Our second day in Jaipur saw Si and I do something we’d never done before, spend the day getting up close and personal with a herd of Elephants at Elefantastic. Recommended to me by a friend beforehand, I’ve got to admit I was a bit skeptical about how the day was going to turn out. It was really pricey by Indian standards (reasonable by English ones admittedly) and after being here for a while we no longer have the same amount of disposable cash as others who may just be travelling for a few weeks. Yet after a magical day of feeding, stroking, riding, painting and generally having a laugh with such majestic creatures, I can honestly say it was worth it!
Upon arriving at the Elefantastic farm, which has only been running since February of this year, we were put into a horse and carriage to be taken over to our elephant, a nice touch. Our elephant was called ‘Mushkhan’, a 22 year old female who liked stealing all the other elephants’ food – after our own hearts clearly. So gentle and chilled out, we learnt how to feed her bananas and stroke under her chin, and whenever she wanted more she would open her mouth and look at you seriously – fact is, she pretty much always wanted more. It really surprised me how comfortable all of the elephants were and Rahul (the owner of Elefantastic) explained that each elephant had its own trainer who it basically lived with 24/7 and so the man that accompanied us was Mushkhan’s. They know a happy elephant by one that wags its tail often, has lots of trunk activity and flaps its ears regularly. If appetite was an indicator of happiness, then I think she was ecstatic. Simon got automatically attached and loudly announced we had received the best elephant of them all. Then Mushkhan loudly announced she wanted more sugarcane and bananas by stealing them from next door.
The next part of the day should have been painting our nelly, but instead we went for a quick bareback ride around the local area. Riding an elephant is surprisingly comfortable, when riding a camel I screamed and squealed to begin with, but there’s something about an elephant’s slow and deliberate pace that really puts you at ease. Si went the whole hog and took off his shoes, stroking Mushkhan with his toes as we went along. Her trainer accompanied us on our little stroll of course, which was lucky, as Mushkhan liked to make regular food breaks whenever she passed a tree.
Part of the package also included lunch at Rahul’s mothers house which was a lovely experience. Turns out, not only does this guy keep elephants, but he also has a super tame rabbit called Chico. It would come when called and lie down ready to be stroked. Most rabbits run away, but not this one. Plus the food was never ending – we had quite the job explaining we were full. Yumyum!
Next stop was the local national park. Our elephants got suited and booted, joining the rest of the group for an hour long jungle safari. Okay so jungle wasn’t the word, this is Rajasthan after all, but we saw plenty of deer and peacocks, whilst each Elephant clearly had an agenda of their own at points with resulting hilarity. Mushkhan got particularly overexcited every time she saw a new species of tree and proceeded to take full branches as snacks for her journey. Inside the park was a tiger rescue centre which takes in tigers from captivity. Because of this fact, they can never really be released into the wild again apparently, but they were inside a fenced enclosure inside. Personally, after seeing Jodhpur’s zoo I know how small the enclosures there are for animals in some places and its heartwrenching, but I also couldn’t help but feel some zoos elsewhere had more space for tigers than they did there. I didn’t have long to dwell on this however, as it wasn’t long until Mushkhan was making her way toward her next meal.
As we didn’t paint the elephants earlier, we made a point of doing so once we got back. The results are below. Guess who did what… Such a great day!
After that amazing day yesterday, today had big boots to fill. Therefore after making a mandatory trip to KFC on the MI Road (mmm!) we headed straight to one of Jaipur’s most infamous venues, ‘Raj Mandir’, a huge candyfloss-style art deco cinema that’s famous all around India. After seeing armies of tuktuks loyally display photographs of Bollywood icon Salman Khan, the release of his new blockbuster ‘Dabaang 2′ meant that we had to make an impromptu visit! Having never seen a Bollywood film before I was assured this was the place to do it so I dutifully joined my place at the queue (luckily I didn’t need elbows at the ready, the ladies line being a quarter of the size of the mens) and got us two tickets for the diamond box.
The lobby of the cinema was impressive enough, like the entrance to a 1920’s ballroom, but inside the theatre itself the atmosphere was electric. People were wooping, whistling and cheering ready for the film, the high cream ceilings’ bulges of plaster making a bubblegum like aesthetic and everyone was armed with coca cola at the ready. The reaction to Salman Khan’s face alone was priceless – cheers breaking out all over the cinema – and any time something even slightly raunchy happened (and by slight I’m being serious, the worst being a kiss on the cheek or a suggestive rumble under the sheets) wolf whistles echoed all over the room. It was absolutely fantastic and despite only understanding snippets of the Hindi, the choreographed dance scenes and slap stick action, whether purposefully or not, were absolutely hilarious! You can see why so many people here idolise their bollywood stars, going to watch a film at Raj Mandir was a real outing, complete with intermission and audience participation. In my degree we often spoke about the difference between film and theatre, but seeing a Bollywood film like this really bridges the gap! Great fun all round.
Tonight we catch the Haridwar Express, an overnight train up to Rishikesh. It will be the longest amount of time I have ever spent on a train, amounting to 12 hours in total. After doing Yoga for a month or so in Jodhpur, I’m throwing myself (and Si) in at the deep end with four hour session days at an Ashram. Despite being in probably one of the most religious cities for Hindus in India, I’m also hoping that the colder weather will make things feel just a tad more Christmassy too! Crazy to think that whilst every one back at home is celebrating ‘Mad Friday’ I will be prepping myself for my first session of yoga at the foot of the Himilayas. How times change!
Lots of love,