I woke up this morning bright and early at 6am.   I was not going to sleep in again.

I actually didn’t get a full night’s sleep but that was my fault as I was up past midnight watching Dallas Buyers Club (good movie, by the way).

At 7:00 I wandered over to the common area where breakfast was set up.   Unlike lunch and dinner, the breakfast wasn’t as elaborate with only a few items available.   There was bread that the guys were toasting over an open flame in a clay pot (pretty cool method).   And there was fruit, beans and rice.

And cereal – lots of cereal.

So I had toast with beans and some fruit loops – ah, breakfast of kings!

An hour later it was time to find out what task our team would be doing for the morning.

Cutting corn trees…

Ugh!

This is the other task that is an hour ride out of town.   So, to start the week our team got the worst 2 tasks.   In my head though I just kept telling myself everyone had to do these tasks eventually and after we had tackled this one it would be easy tasks the rest of the way.

To make things worse, our team was cut in half as a few people didn’t show up.   So, instead of 11 like every other team, we only had five of us.   Thankfully five mahouts (animal keepers) went with us to help out.

Instead of taking 2 hours like the other morning tasks we wouldn’t be returning to the park until the early afternoon so that meant two things:   lunch at the site instead and no afternoon task.

And that’s when our volunteer coordinator Can told us everything we needed to know to get us through this hard task…

Instead of an afternoon task, he would take us to elephants to play for awhile!

After being here for more than 2 days and only interacting with them for a total of 10 minutes this was what I had been waiting for.

I didn’t care how hard the task was – I had that reward dangling in front of me!

We got to the fields after an hour drive and besides the banana trees there was also a chili field and a bunch of locals harvesting peanuts in another field.

Any time I would think of complaining about how hard the work was I would look over at the locals and think that this is what they do every day.

When everything is put into perspective, things clear up in your head.

The corn had already been harvested so there were just the corn tree stalks to cut down.   We each got machetes and hacked down a few rows for about a half hour.

That part was actually pretty fun but it was still tiring as the sun was beating down on our heads.

The five of us rested in a little hut nibbling crackers while the mahouts bundled up the stalks.

300 bundles!

Enough to fill the truck we drove up in.

And this was the hard part – moving those bundles from the field about 400m over to the truck.   Trip after trip, back and forth, one bundle at a time.

The mahouts of course would take 4 bundles at a time cause, well, they’re rock stars.   I eventually started taking 2 bundles at a time resting one on each of my shoulders but there was no way I could even take three, let alone four.

And then – about an hour later, it was done!

All the bundles were loaded and we all breathed a sigh of relief.   It would be smooth sailing from here on out!

We had some lunch of vegetable rice and some noodle dish which I didn’t really care for.   Not quite the buffet that we would have had back at the park but, whatever, I didn’t care.

I was going to play with elephants!

We loaded back up into the van but this time we sat on the roof on top of all the corn stalks we had just harvested.   We stopped off at 7-11 on the way back where I grabbed a slurpee and then it was back to the camp for us.

We came back just after 1pm and as everyone else was getting ready to go on to their afternoon tasks, we were led down to the river to find elephants.

We crossed the shallow water on to the other side and hiked along the river for a bit until we reached 3 elephants grazing near the river and then a bit further where another 3 elephants were also just hanging out.

We spent alot of time petting them, feeding them and then watching as they were led down into the river for their afternoon bath.

Needless to say I took a ton of photos and videos because this might well be the only time I get to spend quality time with the elephants.

After our elephant afternoon we all just hung out in the main common area and watched as the other groups slowly returned from their afternoon tasks.

Before long the dinner bell rang and after a great buffet meal the sun was going down.

At 7:30 I called it a night.   It was a labor intensive day and I didn’t have a full night’s sleep the night before.   I was beat and headed to my room for the night.

All in all, a great day – who would have thought it would turn out that way when I first saw that task this morning but it all worked out in the end.

Asia Trip 2014, Trip Journal
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