THE ELEPHANT RIDE
Have you ever awaken one morning, walked outside and after being greeted by a bright sunny day, decided that what you had planned for the day could wait for another day? Well recently I did. It was just too nice a day to sit around doing paper work and odds and ends so I decided to take about a 2 hour trip to a business I have wanting to visit. In addition, it was near the place Angie has been wanting to go to investigate riding an elephant.
With that idea formulated, I went into my bride who was still snoozing and told her what I had in mind. In order to visualize her reaction, you need to imagine a child who has asked repeatedly if you would take him for an ice cream cone and suddenly, for no apparent reason you say to him, “How would you like it if just you and I went and got us a nice big ice cream cone?” Can you see them suddenly becoming alert with eyes popping out in disbelief, throwing their covers off and jumping up and down saying hysterically, “Really mommy, really do you really mean it?” Well now you have a pretty good visualization of Angie’s reaction.
On this day the normal 1hour getting ready to leave the house time, was reduced to 10 minutes. There was no last minute preparing a drink to take, putting on nail hardener, putting away the dishes, spraying the ants or doing the mascara touch-up. Today it was her telling me, “Come on, you can do that later.” Even when we got on the road the normal back-seat driving from the passenger seat was absent. There was no, “Lee, are you driving over the speed limit?” No, today I could see her glancing down to see if there was any space between the gas pedal and the floor that could possibly be reduced.
I knew the answer before I asked it but I thought perhaps she would agree, so I asked it anyway. “Would it be alright if we stopped at the business I want to visit before we go to the elephants?” “Noooooooooo,” she said as if I had asked if she wanted to go sky diving.
When we walked up to the ticket counter at the elephant park, we were greeted by a male receptionist. I informed him that we were interested in getting some information about the activities they offered with the elephants. He regurgitated his well-rehearsed dialogue indicating that we could walk with the elephants through their native forest habitat while holding onto his trunk . In addition, after the walk we could pet them. All this could be gotten for the price of R475 ($47.50). I said, not sure I heard correctly, “R475 to walk with the elephant and pet them?”
“Yes,” was his monotone response.
“What if you want to ride the elephant, how much does that cost?” I asked.
“R475” he said.
“How long does the ride take?” I asked.
“10 minutes” was the reply.
Incredulously I said, “R475 for a 10 minute ride on one of your pachyderms?” My mind was running its calculator and shortly came up with an hourly rate of R2850 or, another quick conversion calculation yielded $285/hr. And so I said, “Do you realize that is almost R3000 per hour to ride that critter?” “We are not interested in buying him, just having a ride; you understand, don’t you?”
This inquiry brought only a blank stare so I thought I would try another tactic.
“Ok, if she wanted to “touch” the elephant and ride him, how much does that cost?” I asked trying for a package deal.
“The same price, R475 to walk and hold his trunk and R475 to ride him” he again matter-of-factly responded.
Seeing that any negotiation of the fare was out of the question, I asked, “How do you get on the elephant, do you make him lie down?”
“No, we have a ladder” he replied. The ladder actually turned out to be a loading ramp affair like you would use to load equipment onto a truck.
A question to Angie as to what she wanted to do brought the response that she was not interested in taking a stroll through the park holding onto the trunk, she wanted the ride. So we became R475 poorer and she inherited her ticket to ride Dumbo.
As we were being escorted to the loading dock, the elephants were lined up with the elephants grabbing the tail of the next in line with his trunk. Angie was told that that caused the elephant to feel safe; if they tried to take a lone elephant on a ride, the elephant would panic thinking they were going to take him out and shoot him. Trying to rationalize that one out, the only thing I could come up with was that the elephants must tell war stories of yester years as they stand around the camp fire at night spinning yarn that grandpa told.
So the magical moment arrived when Angie finally was able to mount her stead and off they went. I turned after that monumental event to visit with some of the other staff that was present for the send-off. I did not get much visiting done however as it seemed that even before I was completely turned the parade was back. The fastest ten minutes the inhabitants of the earth has ever experienced. I looked to see if the elephants were lathered up, for surely they must have sprinted around their sightseeing tour but, no, there was not even a fleck of sweat to be seen. So my conclusion was that either the tour was very short or these pachyderms were in excellent shape.
The elephants all expressed their appreciation for our donation by doing their trick of the day of lying down for us. I have to admit, it was an impressive show of appreciation.
The entire event is documented to the best of my photographic ability by the accompanying pictures.