Sunday, July 1, 2012

Day 13 -- Into Every Vacation A Little Rain Must Fall

All last night it poured. The monsoon has finally come in earnest, and soon the Mekong and its tributaries will rise 10 - 20 feet. Throughout our journey, we've seen the high water marks on rocks and vegetation and footpaths, but it was inconceivable to me that the water could regularly reach that high. No more, now I understand.

Still, luck remains with us. Today was our day with the elephants, and I feared that we'd have to cancel, or that it would be so wet as to make the trip miserable and pointless. But the rain slowed enough that we took a chance, and what a good chance it was. The elephant camp is high in the mountains, and as the car climbed the muddy dirt roads, past pineapple and teak plantations, we rose above the clouds so that by the time we arrived, the sun was shining.

Our day at the camp had several parts to it. First, Ellery and I learned how to ride on the elephant's neck, and how to command it with out feet and a few Lao words. Then it was off on a one hour trail ride; unsure of my balance on the lumbering but beautiful animal, I opted, for the most part, for the comfy cushioned seat, while Ellery stayed on the neck. When we reached the river, riding the elephants down the middle of it, I hopped down onto the neck for a bit, and loved every minute of it.

With the trail ride over, we took a short boat ride to some nearby waterfalls, but as the rains had just begun, they were pretty dry and not really worth the trip. We then had our usual lunch - rice and chicken curry, followed by pineapple for desert, before it was time for the best part of the day. Ellery and I each mounted our own elephant and took them back into the river for their bath. Once in the middle of the river, the elephants laid down, and with hard bristle brushes, we scrubbed their heads, ears, and back. Ellery's elephant was so delighted she trumpeted with joy, while mine used her trunk to shower me with water. I really didn't expect to have so much fun with these elephants - I expected something much cheesier, and I'm glad it wasn't.

After the bathing, I showered and swam in a beautiful little swimming pool overlooking the river, while Ellery read - something she's been doing constantly throughout the trip.

Returning to town, where it had clearly been raining most of the day but for the moment was dry, we stopped at one last temple, covered in brightly painted murals and friezes, and then walked back to our hotel. Changing into our bathing suits, it was less than 15 minutes out by the pool before the rain started again, heavier than before. So now we are ensconced in our room, listening to the rain, wondering what we will do for dinner, and whether tomorrow's trip to a larger, evidently more beautiful (and wet) waterfall will actually take place. But so far, the weather gods have been good to us, and I'm hoping our luck hasn't yet run out.