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Himalaya

Day 100: Kaziranga

Michael Palin - HimalayaLater in the day, when the elephants have been taken away from the arena to be fed and watered, I encounter them in a different and quite unforgettable light. We are allowed close to three elephants and a calf as they trundle down to a muddy creek for their evening ablutions. At first, like all of us, I'm a spectator, impressed by the rapport between the mahouts and their charges, marvelling at the ease with which they persuade these colossal creatures to lie on their sides in the water. This is a rare thing to see, and can only happen if there is absolute trust between elephant and man and an environment with no outside threat.

Then they ask me in among them. At first I'm apprehensive. I have once in my life, in Africa, seen the terrifying power that can be unleashed when an elephant takes a dislike to you, and I approach very warily, stepping gingerly into the ankle deep mud. As I do so, one of the elephants, a 55-year-old bull called Joiraj, decides to stand up. Like a small island coming to life, he rears up above me, stretching up to his full 14 feet and proceeding to fling water from his trunk over his back.

He's a magnificent animal with a proud set of long, curved tusks and not someone I'd mess with. The keeper, however, has no such qualms.

'Boit! (Sit!). Tere! (Lie On Side!)' he shouts and within a matter of seconds he has several tons of bull elephant crumpling down into the water and rolling over like a dog waiting to be scratched.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 100: Kaziranga
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Kaziranga
  • Book page no: 234

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