Sunday, July 4, 2010

On trips of epic proportion - Day 1: Part 2

Scene 3: How to Escape a Herd of Stampeding Elephants.

Remember how we told you that any conversation between Al and anyone, really, went something like this:

General Sri Lankan population: “Hello, where from?”

Alisa: “Hello! I’m from America.”

General Sri Lankan population: “Ah! America! Nice country. Have you seen elephant?”

Well yes, our adventures in Mineriya National Park have ensured, without any room for doubt or query, that Al will never have to answer “no” to that question ever again.

We arrived at the park, the roof off our jeep, our adventurous spirits high, our cameras a’ready and a bag of milky ways in hand…what elephant safari is truly complete without a bag of milky ways, really?

And so our adventure began, with laughs and chit-chat and a peacock or two. It wasn’t until we left the shaggy overhang of the jungle path that we encountered our first herd of elephants grazing in the distance. We all got pretty excited and there were jovial shouts and a general ho-hum about our success, and on we trollied.

And then we met another herd of elephants, this time grazing roughly three feet from our front tires. This would have been absolutely prime, had there not been five other jeeps pushing the elephants back, agitating a protective, new, and very large mother, and consequently making the whole heard rather ruffled.

After a few advances from the mama-phant, we decided, wisely, to move before any real trouble started. We picked our way through the masses and safely sauntered off into the bush to enjoy birds and foxes and another tusker or two…

It was when we realized it was after six, the sun was setting and the park was closed that we realized we should probably not be there any more…what, leave? really? A jungle, festooned with wild and irate animals?

We made it all the way back to where our angry herd was, just to find that they were still very much there and still very much in the same frame of mind. Also they had more or less decided to spread out their vast numbers over the entire terrain, which included our road. The elephants scared me, I won’t lie. Something about 40 elephants being vexed enough to charge your’ relatively little vehicle, with the full intent of reducing it and you to the rough dimensions of a large stamp, really does things for the heart rate.

They were not to be fooled by the attempt at distracting them, so when our driver decided that a U-turn and a head long plough through the brooding mass was a good idea, it really didn’t take long for the entire drove to be upon us, trumpeting and running faster than I ever believed elephants could go. Our driver was a star, but I, a shaky, pale-faced mess, was very close to just laying myself down on the seat and letting cardiac arrest take over. In good faith, lets just say the U-turn was arguably necessary (though after the whole show was said and done, the only thing our friend Bala could manage was “now that was uncalled for”) - what really did nearly send us under the drivers seat praying for sweet mercy and holding our breaths for the end to come, was the 2 seconds during which the jeep stopped:

“just in case the bump ruins the shocks.”

…worn shocks and semi-annoyed dad on one hand…being killed by a stampede of elephants on the other. Decisions, decisions. I did not know I was capable of dropping so fast and am now rethinking my education and considering a future with the fire department. “Drop and roll” never saw a finer candidate.

Probably one of the finer elephant stories in our collective memories. For totes.

After a swift motor to the park gate into a glorious sunset, a few moments stalling due to the fact that we were locked in and a speedy trip home, our fruit juices and BBQd kebabs were oh-so welcome. And then it was bed time.

So much love,

Alisa and Steph

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