Where We Be
Janaki sends a spiraling plume of water my way
Chitwan Park, Nepal -- Elephant Bathing
After breakfast we donned swimsuits to join in the
elephant bathing. This was great fun! It’s probably
something you can only do in a few places in the
whole world. As soon as we arrived an elephant
handler asked if I’d like to ride and I quickly said
yes. The elephant got on its knees and I clambered
up. But it turned out my elephant was not very well
behaved; she spent more time tipping me off her
back than letting me ride. Robin was wiser: she
scoped out all the elephants before choosing one,
and her elephant gave her a great ride, obedient
to her handler's every command. Her ride was so
good I took a second ride on her elephant.

It's pretty wild riding bareback on an elephant.
Getting sprayed by water from her trunk is a hoot,
and trying to stay on when she wants you off --
which she does by sitting down on her haunches
and rolling to one side -- is a real challenge.

Watching other people trying to ride the elephants
was almost as much fun as doing it ourselves. We
became aware of how much individual personality
each elephant has. One was like a bucking bronco
and kept intentionally tossing her rider by shaking
back and forth as soon as the person climbed on.
Another casually tossed water sidewise over her
shoulder, unintentionally (we think) unseating her
rider as her shoulder dipped down.
Janaki says "Namaste!"  -- hello! -- in elephant fashion
When Robin had had enough, her handler took Janaki out into deeper water, and on his command the elephant sat down on her haunches...
When it came time to pay our elephant handler (just 100 rupees or about $1.50), we put the bill in Janaki's trunk and she "handed" it to him
Janaki says "Namaste!" What a great elephant! Note the other elephant handlers looking for prospective riders.
Here I am atop my first elephant. Riding bareback and feeling the thick hide beneath you is a real treat.
After some coaxing, my elephant sprayed me with her trunk
Robin had to snap this picture quickly before the elephant tossed me off (again!)
I spent more time in the water than on the elephant's back -- and clambering back up was no easy feat!
Here goes Robin! She hand-picked her elephant. Meet Janacki, 30 years old and wonderfully obedient.
Robin laughing after her first dousing (I love this picture!)
Janaki fills up for another spray, and Robin prepares for another dousing
Janaki sprayed Robin with water over and over again, on command -- and she seemed to enjoy it!
...and rolled gently to the side until Robin slid off her back. The elephants seem to enjoy unseating you! (Note the handler doesn't fall off)
Robin's ride on Janaki was so good I couldn't resist taking my own ride -- what a treat!
Zoomed-in version of the first picture, with that perfect curlicue of water coming my way
Here a different elephant handler bathes and massages his elephant, something she obviously enjoys immensely