Deep into the jungle we drove, over dirt roads and under vegetation that competed against itself for soil and nutrients. The shapes and the greenery gave me a key into my imagination while driving on. I thought of the “creepers” that hung in every angle off the plane and the past pilot. Ralph and the other boys chanting “kill the pig” while dancing around the fire with animals on pikes followed. “Kill the Pig, Kill the pig!...” Mr. Thomas, my sophomore English teacher would be proud to know that making me read The Lord Of The Flies would actually have an impact on my life.
We arrived at the Elephant Camp and feared it would be yet another Disneyland type of attraction. To our surprise, there were no loud speakers, no cheesy audio tapes and nothing for sale looked that like it had arrived in a box labeled To: tourist or current sucker! All the people here were of the same tribe and functioned together, as a village, as they have done for decades. The men had their jobs, and the women had theirs. After bathing the elephants, watching the elephants teach us how they worked and a few parlor tricks; we were invited to experience them first hand. I fed a mother and new baby a bunch of bananas, and a bundle of sugar cane, that disappeared behind giant molars faster than I could blink. Now it was time for something I had been waiting to do for eight months. We get to ride the elephants, through the jungle up to the Hilltribe Village. On the way up the unmanicured trail we saw dueling dragonflies bigger than our hands. Somewhere between the parking lot and the village, we had stumbled into a Jurrassic time. The spiders were bigger than saucers, in webs that stretched to either side of the creek the elephants were using as a trail. The vegetation was dense and overgrown. And the creek swelled with the recent rain. But at this moment, ten feet high on the back of an elephant, I wasn’t afraid of the jungle. I let it console us in a green embrace.
The villagers were so eager to make a few baht for much needed supplies, and we were eager to help. A man sold us a hand carved elephant chime for only 100 bath (less than three US dollars). I almost wanted to buy two, and take only one, because his teeth appeared as to of not ever seen a dentist. After the elephant caravan, we stopped at the base of the mountain for an amazing lunch. No time to soak up what had just occurred, because there was a bamboo raft waiting for us at the shore of the Mae Ping River. Seated on a simple raft made with bamboo stocks and tied with grass; we took in all the beauty the jungle had to offer.