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Himalaya

Day 95: Dibrugah

Michael Palin - HimalayaThe first thing I notice about my elephant is that it has no howdah. A howdah is a seat to make riding more comfortable, and I don't have one. So I find myself being unceremoniously thrust up onto the elephant's back and ordered to move forward until I'm tight up behind the mahout, the elephant driver. The elephant's back is narrower here and there's less chance of my doing the splits. Once I'm in position, the elephant is given an order and I feel myself rearing skywards as it straightens first the front and then the back legs. I'm now some ten feet off the ground and hanging on for dear life to a thin piece of rope that runs across the its shoulder.

Manoj, a carefully turned-out, trim figure with boyish features, is next to me. He's riding his own elephant and doesn't look altogether happy.

My mahout shouts the order 'Agit!' ('Forward!'), one of 20 words of command the elephant has to learn, and this, accompanied, I notice, by a sharp blow to the back of the ear, sets the animal moving slowly ahead. There are three females and three young in our procession. The young elephants are not particularly interested in anything other than getting in the way and practising their trumpeting.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 95: Dibrugah
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Dibrugah
  • Book page no: 224

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