I remember watching a Tarzan movie as a child. Tarzan and Jane were riding through the jungle on an elephant. It looked like fun.
Ever since seeing that movie I had always fancied riding an elephant. But I did not want to sit on a seat or in a basket. I wanted to ride bareback, just like Tarzan and Jane.
I got the chance to ride an elephant bareback recently in the middle of the Malaysian jungle. I was not going to let my vision loss stop me from realising a life-long dream.
First there were the introductions. My elephant was very big. It was much bigger than I had imagined. Her name was Gemuk.
In order to ride Gemuk, we had to get to know Gemuk. And Gemuk had to get to know us, too. To do this, we fed her a big bucket of fruit. A couple of times I missed her mouth. I am not sure if it was because of my limited vision. It might have been that I was afraid of my arm disappearing as quickly as the fruit. Gemuk sure was a hungry elephant.
After the feast, Gemuk was led to a mounting area. Her guide sat on her back, right behind her ears. My husband and I then climbed a wooden platform. From the platform we slid across onto Gemuk’s back.
The elephant was so big that it was like doing the splits just sitting on her. Not only did it hurt, but it was very uncomfortable. I began to wonder if the ride was a silly idea.
Walking through the jungle
When Gemuk’s huge right legs moved forward, I slid to her left. When her left legs moved forward, I slid to the right. I tried to dig my knees in, but almost lost my balance.
There was nothing to hang onto except the elephant guide. I clung to him desperately. In my mind, my life depended on it. I was being tossed all over the back of an elephant. It was such a long, long way down.
As Gemuk walked through the jungle, she would occasionally stop. She would examine her surroundings. She would also sometimes grab a branch off a tree to chew on. I enjoyed these brief stops. They were a chance to catch my breath. It was also a chance to frantically pray for a safe return.
Back down to earth
None too soon, the platform came into view. Our ride was nearly finished. The idea was to slide from Gemuk’s back onto the landing. But this certainly wasn’t an easy task.
As I slid down, only one leg reached the platform. I realised it was impossible to bend the knee of my other leg. I was well and truly stuck half way down Gemuk’s back. I thought if I hopped backwards, my leg should follow. It did, but I promptly fell on my bottom.
Fortunately, only my pride was wounded. The mission had now been accomplished. And I was safe again at last.
Not as easy as it looks
Riding through the jungle on an elephant looked like fun. Tarzan and Jane made it look so easy. But I can assure you that riding an elephant bareback is difficult. Even riding an elephant as gentle as Gemuk.