, so it trotted off after the others. As we started up a very steep climb we were getting quite concerned, and finally one of the guides noticed us, got off his elephant, swam across the river and returned our elephant to the path before getting on his own again. Our elephant never quite understood that she had to follow, often stopping to eat or wandering off the track a bit (it once had to be smacked by a guide to jump over a fallen log and get back on the path). It was also a bit uncoordinated, once slipping a bit down an embankment as we crossed the river again, pushing another elephant into the river as it did so. I rode half the trip on the elephant’s neck (mahout style) which was fun. It was exhilarating (and sore) and definitely a bit scary, but would have been much better if the elephants were not whipped for ‘misbehaving’. The elephants could look forward to retirement, as by Thai law they must be released into the jungle at 61 years of age.


We spent the night at Pa Kao Laam with Cimi’s family, and this time had a thin (useless) mattress between us and the floor.

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Chiang Mai
photo by: Stevie_Wes