Hello from Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. What a special place! There are 35 elephants here in the sanctuary many of whom have been rescued after injuries related to logging or begging on busy Bangkok streets. Each of the elephants has his or her own caretaker called a mahout whom he or she has chosen. They all have names as well. It’s a sure bet that Tilly’s favorite will be her namesake, Tilly the elephant. It is said that elephants are a good judge of character so we are wondering whether Tilly the elephant will feel a mutual affection for Tilly the human.
Over the next few days we will be preparing food, feeding, bathing and cleaning up after the elephants as well as helping ENP with their 400 rescued dogs and 60 cats. We might be planting some trees and crops as well.
Yesterday we went rafting on the Mae Tang river. We navigated some technical class 4 rapids. Since Northern Thailand has not gotten as much rain as it should have by this time of year, the river is a bit lower than the ideal, which makes navigating it a little bit more tricky. Adeline was tossed out of the boat on a particularly bumpy rapid but she was in whitewater safety position with a big smile on her face immediately and back in the boat in a jiffy. Alex preferred being out of the raft- he was floating in the water between rapids every chance he got.
Last night we stayed at the rafting lodge along the river where we had a barbecue and played our favorite game, Mafia, around a fire at night. In the first round, Erin and Chris were the mafia and defeated the students who did not expect the leader duo was in cahoots. In our last game, Isabel, who must not lie often because she sure does have a guilty looking face when she’s fibbing, was discovered as mafia and the townspeople finally came out on top.
The day before last we spent kayaking the Mae Ping river. We learned to paddle and were put to the test as we maneuvered around trees and bushes and “eddied out” with the noses of our boats upstream along the shoreline when we needed to stop. Spiders in the boat caused Kristina to abandon ship at one point, though ants were Graham’s nemesis. Kevin was in the water a few times, once helping a fellow kayaker retrieve her paddle as it floated downstream. Wyatt had an ongoing splash fight with one of our guides until they joined forces and got Henry pretty good.
The day before our back to back water adventures was spent in Thai cooking class at an organic farm. The kids loved this day and they certainly earned their reward of a huge lunch of curry, stir fry, noodles, spring rolls, soup and Thai desserts. We picked up some ingredients from the open air market and grabbed a few more in the garden. We tested our arm strength and patience as we ground chillies, kafir lime, onion, garlic, cumin and cilantro with a mortar and pestle to make curry paste. We chose either green, red or yellow and added extra ingredients depending on our choice. In my humble opinion, Yolanda’s yellow curry took the blue ribbon. After cooking class and a break for a short downpour, we drove up a mountain to Wat Doi Suthep, a beautiful temple which overlooks Chiang Mai city. It was extremely peaceful up there after the rain in the evening with very few other tourists and the sounds of monks chanting their evening prayers.
We can’t believe how fast the trip is flying by and we are savoring our last week together. There is already a lot of talk about what we will do first when we get home (meals, hugs, dogs, cats and beds!), so I know the next week will be bitter sweet for us all.