Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Our Thailand Adventure- Chapter 7: Elephant Riding

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."
Helen Keller

Day 7: Saturday 27th April 2013

We woke and said, "Hello rainy Phuket"
It's Saturday, the day we had organised to go Elephant Trekking. It's pouring with rain. Should we still go?? Yeah, why not!!!

I looked into places to go elephant trekking before going to Thailand and decided that Kok Chang Safari, in the hills of Kata was the one for us. An added bonus was that they picked you up and returned you to your resort FOR FREE, you just have to arrange it 24 hours in advance. We emailed them 2 days before and they emailed back straight away confirming that they would meet us at our resort at our specified time TOO EASY!!! These guys don't advertise, I found them on trip advisor and knew all of these little handy details. It pays to research! 

As promised they picked us up at 9am and off we went, I was praying that the rain would stop, i'm not a fan of getting rained on!! I'd pictured myself riding the elephant, and none of these images included a sopping wet Bec. It's good not to have too many pre-conceived ideas when traveling, I learnt this!!

When we arrived they kept asking us if we were sure we wanted to go out in the rain, They told us we could wait and see if it stopped, but we just decided we'd go anyway.  We paid for the 50 minute jungle trek, and were led to the 'boarding area' where we were told to take our shoes off. I was nervous and excited! Just smile and wave'...

I managed to climb onto the seat without falling off, that was a great start ;) Whooooo let's do this. I had read that some places hit the elephants with pole things, and I was really worried that about seeing this... but it didn't happen! The mahout was really patient. I was so relieved. They treated these elephants really well :) You could tell the mahout genuinely loved the elephant.  

Off we went, and then we heard the distant rumbles of thunder... OK, Let's ride through the jungle, on an elephant, during a thunderstorm!!! Our guide gave us an umbrella cos the rain started pouring down! I was slightly disappointed that the trek I had been dreaming of was  ruined by rain, but Todd was like, "This is terrific!" He thought it enhanced the experience, so as long as the hubby is happy ;0) 

I loved the way the elephant just plodded along, you get rocked from side to side as it walks. Im sitting here doing the movement in my chair as I type ;) Rock, rock, rock...

A short clip of us on the elephant. You can hear the rain and the thunder :) It moves slowly cos the elephant moves slowly ;)

The scenery at the top of the hill is said to be spectacular. However, it was all grey and clouded over this day. Once we stopped at the top the mahout took my camera and took photos of us... LOTS of photos, SCORE!! You can see our wet, glistening legs in the photos!

What a magnificent creature!!
He then let me sit on the elephant's neck for the ride back... this was amazing, this is what I had been waiting for!! To begin with I was so scared. I had nothing to hold onto and I had to really concentrate on not falling off. I was almost certain that I would. I had to tuck my legs in tight behind his ears to keep from falling. It was scary but super special. My little legs tucked in behind his huge ears... Ah I LOVE  ELEPHANTS! 

BANNGGGGGGG!  RUMMMBBBBLLLEEEE!!  FLASH!! Rock, rock rock... just some sound effects etc, so you don't forget the big picture :)

  "It was really surreal sitting up there on an elephant.  
         They are hairy!! They seem very wise also. 
Ahh, just beautiful.
                 I feel bad that Todd didn't get a go of sitting on the neck- I thought he 
would swap us over, but he didn't."

To my surprise I didnt fall off, not even when we went down the steep hill. I wonder if anyone ever has fallen off?! OUCH! I felt a bit like a Princess. I was sitting up the front of the elephant and Todd was sitting behind me, on the seat, holding the umbrella over me so I wouldn't get rained on. Yes, very princessy. It was so special. Everyone should experience riding bare-necked on an elephant. 
The Mahout took photos the rest of the trek. An amazing experience  to have captured in photo form. He did a good job didnt he? Especially since it was raining.

Just like that the 50 minutes were over. We climbed off wet but overjoyed with the experience. I couldn't wait to tell my kiddies about it. They had told lots of people that their mum and dad were going to ride an elephant in Thailand. I was bursting to look at the photos too! I haven't shown all of them cos they were taken from the wrong angle (from below),  double chin alert!!!! 

The thunder was still rumbling! We bought some bananas and had the chance to feed the  elephants. These ellies were speed eaters.  I love how happy I look in the pic of me feeding the Elephant, it's a picture of pure happiness. Me, appreciating and delighting in God's amazing creation, happiness in it's purest form. Yeah I like that thought :) Here I am Philosophising happiness, LOVE IT! Now where were we, oh that's right ELEPHANTS!!

