Even though I look as comfortable here in the saddle as Dale Evans, (ah hem) the riding wasn’t the problem. It was the mounting that I recall. The first try to hoist myself to the horse’s back ended in sad defeat. The second try was not much better, and I pulled the saddle off to the side. I glanced quickly at the guy who was holding Sultan, as if to say, “Hey buddy can’t you give me a boost” He looked back at me with another glance that said, “I’m not touching you with a 10 foot pole.” I remembered then, that in his culture, that would be his response and I knew I was on my own. It was do or die. This time he held the saddle in place and with a heave and all the jump I could muster my knee landed on the saddle and I managed to pull my self around to a seated position.
Dismounting was just as scary, It’s a long way down. This time he did give me some verbal instructions. I made it without incident and Sultan and I were still friends. Sometimes you just got to do what you gotta do.
Mounting an elephant is much easier. The guide leads the gentle giant to the other side of a platform with steps. The easy climb leaves you standing level with the animal, so you just throw you leg across the broad back and fall into the seat. Another plus is the guy in front, who doesn’t mind if you hang on to him, takes full charge of Sharu, and with Dick in the back, I feel tucked in, safe and able to enjoy the ride. I must say going in the lake instead of around the lake was a bit of a surprise and adventurous as the baby elephant following us went under a few times but managed to get through the deepest part.
We were wondering if we were going to get wet as we went deeper and deeper and the water came up to just inches below our feet before we could feel the upward slope. All the while we kept our eye out for any movement from the hippos lounging on the other side. Out of the lake our safari took us through fields where we saw warthogs and colorful birds.
After the ride we were supposed to hand feed our elephant as a thank you, or sort of a “good boy” dogie treat. I’m not too sure Sharu felt as though I was completely happy with him as I tried my best to pour food into his trunk.
Later on that same Australian trip we sailed down the Murray River in a houseboat (another post) and tied up at Big Bend. Here we were met by a farmer who invites passengers to his farm for some sheep races and shearing demonstrations. When he asked for a volunteer to feed the lambs, my hand went up, after all I had never done it before, so why not. My little guy was an eager beaver and the feeding took all of two minutes or less. Later the friendly farmer took the four of us out on a small wagon to see fields full of kangaroos playing and lounging in his field. They are protected, but destroy his crops, so he makes money by showing the roos to tourists.
In Senegal, West Africa, the owner of this place told us we could catch a ride on giant turtles that were supposedly roaming around the property. We went off in search of them and found two of these elderly giants on a heap of garbage and branches. They were not in the mood for moving. She said if you sat on their backs they would give you a ride. When I sat on this big fellows back he sank into the heap about two inches and groaned. We opted for a photo shoot.