|The first elephant ride of Isabella Bird|
A truly hideous beast
The elephant at last came up and was brought below the porch.
How to mount an elephant
Before I came I dreamt of howdahs and cloth of gold trappings, but my elephant had neither.
Not happy with the mahout
A noose of the same with a stirrup served for the driver to mount.
An uncomfortable ride
This mode of riding is not comfortable. One sits facing forward with the feet dangling over the edge of the basket.* This edge soon produces a sharp ache or cramp, and when one tries to get relief by leaning back on anything, the awkward, rolling motion is so painful, that one reverts to the former position till it again becomes intolerable.
How to unmount an elephant
Before we had traveled two hours, the great bulk of the elephant, without any warning, gently subsided behind, and then as gently in front, the huge, ugly legs being extended in front of him, and the man signed to me to get off, which I did by getting on his head and letting myself down by a rattan rope upon the driver, who made a step of his back, for even when "kneeling," as this queer attitude is called, a good ladder is needed for comfortable getting off and on.
Her first experience with leeches
I had walked on for some distance, and I had to walk back again before I found my elephant. I had been poking about in the scrub in search of some acid fruits, and when I got back to the road, was much surprised to find that my boots were filled with blood, and on looking for the cause I found five small brown leeches, beautifully striped with yellow, firmly attached to my ankles.
The mahout helps her to mount again
Certainly I always dreamed that there must be something splendid in riding on an elephant, but I don't feel the least accession of dignity in consequence. When the pack was adjusted, the mahout jumped on the back, and giving me his hands hauled me up over the head, after which the creature rose gently from the ground, and we went on our journey.
Her elephant goes his own way
But the ride was "a fearful joy," if a joy at all! Soon the driver jumped off for a gossip and a smoke, leaving the elephant to "gang his ain gates" for a mile or more, and he turned into the jungle, where he began to rend and tear the trees, and then going to a mud-hole, he drew all the water out of it, squirted it with a loud noise over himself and his riders, soaking my clothes with it, and when he turned back to the road again, he several times stopped and seemed to stand on his head by stiffening his proboscis and leaning upon it, and when I hit him with my umbrella he uttered the loudest roar I ever heard.
Her elephant remains unruly
On the driver's return I had to dismount again, and this time the elephant was allowed to go and take a proper bath in a river. He threw quantities of water over himself, and took up plenty more with which to cool his sides as he went along. Thick as the wrinkled hide of an elephant looks, a very small insect can draw blood from it, and, when left to himself, he sagaciously plasters himself with mud to protect himself like the water buffalo. Mounting again, I rode for another two hours, but he crawled about a mile an hour, and seemed to have a steady purpose to lie down. He roared whenever he was asked to go faster, sometimes with a roar of rage, sometimes in angry and sometimes in plaintive remonstrance.
She decides to walk
Then I made signs that I would get off, but the elephant refused to lie down, and I let myself down his unshapely shoulder by a rattan rope, till I could use the mahout's shoulders as steps. The baskets were taken off and left at a house, the elephant was turned loose in the jungle; I walked the remaining miles to Kwala Kangsa, and the driver carried my portmanteau!
"It was a wicked elephant!"
Such was the comical end of my first elephant ride. I think that altogether I walked about eight miles, and I was not knocked up; this says a great deal for the climate of PÍrak. The Malay who came with me told the people here that it was "a wicked elephant," but I have since been told "that it was very sick and tired to death," which I hope is the true version of its most obnoxious conduct.