Here's a short clip of Todd feeding the elephants... you can hear the rain.

We were delivered back to our resort wet, dirty and smelling like wet elephant so we threw our clothes off and jumped in the pool! Actually we paused for a moment and put our bathers on ;)
It was still raining and thundering and the pool was empty apart from us. I wasn't sure if you were allowed to swim in the pool while there was a thunder and lightning storm happening and I was half expecting us to be told to get out, but that didn't happen. It was perfect. I put my head under and the storm disappeared, all I could hear was my breathing... 

It looked like it was going to rain all day so we decided it must be time to get a massage. We walked down the hill, found a decent looking place... then the torture began!!!! I booked in for a back and shoulder massage...

"She was digging her elbows into me- it hurt so bad. She even stood on me at the end and bent my legs in ways they shouldn't be bent- aggghhhhh. It was just horrible. I didnt enjoy it at all. My back is so so so so so sore and tender now. But at least I can say I had a massage in Thailand."

I'm not exaggerating, it was awful. I felt like sobbing. My back ended up bruised and that night I couldn't lie on my back, I was in pain and I cried myself to sleep. I was worried that they had done permanent damage. It took a few days for it to feel right again. After that massage Todd booked himself in to get a tattoo the next day, and I totally shocked myself by agreeing to aswell!!  I was so surprised that I agreed! Maybe I felt that after surviving that massage I could handle anything!! But I must say, the tat did hurt, but more about that next blog!

Thanks for reading, and remember riding an elephant is a must. Put it on your bucket list.

Bec xxo

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Swiss Family Barker- Tides.

When I was younger we use to go to my Grandmas for lunch every Sunday. After lunch we would sit down with our cousins and watch a movie. One we watched over and over was Swiss Family Robinson. A family got shipwrecked and trapped on an Island for years. They built an awesome tree house and had Tarzan vines that swung over a lake, it all looked so FUN! How fun it would be to be trapped on a deserted island!!

Well we had our own little 'stuck on a beach' adventure the other day, not quite as dramatic as the Robinson's, but it was still pretty exciting ;) We planned to go fishing and pull up to a little beach somewhere on Bruny and have a BBQ lunch. It was a great morning, the fish were biting and the kids had fun pulling in fish after fish (even though they were too small to keep). Jazzy caught a sized Salmon and he was so happy. He sat next to the bucket so proud watching his catch, I even heard him say as he admiringly peered into the bucket, "He is so beautiful". BLESS

Then to the kids delight we saw some seals. We circled them and they gave us a wave before ducking down under the water. 

We found a beach and went ashore for lunch. Little did we know we were going to be there for the next 8.5 hours!!! We had our little gas cooker with us and Toddy cooked up some sausages and a Oolong tea for me and him... it was a lovely little lunch.

While there was water in the bay ;)

While the sausages cooked Jaz tried his hardest to make his own little fire and Elias discovered beach foam

The whole time we were picnicking Toddy was conscious of keeping an eye on the tide, "If that tide goes out too far we're in trouble," he kept saying. He even put a stick in the water so he could measure the water level.  He moved the boat back at one point to prevent us from getting  stuck. Haha, this makes me laugh now :) Little did we know!

The problem was that the whole bay was made up of sandbanks and channels and we had no idea. The boat was sitting in a channel so it still looked like we had time to leave.  What we didn't realise is that just behind the boat was the first of many sandbanks! That water level measuring stick really was useless, but hey A+ for trying Toddy boy. 

 Toddy said it was time to go, I was trying to get a photo of the 4 kids on the log before we left.  This held us up a few minutes...a few vital minutes I do believe...ooopppsssssss. They wouldn't smile, I even did things I wouldn't usually do just to try and get them to smile ;) Was pointless anyway the photos were terrible. We life jacketed the kids up, loaded them into the boat and then Todd tried to push the boat out... it moved and then stopped. I got out and pushed too... it moved and then stopped. Todd pulled, I pushed.  I pulled, Todd pushed... pull, push, pull, push. NOTHING! I was getting desperate to move this boat. I could see Todd's face starting to get very serious. We got the kids out of the boat and got them all to push too... PUUUUUSSSSSHHHHHHHHHH... we weren't moving. As much as we hated it, it was time to declare defeat, WE WERE STUCK!!! We just stood there and let the realisaton sink in. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry. 

