We were up bright and early to get to the Greenhouse for breakfast and to check into the guesthouse there – we checked out of the Nature Lodge to stay in town. Having had a coffee there previously and discovering they were only small I ordered 2!!
We were joined for the day by a Korean girl called Kim, she works at their embassy in Phnom Penh.
Together we set off for the day stopping in a village as our guide had to visit someone. We looked around and played with the children – one of them gave me a small bean from her pocket, so we played ‘guess which hand the bean is in’ one girl got it every time, must improve my bean hiding skills!
Then it was time to move on and go for a walk to a house in the valley. We parked up, loaded up on water and set off. We’d walked for about 5 minutes before we hit the brow of a hill and we’d found what we’d come to see – 2 elephants!!!!!!
It was amazing, they’d just got to the top too to have their morning feed – first up grass. We all sat in the shade and talked to the guys looking after them whilst gazing at these amazing things quietly eating away. After a while it was time to go and find them some banana trees. These they cut down bits for them, the older parts of the tree where the fruit has already been picked, they don’t want them eating that!!
The walk down into the valley with them was done at their pace, stopping when they found something interesting to sample or just when they felt like stopping!
The noise they made eating the banana trees was incredible, they stamped on the branches to break up the fibres and then ripped strips of it off. One of them seemed to prefer the leaves which he used his feet to anchor the massive fronds and then his trunk to strip the leaves.
Lastly on the menu for the morning was bamboo, another slow walk down, eating in the way, often stopping to get a good mouthful and then some extra carried in their truck to eat on the move.
When we finally reached the base of the valley our guide went to meet the family that was hosting us and start cooking us all lunch while we went with the elephants to the river so they could drink.
Was interesting as when they reached the water they didn’t drink straight away but seemed to give their trunks a wash taking up water and breathing it out several times before eventually having a good old drink.
We left the elephants to their own devices while we headed off to meet the family and have food.
The elephants we saw are used solely to work on the farm, not for riding as a tourist attraction. Mostly they carry the rice out of the valley up to the village.
The family, about 6 in total live in a simple 2 room house. One room for sleeping and the other a kitchen. Then there were tables outside and a cooking area. We sat at the table chatting and they’d also hung hammocks in the trees for us. Initially it was the guides, the 2 men looking after the elephants and the grandfather with his granddaughter. The grandfather had the granddaughter tied to his back using a komar while he cooked us a delicious eggplant soup in a length of bamboo. The guide also cooked some pork with a morning glory-type vegetable and some amazing looking fish curry with bananas in. We all sat at the table and shared the food and after some yelling into the distance the grandmother and their daughter appeared from the farm.
The guide had only been doing this trip for a month, so things were all still new to the family. Only a week before he’d taken the grandmother for her first ever trip in a car – she described it as like running fast! They’d not heard of Siem Reap or the temples – we showed them photos and the old man wouldn’t believe they were carved from stone, he said it must be concrete! They’d also never seen an aeroplane, in real life or in the sky, so more photos, first of the outside and then I found one I’d taken of the inside with the TV screens in the chairs. Neither of them liked the idea of going in a plane. They wanted to know if we were tied in for safety! When they saw the inside they were fascinated.
For a family with no electricity let alone a TV the idea of flying in the sky with everyone having a TV was immense! It was so interesting to discover how sheltered their lives were, they’d never seen the waterfall we’d visited the previous day less that 50km away. Showed them more photos of what we’d seen, including of the locals dressing up and they asked what tribe they belonged to so our guide had to explain. It turned out they both have these style outfits, but not for everyday wear!!!
After lunch it was time to chill out while guiltily watching the women process the rice, bashing it up, separating out the grain. Nothing goes to waste, the husks are either used to make alcohol or to feed their animals.
I may then have had a bit of a snooze in a hammock to the extent that Wendy had to come over a properly wake me up as calling/shouting my name wasn’t working!
But it was time to go give the elephants a wash so I wasn’t complaining!!! We took the short walk back to the river where we spotted waterbufallo also having an afternoon bathe and then the elephants appeared our of the jungle and climbed into the water, we got to jump in too and give them a rub down. The water was chilly, but the sun was shining and we were far too excited to really notice. This was the time we were allowed to get onto the elephants and the barely seemed to notice, hopefully they were enjoying their massages too much.
After much washing, splashing and squealing it was time to let them go back into the jungle, was so sad to see them go, they climbed out of the river and were swallowed by the jungle almost like they were never really there.
This was the end of our visit and after drying off it was time for the long climb back up the valley. We took a shorter route than on the way down, but it was really steep. We went up through their farm, past the rice fields, so different from those we’d seen on our Homestay, everything here was on an extreme slope. You could also understand why the elephants were so vital to their ability to farm and trade, even if you could lift a sack of rice I’m not sure anyone could carry more than 1 up the slope at a time, it would take forever.
Finally though we reached the top and took some celebratory photos. Lauren’s favorites involve us jumping high while the photo is taken down low. The driver was rubbish at taking the photos, so we dragged him into the picture instead, not sure he got the idea, but he certainly put the effort in!!
It was an incredible day, very surreal to have spent that time with the elephants and the family were so lovely to us and we had such fun
We had dinner at the Greenhouse before heading to sleep at the end of what was a great day