On Wednesday this week we went to Panjim to meet up with friends Mike and Brian. They just happened to be in South Goa, on their own world travels, and, while we only live a few miles apart in the UK, it seems we have to choose India as a more convenient place to meet up! We had a good lunch and a great catch-up chat at a favourite haunt of ours overlooking the Old Patto Bridge.
One of the most exciting adventures we’ve had started on Thursday morning when we were transported to the Mollem National park in the heart of Goa. There we were shown to the little hut where would spend the night.
Inside it was more than we expected with a very comfortable bed, a hot shower and, although quite basic of course, there was everything we needed to survive.
Having been given half an hour to settle in we were off on the most amazing 24 hours! First we were introduced to the elephants and their Mahouts, the very skilled and knowledgeable men who live and breathe with these magnificent creatures.
We were given the chance to feed this adorable female. Scooping a handful of food from a huge bowl, we moulded it into a round ball and placed it carefully into her soft open mouth. Incredible!
After getting to know the elephants we were then off on a two and a half hour jungle trek …….
….. seeing the most interesting plant life, ……..
……… geology …………
…….. and, of course, animal life. This is a zoom pic of two monkeys high up in the trees on the other side of a river.
The atmosphere of the jungle was really something very special.
In a clearing we were introduced to “Mr Riley” who lives on his own in the most basic of conditions. When the Indian government designated the area as a national reserve all people living there were displaced but this gentleman refused to go and so they eventually relented and allowed him to stay. He is not allowed to build a permanent structure so this is his home. Every Thursday, he prepares the sweet lemon tea and the most delicious little baked flat scones for the visitors.
He allowed us to enter his home and take a few pictures.
We saw a lot of monkeys during our trek, the bigger ones stayed high up in the tree canopy but the smaller ones came much closer. To add to our interest a couple of group members caught a glimpse of a black panther but most of us missed it as the big cat made a hasty retreat into the bushes some distance away.
After the jungle trek we returned to see the elephants having their daily fun. Each Mahout brought his elephant down to the river to bathe.
The loud trumpeting of these animals has to be heard first hand to be believed. Their beautiful sound rang through the jungle and their excitement was plain to see and hear.
They wallowed about in the water, pushing and shoving each other in play and causing tidal waves to wash the river banks.
One or two of them completely submerged themselves for quite long periods of time. It all looked quite crazy as these 5 ton animals cavorted about like children in a paddling pool.
Then it was our turn to to do some work. We waded into the river and, with scrapers made of coconut husk, we set to and scrubbed the elephants clean.
It was great fun for us and the elephants seem to thoroughly enjoy it too. The Mahouts made sure that things were done properly!
With four very clean elephants it was then back to their turn for even more fun. This time we climbed onto their backs and held on tight while they took great delight in washing us with very powerful jets of water from their trunks. Doug first ……
……. followed by James!
In the evening after dinner the elephants, dressed in all their finery, joined us to show off again.
We each had an “elephant blessing” where these clever creatures took a lei from their Mahout and placed it carefully over our heads …….
…. after which we all had a cuddle.
It’s an amazing feeling to be treated so gently by these incredibly powerful animals.
This is (another) James, Johnny, Flossy and Clare who we spent a lot of time with during our jungle stay. They were a delight to be with, especially Flossy and Johnny.
When the elephants returned to their night quarters we made our way to the campfire to be entertained by some of the staff with singing and dancing. A great time was had by all as everyone got onto their feet and danced around the fire.
On Friday it was up and breakfasted by 7:30 and off into the jungle by 4 wheel drive. The 45 minute journey along the bumpiest track on the planet was hilarious – but only if you’d remembered to grease up your coccyx beforehand!
The track was often very dusty and narrow ……..
……. but, in other places, it gave glimpses of the most wonderful scenery.
When we got to the end of the track we had to do the rest of the journey on foot.
Passing the lovely dried riverbeds (just waiting for the rainy season) …..
……… and great sweeping creeper trunks hang from the trees.
Our destination was the Dudhsagar Waterfall. An immense cascade from way up on the mountain ridge, taking its journey down beneath the railway viaduct and on down ……
……… into an enormous deep pool at the base.
Most of us threw caution to the wind and braved the refreshing waters. Well why not, we might only be here once and it reduces the number of “I wish” statements at the end of our days!
This isn’t a close up of James’ short Indian haircut but to show the huge numbers of large fish which were only too keen to swim around us in the pool. A bit of banana thrown in the water and it “boiled” with the fish as they fought for their portion.
Other jungle inhabitants were also very keen too accept a bit of banana as well!
Walking back through the forest to our 4x4 the true scale of nature’s achievements began to sink in. Huge, and sometimes deformed, tree trunks support the canopy above.
After returning from our jungle adventures we were ushered in to learn about the art of things such as grinding rice flour and pulping masala paste (delicious!)
Then on to a bit of Indian cookery – making masala chicken for our lunch.
After lunch it was time for an elephant ride. This is the view from the driving seat!
What a fantastic feeling to have such a powerful and noble creature beneath you.
And after the ride the elephants get to have their fun again! They absolutely love giving us a soaking! James first …….
……. followed by Doug! After that it was a quick shower, bags packed and the journey home.
Well, what can we say that could begin to describe our last couple of days? To have so much contact with such majestic and gentle creatures as elephants was a great and humbling experience. The staff, the accommodation and the food were absolutely superb – and we’ve made some lovely new friends. Another box with a great big tick!