Todd said high tide wasnt until 11pm... it was now 1pm.... FREAK!
As the tide continued to go out we realised why we were stuck...

Todd and I looked at each other and half laughed, and half thought OH MY GOODNESS. Right then we decided to make it fun, we decided to have a positive attitude. I think Todd even let out a loud,  "WHOOOOO we are stuck on the beach" and did a silly dance. We were really going to have an adventure!! Bring it on!!!

Our first job was to collect wood so we could get a fire going. A 'trapped' somewhere adventure needs a fire :) A fire gives you something to focus on, a place to set up camp, hope. This fire was a life saver really. The kids collected wood and kept it going all day. I think Jazzy spent hours just standing by it and poking it with his stick. We cooked fish on it, and it kept us warm as the cold, dark evening approached. It gave us light, as we had no torch and our phone batteries were flat. it gave us comfort, hearing the crackle of the fire, and watching the flames rise and fall soothed the soul. it was calming, I really need to light more fires!! As I was sitting there by the fire I kept thinking of The Rend Collective Campfire Album and broke into my own rendition of Kumbaya, quite loudly! It's alright no-one could hear but a bunch of sheep in a nearby paddock. 
I am SOOO glad that Todd had some matches in his tackle box. Apparently they had been sitting there for 20 years, and never used. This was their lucky day!! If only we had marshmellows in their too (but not some that had been sitting there for 20 years)

Todd kept saying that his family are never going to let him forget this, and Im sure he is right :) He rang his Dad to tell him, and he laughed:) I guess it is hilarious! Remember that time Todd got his family stuck on a random beach for 8.5 hours. HAHA! Seriously though, it really wasn't Todd's fault!! After the fire was going I just had to let the Facebook world know that we were stuck on a beach, I mean, what's the fun of it if no-body knows ;0) I was enjoying the attention, but didn't realise that there were family and friends who actually were quite worried, especially about us trying to navigate our way back to Trial Bay in the dark... I wasnt concerned about that as yet.

After the fire was going we cooked the salmon that Jazzy caught. What fun, cooking a fish we caught on a fire we made. We were real Hunters and gatherers... The Aborigine in Todd was coming to the surface ;)

YUM! YUM! YUM! I actually surprised myself and ate some... I usually don't like to eat a fish if I can see it's head, skeleton and eyeballs! BUT there wasn't much else so eat. This was our only fish and all we had left to feed 6 of us for 8.5 hours was a few slices of bread, a packet of lollies, a block of chocolate, 2 muffins and a packet of rice crackers. We were on rations, a concept the kids struggled to understand. I laughed when I gave Jazzy a piece of chocolate and told him it was his tea and he came straight out with, "What's for dessert?"

Once the fish was eaten the kids wanted to touch the eyeballs, there were no toys so eyeballs it was :)

At this point in the day I was concerned about the fact that there was no shelter on the beach if it rained, and that there were no toilets! I had to find a bush and pee behind it, much to the little boys delight! I prayed so hard that it wouldn't rain, and it didn't :) It was actually perfect weather, no wind and no rain, not hot or not cold... just right :) If you had to be stuck on a beach in Tassie, in Spring then the conditions were perfect. 

A few happy snaps

It was very quiet, I could hear the fire, some sheep baaing in the distance but loudest of all I could her the soldier crabs as they scurried along the wet sandbanks. There were MILLIONS of them!!! Scurry, scurry, scurry. Every sand bank as far as my eye could see was covered in Soldier crabs. Todd decided he would get a handful and scare the kids. Mattea was keen to hold one, and then she went and put one in her mouth :) Yes, she had seen her mum and dad do this once upon a time...  Jazzy was scared. We went for a walk and had to walk over some, it ended in tears.

So what else does one do when stuck on a beach for hours and hours?
Todd and Chi did some fishing, Todd taught Chi how to cast. It was good father/ son bonding time. They didn't catch anything but more importantly they were making memories.  Dont they look cute out there together? I love making memories with my little family. I love that this day forced us spend quality time together, without any distractions.

While they were fishing I thought we should do some charcoal drawing.
 I now I wish we had drawn black stripes on our faces, how fun would that have been. We could have returned looking all native!! Instead we did some rock painting, and I left my mark on the wood.

Oh and Little Elias had a few hours sleep in the afternoon, thankgoodness for this. It made the day that bit shorter for him and helped him not get grumpy!! He fell asleep cuddling Todd and we made a bed for him in the boat- a mattress of life jackets and a picnic rug blanket. I'm so thankful he slept cos it was going to be a LATE night!!!

