Elephant Riding

Horror of horrors, I’m slipping through the bars on the wide red cushioned seat and as I look across at Bernard he is going the same way. Trouble is, we’re on the back of an elephant and beginning to ascend a long climb to the Amber Fort at Jaipur and it suddenly seems a long way off. The magnificent beast takes slow steady steps, its trunk gently swaying from side to side. Both of us jump up franticly and try to reposition ourselves further back in the bared seat, but it only gives us a moment or two before the adrenaline goes into overkill and we are slipping again. The mind races and I come to the conclusion that we are slipping because the seat is slipping and at this rate we will soon be clinging on upside down. I remember my youngest son’s first ride on a Shetland pony when the girth was not tight enough and he ended up hanging upside down as the pony trotted on. This was destined to go the same way but it was a lot further from the ground and we were in a long string of elephants and surely we would be trampled to death as they ascended towards the jewel of Rajasthan.

Our mahood sits on the great animals head having carefully positioned himself so that the vibrant patterns and colours which have been lovingly used to adorn the elephant's head and trunk remain pristine. He seems unaware of our plight and a long way off. Our cries seem to be lost in the wind and caught up with the general noises around. Bernard slips again, the front bar rises as though we are about to be released from a fairground ride and I wrestle to push it back into its loose socket. As he grabs the bar his sandal flies from his foot and at last the mahood is aware of our plight as the shoe flies past him. With dexterity, like a man at home on a high wire at a circus, he comes across to us and drags the seat backwards and by now I see that the fortress walls are almost within touching distance. ‘Almost there’ I say to myself.

But the elephant lurches and makes a ninety degree turn and I see that I am mistaken and we still have a long way to go. Will we ever survive. Will we be the first to fall to our death in such spectacular fashion or will the elephant suddenly throw his trunk back and coil it around us as we fall. It's surprising how time becomes stretched and seems endless when faced with a situation like this. My life did not fly before me, instead I tried to think of any idea which might aid self preservation. Perhaps that is why the path suddenly became less rugged and the incline less steep and the elephant came to a halt. We had arrived!

The mahood on the elephant behind handed Bernard his sandal. His elephant had scooped it up in his trunk. It seemed quite a usual occurrence! We rewarded both of them handsomely, glad that we were still alive. I noticed that the girth on the elephants became distended as they carried greater weight. If ever there was a call to lose weight this was one of those moments. With both feet firmly within his sandals again we climbed high up and looked down on the new visitors arriving on the back of the elephants and took photos.

On returning home I looked closely at the pictures we had taken and surprise, surprise it did not look as though we were the only ones with 'seat' problems. It seems that it can be part of the experience and if you enjoy a thrill ride one of real magnitude. Then again, even if you are not a seeker of such extremes it is not something I would have missed and what a story to tell!

Janet Myers

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