Saturday, January 31, 2009

Elephant camp

I've had a fantastic day. We went on an all day tour where we met some lovely Canadian people, John and Angeline. First stop was an orchid farm which was absolutely beautiful. The colours were amazing, and it was very interesting to see the roots of the orchids just hang in mid air. There was also a cat which was wearing a vest. I have no idea what's going on with the whole animals in clothes thing, but it's keeping me well entertained. After cooing over the flowers we were bundled into the van again, and soon arrived at... the elephant camp.

It blew me away. They were roaming all over the place and were all so amazingly huge and graceful. I was quite scared when it was time to climb onto the seat perched on top of our elephant. But we were soon settled and trudging along. Then our mahout randomly jumped off and went off for a stroll. Meanwhile, our elephant was still slowly plodding away and I was wondering what the heck was going on. John and Angeline were well ahead of us by this stage, as our elephant didn't really seem to be into the whole walking thing and theirs was powering ahead. The mahout then called to the elephant and got it to abandon the trail and go into the river. So there we were, in the middle of the river with the mahout on the bank laughing at us. He then gestured for us to get off the seat and sit on the elephant itself. I told Gill he had to go first because I was finding it hard enough to stay upright as it was. He slid quite easily onto the elephant, and with the mahout calling out instructions to our four legged friend, we slowly waded back to the bank. Gill promptly moved back onto the seat, as by this time the mahout had climbed a tree and was ready to jump on the elephant's head. I opened my big mouth and asked if I could have a go riding on his head. The mahout seemed quite happy with this, and swung himself into the seat so I was wedged in between him and Gill. I slowly and quite ungracefully slid onto the elephant's neck and sat there, one hand resting on his head, the other clutching Gill's shoe. I'm not sure why I did that. I think some part of me thought that if I was to fall in the water I'd take him (or at the very least his shoe) with me. I'm such a nice person sometimes. The mahout decided it was time for me to harden up and grabbed my shoe filled hand, thumping it straight on the elephant's head. I'm fairly sure I was emitting some strangled sounds of fright, as I was busy remembering all the times I've fallen off things and experienced various worlds of pain. So then we rode the elephant, through the river, all the way back to camp. Once I got the hang of it, it was amazing. Just moving along, rocking on top of this giant beast. For a while there I was pretending I was leading my elephant into battle (I can't help it, I have warrior blood in me). The rest of the people in our group were still perched on their seats, and looked kind of surprised to see me clinging on to the elephant's head. The trip was over very quickly (in Af time), and we were soon dismounted and standing around high off our elephant vibes. I then spent a whole dollar in order to feed our elephant some bananas. I thought it was well earned.

After that, we ran around after a baby elephant, which seemed to enjoy rubbing it's trunk on my tshirt. In turn, I patted his trunk. We then took an ox-cart ride which was very bumpy (John cleverly just decided to walk the 200m instead) to a hill tribe, the inhabitants of which tried to flog us stuff. They brought out the children and now I have some odd wrist band thing tied to me. I'm such a sucker. One of the women seemed to find Gill's blonde arm hair intriguing, and made her small child come and pat him. The boy seemed to suddenly fall in love, because he went in for a massive cuddle. It was very very cute. We then got taken down to the river for our bamboo rafting trip. It was beautiful and quite peaceful. One of our raft 'drivers' was a lovely boy with a very sweet smile. Life was soured when I got bitten by an ant, but the boy kept splashing me with his oar, so I couldn't be down for long.

Then there was a short temple tour (I can't write about it, because even the pictures we took don't explain how colourful and huge they are) and back home to veg out. Tomorrow I think we're going to try to see the tigers - I believe our new Canadian friends are heading that way as well. Failing that I'm going to get myself to some caves I've read about so I can roam about in the depths of Thailand.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Animal planet

I've been in Thailand for two days now. Met up with Gill, then promptly met a lovely Canadian fellow called Chris who helped me understand that yes, it is easy to meet randoms when traveling.

