Hi everyone! I am back from my Bali trek, rested and more than a little mind blown.
Much of what I saw made sense when I learned that Bali’s population of 4 million is far eclipsed by the 7 million annual visitors it gets per year. Most of whom are from Australia.
Despite the overwhelming hospitality and warmth of the local people, it was impossible to overlook what they really think about us Aussies – giving pause for more than a little cultural cringe.
But leaving the tourism epicentre and heading inland to the arts and culture capital of Ubud, I experienced both the high and low point of my trip.
The lodge was its own little oasis – a small tropical jungle with ponds and fountains, a lake and a safari track. A little Garden of Eden tucked away in the hills of Ubud.
Booked in for three nights, I had high hopes for an elephant hug or two.
On arrival, we were informed a schedule had been drawn up for our stay. At 6.30pm, an elephant would collect us from our room and take us to dinner and a show.
We would rise for an 8.00am elephant washing, 9.30am safari ride, lunch and another show, and the whole routine would be repeated daily during our stay.
There were many opportunities for ‘Kodak moments’, as the staff insisted on capturing our fumbled attempts to scrub an already clean elephant…
Our ‘swim’ with the elephant, that consisted of the elephant dunking us in the water, and lurching back up for a photo…
Our hand feeding of hungry elephants, and their on command moments of gratitude. Click. Click.
We learned that the elephant’s day typically starts from 8.00am and ends at 9.00pm. On a busy day, they can take up to twenty rides around the same thirty-minute circuit – in addition to the rest of their activities.
Sometimes, this means eating on the job. But on quieter days, they get time out for a feed, tethered to small patch of dirt amidst the park.
On one of our Safari rides, the elephant suddenly stops on the track.
“She’s tired,” her mahout explains, pressing her ears with his foot to push her forward.
“It’s okay,” we say. “Let her rest.”
Relieved, they both relax. The mahout swivels around on her neck to talk to us as we pause there, in the man made jungle.
We ask how he enjoys his work.
“I love the elephant,” he redirects, politely. “My wife is jealous. She says she is my second wife.”
He explains he came with her from Sumatra, and has worked with her for thirteen years. A job for life.
“There is no training or study you can do
that can teach you how to love the elephant.
You either have it or you don’t.
Some say it is magic. But it isn’t magic.
It just comes from your heart… ”
I’m tearful as the mahout gently encourages her to move on down the track.
When we reach the end of our ride, and disembark, I reach down to pet the elephant’s head.
She sighs, and leans her head and trunk on the platform next to me, hungry for the recognition. Her eye searches mine, and a tear escapes us both.
“Thank you, you are a very beautiful elephant.” I say. And she lingers there until her mahout gently pushes her to go.
In that moment, I forget to take a photo.
And perhaps that’s just as well.
Do ‘kodak moments’ make you uncomfortable? What’s your favourite kodak moment that you didn’t take?