Photo by Kawpodmd
Wild Elephants and the Camera Flash
I sometime take the long way—time-wise- to get back to our little farm or return to Bangkok. We travel over the mountains in Khow Yai National Park. The park has 60 kilometers of a winding mountain two lane road that goes from one side of the mountain range to the other side. The view is a tropical jungle of giant smooth barked trees with orchids growing high in their branches, sloping mountains and raging streams. There’s also a stretch that runs along the ridge tops with open glades where any kind of jungle animals can be seen. Deer no bigger than a dog, Red Stags, Great Hornbill’s standing 2 feet tall, more monkeys than anyone wants to see and the mighty elephants.
Elephants are Julee’s and my favorite. It’s hard for me to imagine something so big living free in Thailand. It only happens in the national parks.
We usually travel across the mountains near sunset because that’s when the elephants come out of the jungle to walk the road to move to a new spot. They’re really smart using the roadway—so much easier than crashing through the jungle. But it’s not often that we get to see them.
We were traveling down the mountain near a cascading river and it was almost completely dark. I saw something big ahead and slowed. It was a massive elephant and she was leading the way to a new feeding ground. I stopped and another car behind stopped 50 yards back and we turned our headlights off but left the parking lights on.
My wife loves elephants but is also terrified of them. By now you probably know I’m too dumb to be afraid.
Out of the dark marched a line of giant pachyderms in a slow easy pace. They were only two feet from the truck as they passed by. To my great delight there were two babies in the middle of the line and their trunks reached out inquisitively to sample everything around. The others kept close watch but allowed them to bounce and play as they passed by.
I grabbed my camera and held it up until my beautiful wife threatened me with her knife-like finger. I started to say something, but that too was taboo. So I settled back to enjoy the spectacle without recording it. I watched a giant’s trunk reach out to examine the back of our truck and that’s when I remembered we had a basket of mangoes fresh picked from out farm. The elephant merely passed on by. I didn’t mention the mango part until we were home. Thank goodness.
To be that close- I had rolled down the window and we could hear them breathe, smell them and hear the squeaks from the babies. To be that close was something akin to a perfect moment for Julee and me. To her it was more than perfect even in her fear. Elephants have a special place in the heart of every Thai. We see trained elephants often but to see them free is very special.
I found out later from a ranger that the camera trick was—in his words—stupid! A number of cars are damaged every year by elephants merely brushing up against them but with babies—Don’t do that! Lesson learned until my next opportunity. We counted eighteen elephants in the herd and the ranger said that was the largest he had heard of. What a privilege to view them.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this little true story. If you like my writing you should try my fictions. You will enjoy them—I’m sure!