Bangkok was dreadful. Not my kind of place at all. I can't even express why, it just didn't work for me. Too busy, and I hate busy fussy places. One nice thing was that I met a dog that looked just like Hairy Maclary. I drew a fairly good picture of Hairy Maclary for Chris, and he looked like he was trying to look impressed. It was a fairly ace moment. Then we saw a gecko and I regaled Gill with a story about a monster gecko that liked to eat people.

Escaped Bangkok for Chiang Mai where life is brilliant. It's relaxed and pretty and there are the most random things around. Today I saw a dog which was dressed up like a monk and was following them around. It ran into a temple, so I couldn't get a picture but I'll try again. We then decided to get a coffee and randomly found some Thai children's books. Quite obviously, in Thai. Gill picked one up, flipped through, then proceeded to tell me the story about two rabbits who were bear hunting. It was almost believable, until one of the rabbits said 'get your fat bear ass out here'.

Tomorrow is the elephant trail. I'm really looking forward to it. I never realised what a nervous and jumpy person I am - everything here startles me, but I'm slowly learning to relax and just take things as they come.

Now I am going to go for a swim in the hostel's rudely shaped pool.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

There are 7 sleeps to go before I leave this not so dreadful place! But I'm having a bit of trouble packing. I know what I'm meant to take. Hiking boots, awesome go everywhere kind of pants, a top that is supposed to wick sweat, dry quickly and keep me warm, a first aid kit, my shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste; blah blah blah.

But what about the things that I like? My hair straightener for example. I don't use it often, but when I'm having a bad day it swaggers into my bathroom, plugs in and suddenly all is as it should be. Sleek. It takes up way too much space in my pack and it's kind of heavy, but I'm really not sure if I want to be without it. If I'm going to go on a Spanish death walk then I'd like to look good.

My books are also on the chopping block. I told Chris about them and he laughed and said that the minute I actually walk around with my pack I'll ditch them by the side of the road. But really, who knows when I'll need a complete history of pirates, or everyone's favourite - 'Brave New World'. Or for that matter, the book on Buddhism that keeps telling me that I can stop feeling pain and emotional agony if I was to just follow the advice within. I'm sure that would come in handy when an Iberian wolf decides my legs look tasty (yes, there are wolves in Spain. In fact, check out the legend of the Spanish wolf woman. Much like her, I adore meat, but I wont be devouring any handsome young men on the way.

Alongside my straightener and my books are my many clothes, items of makeup and various other things that I DO NOT NEED. But that I can't stand to be parted from. Who would have thought that the removal from everyday life would start well before Spain.

* After a great deal of thought, I've decided not to take any of these things except for maybe Brave New World and some mascara. My restraint amazes me.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fantastic things to see and do

I have been thinking about what happens after Spain. A bit premature, but it’s taking my mind off the craziness of what I’m about to do.

So I’ve been thinking that one of the things I most want to do is go to Cappadocia in Turkey and go on a balloon tour. The moment I read about them, I became obsessed. I love the idea of a balloon ride, but to do it in what I consider to be one of the most amazing places on the planet would just blow my mind. I think that’s what I’ll give myself for my 26th birthday.

That got me thinking about the other things I want to do. Cuevas del Drach is on the eastern coast of Majorca, and it is there that I will get to view one of the largest subterranean lakes in the world. Interestingly, classical music concerts are performed daily. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I’ll reserve my judgement until I’ve been there.

Being a hopeless romantic, I also want to see the tomb of the Lovers of Teruel at the Mausoleum of the Iglesia de San Pedro. The story is painful and pretty and to be honest, who cares if it’s real or not. Certainly not I.

I’m absolutely itching to leave Australia.

Monday, January 5, 2009

I hate exercise

I hurt. I hurt everywhere. And now I'm going to walk home from work. If this doesn't get easier soon I'm going to rent myself a donkey to carry me the entire way. That's how they did it in the old days right? Or maybe the donkey just carries the pack. Oh my gosh. I forgot about carrying my pack.
I quit. Stupid Camino is ruining my 2009 calm.

*No it's not, it's going to help me with my calm because I'll be fitter, smarter and better looking. It's all part of the Camino magic. Plus, I will hopefully learn some choice Spanish swear words to yell when I inevitably have to scrape the UK job barrel.