Kodak Moments

Hi everyone! I am back from my Bali trek, rested and more than a little mind blown.

Our travels took us to Kuta and Seminyak – the most popular beachside “villages” where most of the shopping and cocktail sipping takes place.

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Cocktails at Ku De Ta

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.

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Shopping sights in Seminyak

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.

At an Australian operated Elephant Safari Park, we were introduced to a herd of 31 elephants.  Three born in the park, and the rest rescued from Sumatra due to habitat loss from palm oil plantations.

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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.

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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…

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If I look like I haven’t had coffee, it’s true!

Our ‘swim’ with the elephant, that consisted of the elephant dunking us in the water, and lurching back up for a photo…

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Our hand feeding of hungry elephants, and their on command moments of gratitude. Click. Click.

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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.

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“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… ”

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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?

Travel Wag

After last week’s technological shutdown, I’m glad to say, things are back to normal, so now I can introduce you to some furry friends I’ve met in my recent travels.

The animal hospital’s oral history project has taken Ms and I from one end of the state and across the border to another, around the bay and everywhere between.

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Many cups of tea and 17 hours worth of interview footage later, my ears are ringing with a wealth of tantalising gossip.

But, it’s the patient bystanders who are the real heroes of this story.

On one side of the bay, in the cosy seaside town of Portsea, we met Coco and Utah.  Coco, intent on giving away some home truths, and Utah, bored silly and a little sulky after being locked away in a room for more than an hour.

The challenge of recording interviews with animal lovers is, of course, convincing their pets to be quiet and still while the camera rolls.

I felt more than a little sorry for this galah, who was intent on dancing to what was clearly the memory of a tinkling bell.

On the other side of the bay, overlooking the stunningly wild Airey’s Inlet, we met Sally – a beautiful ten year old, who did her best to feign ignorance of her misdemeanours.

She had the sadness, and the knowingness, of a dog surrendered by an overstretched single mum family to the home of a doting older couple.  And that is the most touching part of our journey.

Almost all the animals we’ve met are rescue cats and dogs.

In the middle of surburban Melbourne, we met a couple who spent thirty years rescuing strays cats.  Their home and yard is a cat paradise – as Bob’s leisurely pose seemed to suggest.

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There’s a separate dwelling for newly acquired trauma victims, and the yard is fully enclosed to prevent escape.

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I was impressed with the ingenuity – empty cans hanging on curtain rods around the fence, designed to spook the cat that dares to jump.  Simple, but very effective.

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By far, my favourite visit was the small town of Barooga – just over the Victorian border in New South Wales.

When we arrived, we were welcomed by the exuberant Misty and Paddy.  The minute the car door opened, Paddy was in my lap, landing a giant wet kiss on my nose.

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Later, I learned he had been dumped out the front of the property, and spent three days running in a circle, refusing to leave the spot in the hope his owner would return.

He had the demeanour of a well loved dog, who milked his hard luck story in a constant quest for petting.

But the best part was watching him play with his new friend.

There’s nothing quite like the love or the gratitude of a rescued animal.  And as my new friend, Margaret, so eloquently put it…

“The thing about dogs is –

they wag their tails, not their tongues.”

What makes your tail wag?

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My apologies to anyone who might have been feeling a little neglected of late. My haphazard schedule has been getting the better of me. And in other news…

I’ve also been busy making preparations for a little trip to Bali. As of today, I will be away for two weeks,  making the most of an extended summer, ignoring the fact that I’m turning 36 and, hopefully, hugging an elephant or two for comfort.

Look forward to catching up with you all when I get back… Until then, love, peace and tail wags 🙂