Posted by: adventuressetravels | November 23, 2012

Pickpocket Pachyderms

I shrieked in delight as a quizzical trunk snuffled my face, the wet end streaking my face with mud.  She ticked my neck, working her way around my head, patting along my hair, and exploring every strand.  I breathed a sigh of relief that she hadn’t taken a liking to my sunglasses pushed back in my hair.

We had found the elephant taking a drink from the river at the top of Dray Sap waterfall, Vietnam’s largest waterfall.   She was chained in the jungle and her chain just let her get to the swiftly flowing river, just far enough for a little stroll out of the woods.  Not too far, after all, just 50 feet further the water cascaded over the cliff.

My travel buddy Dan and I were elated: stumbling on an elephant alone in the woods… what luck!  No one was nearby, no mahout, keeper, or trainer, no one to ask money for elephant rides or to have your picture taken with the elephant.  Nope, she was utterly on her own.  The more I thought about it the sadder it seemed: elephants were smart.  How boring would it be to just be chained in the jungle alone without any friends?  She couldn’t have been that old either; after all, she was only a small elephant, barely over 7’ tall at the shoulder.

There she stood in the woods, weaving back and forth looking thoroughly bored.  We took it upon ourselves as our moral obligation to stay and entertain her.  We patted her, played with her crinkled one of her plastic bottle toys let her suck on it before handing, well trunking, it back to us.  In turn she patted us, whuffling our hair, cheeks, and clothing.  Then, all of a sudden my camera case caught the elephant’s eye.

In a flash she wrapped her muscular trunk around it and before I knew it I was in a tug of war with her.  Immediately I slipped the strong straps over my neck so that I wouldn’t be hung by a camera case and threw my weight into the battle.  Thankfully my camera wasn’t in the case, but I still didn’t want her to have it!

“No!  That’s mine!” I told her, wrenching with all my might.  She wasn’t giving it up that easily.  It soon turned into a tug-of-war battle between me and my large playmate.  Clearly she was toying with me or she would just lift me off of my feet and shake the black case logic waterproof bag out of my hands.  There was a glint of humor in her eye, she was certainly amusing herself.

I started to lose hope:  there wasn’t any way that I could win in a battle of strength against this enormous beast and it didn’t seem like she was giving up any time soon.  Thankfully I’d taken my camera out of the case to take pictures.  I might just have to give my camera case up for lost and give my new elephant friend a new chew toy.  But I wasn’t ready to give up just yet.  I gave one last violent tug; and almost fell onto the ankle-deep mud as the camera case came free.

“Did she get anything?” Dan asked me.

The camera case appeared to have survived the elephant attack.  On closer inspection I discovered that the outside zipper pull was missing.  With unbelievable dexterity, the elephant had wrenched the tiny metal piece from the case.

Dan dissolved into laughter as I shook my head.  I was just happy to have gotten the case back.  I set my things down a little way away on a relatively dry spot and went back to give the elephant a pat to apologize for taking away the camera case.

As I was petting her with my right hand, the elephant encircled my left wrist with her flexible trunk.  Like a grey boa constrictor the ropy length tightened around and drew me towards her mouth.  I pulled back to no avail; my wrist was being squished into an unrecognizable pulp as she brought it to her.  The pressure was on the verge of actually hurt and I was beginning to wonder if I would lose a hand to an elephant when Dan came to my rescue.

“No!” Dan reprimanded the elephant rapping her on the trunk.  Reluctantly, she released my wrist and stepped back in disgust.  What kind of playmates were we?

“Let’s get a shot hugging her,” Dan suggested trying to hug our friend who had gone back to bored weaving after being denied both of her new toys.

After several tries to get her to hold still for the shot and let Dan hug her, my travel companion was ready to give up.   It may not have worked for my friend but hugging an elephant seemed fun.  I figured I’d give it a shot.

The moment I put my arms around her head, she stopped and relaxed into my hug.  I was quite pleased she had stopped weaving for a hug.  Then I realized my hand was surrounded by a warm, wet softness… Was that a tooth?  She had my hand in her mouth and was sucking on it!  She had gotten my hand into her mouth!

Horrified I wrapped her on the trunk and wrenched my hand away.  What if she had bitten it?  Even a gentle nibble could crush my fingers:  she was used to munching on trees!

That was enough elephant excitement for me, I thought, wiping my slimy hand on some obliging leaves.

Though they are amazing and brilliant creatures, animals that big don’t always know their own strength.  As magical and amazing experience as this elephant encounter was, it also probably wasn’t the best idea.  But really, the most fun adventures are rarely down the safest path.


  1. Wow, this is the best adventure yet. I wonder if you & the elephant could communicate with sign language?

  2. Sally, a fun time with your friend, a delightful story……..ending with the best sentence. Adventure, not always safe, yet what excitement you experienced. Thanks for sharing. (Wondered what the story w behind the cover photo)

  3. Reblogged this on RD Revilo.

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