Monday, March 4, 2013

Kerala, part 3

Now as I might've mentioned, we didn't spend all of our time in Kerala lounging and stuffing ourselves. Oh no. We were proper travelers and went out and saw things! And I must say, the things to see in Kerala are mighty fine.

One morning we got up at the crack of dawn (seriously, it was 6am! Even the kids were disappointed by the hour) and met our wonderful guide, Sunil, outside the hotel. He drove us to the Konadad Elephant Training Center, where orphaned elephants are raised and trained to do forestry and temple work (aka, earn their keep).  At the moment most of the elephants there are adults, but there was one baby. Furthermore, we were promised an elephant ride!

The drive out was somewhat long and windy, and Liel got a bit carsick. Sunil pulled over, gave everyone mango juice and water, and showed us a cinnamon tree and a touch-me-not plant. When Liel was recovered we went on.

The reason for the early departure was that first thing in the morning, around 8am, the elephants get bathed. We watched the mahouts unchain their elephants (each elephant has two mahouts, and all of the elephants are kept chained to trees when they are not training, bathing, etc. It was sad to see, but I'm not sure what, if any, alternatives exist. Obviously loose elephants roaming around wouldn't do at all, either at the center or at their future places of employment). Then the elephant would hold out one of its front legs, and one mahout would use that as a stair and climb onto the elephants back. Then away they'd go to the river. The baby elephant (who is kept in a cage, not chained) was very naughty and kept swerving on her way down to grab a snack from the side of the road.



When the big elephants got to the river they'd lay down on one side and get a thorough scrubbing from their mahouts.




The baby elephant was so small that she didn't need to lie down yet- she just stood there and enjoyed the attention.


The kids really enjoyed this!


Here's a lovely, clean adult elephant.


When the baby was clean we were allowed to pat her and have our picture taken with her. She was quite interested in Zion's shoulder, as you can see. Robert pushed her trunk away, and she wrapped it around his hand and pulled it toward her mouth! The kids didn't notice at the time, but the story of the naughty baby elephant who tried to taste daddy's hand has since become a favorite. She didn't actually taste his hand though, one of her mahouts noticed and intervened.





After that we got a lesson on some of the local flora, which included rubber trees, nutmeg trees, mango trees and betel nut trees while the elephants had their breakfast.

Here Liel and I try some fresh nutmeg. It was pretty cool! Tasted like...sour nutmeg.


We also saw the baby elephant coming back from the temple. Apparently she goes there each morning after her bath to be blessed. You can see the marks on her forehead and flowers in her hair.



Then the moment the kids were waiting for most of all: our elephant ride. We were instructed to leave our shoes at the top of the stairs.





Then it was time to leave the elephant center and head back to town. On the way Sunil stopped a couple of times to buy us different bananas to try, including one that he said was known as the "king of bananas". I thought it was good banana, but Robert declared it the best banana he'd ever eaten! I can't say enough good things about Sunil- he was a truly fantastic guide, and if you're ever in Kerala you should look him up. You won't regret it!

The last place he took us was a spice market. It was fantastic, and smelled amazing. I wasn't really prepared though (even though I'd asked to visit such a place- silly me!), so I just bought some different curry blends for a friend.


But that wasn't the end of our sightseeing, oh no! There is more to come. 

1 comment:

Kristofer Young said...

The baby elephant was not wearing a wig?