On Sunday morning, bright and early, I arrived at the Lampang Elephant Conservation Centre for a 3 day mahout (elephant training) course. Sadly Chris was so sick he couldn't bring himself to get out of bed, so I put on a brave face and ventured out on my own!
When we arrived we were given mahout training gear to put on - very baggy fisherman pants and a very baggy button shirt. Feeling rather unattractive (but later realising this was the best thing to wear to stop chaffing and sunburn) we met what and who would be our best friends for the next three days!
Mine were: A 9 year old stubborn male elephant called Kaow and his mahout (who has been with him since birth) Poom.
Kaow's favourite part of everyday, feeding time!
We had been there for as little as 30 minutes and we were already into it. Learning the commands and practising mounting and dismounting - which I found really difficult, needing a booster the first few times, until I learnt to trust Kaew and realise that my weight was of not much significance compared to his size.
Song Soon Get on
This was the one I stuggled with. Basically you step onto the elephants bent leg, grab its ear and pull yourself up and onto its back, wriggling forward until your legs sit right behing the ears.
Hup Soong Get off on the side
Tag long Get off on the front (jumping over its trunk and tusks)
nung long sit
Non long Lie down
Map long Sit on Belly
Geb bon Pick up
Later on when we went bathing with our elephants I learnt my favourite command:
The elphant dips its trunk in the water, sucks in the water, lifts its trunk so that you can grab it amnd use it as a hose to spray fellow mahouts. Fantastic and SO much fun!
Each morning we collect the elephants from the jungle, feed them sugar cane and take a morning bath. after breaky we would have a training session and then follow with a bathing show and a 'performance' show where we would demonstrate commands.
The elephants are involved in two shows each day and at around 3pm we take them back into the jungle for the rest of the day.
Supat the organsier of the mahout training programme has posted heaps of photos on the following website if you want to see more: www.changthai.com
We had a great 3 days (a group of 9 altogether from England, Canada, Sates and NZ) and even received a certificate that states that we are now amatuer mahouts!! Luckiloy Chris was feeling much better by the last day and was able to come and watch the shows to see what we had been up to while he was stuck in bed!