At one point during the afternoon we heard a helicopter. It came into view and it was a rescue chopper.  I panicked. Earlier on Facebook Flick had asked us if we needed a rescue chopper and now here one was flying above us!! I wanted to run and hide!!! What if it was looking for us? We were ok, we didn't need rescuing! To my relief it passed us by, phew!!! It took a few moments for my heart to stop racing.

I thought it would be fun to get the kids to make letter shapes with their bodies... Maybe this is  the equivalent to cabin fever, i'll call it beach fever?? Can you see what the word says below?


 Im so glad I had my camera with me, taking photos kept me occupied.

Toddy took the kids on a crab hunt. They walked through the water singing, "We're going on a crab hunt, we're going to catch a big one, We're not scared, We are going to put them in Mummy's pants" Silly husband, silly kids. They never did get one down my pants.

Evening was approaching and still no sign of the tide turning... it really was going to be a late night.

As the darkness crept in we all huddled around the fire to keep warm. We didn't have jackets with us. We spotted the first star and broke out into song "Twinkle Twinkle little star..." Elias held his hands in the air and did some actions. It was a special moment, all sitting around the fire, under the stars singing twinkle twinkle :) Their little voices and smiles were so beautiful. Elias was committed to spotting stars, every time he saw a new one he would call out, "There's One". Then the clouds came over and he kept saying, "Stars gone". It was very cloudy and the lack of stars and moonlight was starting to worry me, and i could tell Todd was stating to feel the pressure of getting us back safely in the dark... it was really dark. We sat in the dark, huddled around the fire for ages. We could hear animals scurrying in the bush behind us. In the firelight I saw a big scorpion coming straight for my bare feet, good spot me. I didnt want to add a scorpion bite to the mix. Every 10 minutes or so Todd would leave the huddle and go and check the water situation... it was so dark we couln't even see the water infront of us. The kids started getting tired and wanting to go home. In the far off hills of the Channel we saw a blue and red light flashing. Mattea burst into tears thinking it was the police coming to get us, and sobbed, "I don't want to go to jail." Todd grew very quiet and serious, he was worried. He wasn't expecting it to be this dark. The pressure of getting us home safely laid heavily on him.  I felt sorry for him, but I had total confidence in him and his ability to keep us safe and get us safely home. He is my superhero.  Ive been told that family at home couldn't stop thinking about all the 'what if's', but i can honestly say that not one of them ever crossed my mind.

At about 9:30 Todd once again checked the water and returned with the news we had been yearning to hear. If we push with all we have, we maybe able to get the boat afloat!! We left the kids huddled together on the beach and walked into the cold water. We pushed and pulled and pushed and pulled and we got the boat off that sandbank :) Oh the joy!!!! I stayed in the water  holding the boat and Todd went back and collected the kids, 2 at a time. We life jacketed them up and began our dark, slow, cold journey back to Trail Bay. It took us 50 minutes to get back. The whole way Todd was watching for fish farms, reefs, islands, etc... we could hardly see anything out infront of us... Todd did an amazing job.

Meanwhile back at Trial Bay, Kim drove down to the jetty at 8:30pm and shone her headlights out to help us find our way back. Of course we were still on the beach till 9:30pm and both of our phones were flat so she couldn't contact us. While she was waiting her car battery went flat!! Vincent was at a meeting so she had to wait for him to get back so that he could jump start her car. He happened to turn into Trial Bay at the same time we were passing...  If you know trail Bay you know there is a sharp turn to get into the picnic/jetty area. We saw Vincent make the sharp turn and we knew where we were. Amazing timing. What a relief, we had made it back. 10:18pm. Kim helped us off the boat, I was a bit shaky by this point, and my feet were about to drop off ( I only had my havianas on). She loaded me and the kids into her van and then offered us blankets. She had fruit boxes for the kids and savory muffins to eat (she had made them especially for us). She is amazing!!!! I couldn't stop apologising for wasting her whole evening! She said, "Bec, if you apologise one more time..." Kim and Vincent, thankyou SOOO much. You are amazing friends and we were so blessed by you.Vincent rang mum so she could spread the news that we were back and safe. Lots of our family members weren't going to go to sleep until they knew we were ok :) They were all busy praying :)

We got home, got the kids to bed and then we got the giggles. We couldn't stop laughing. What an adventure we had had. It was fun and challenging. It was an experience none of us will ever forget. And im really glad it happened, it added a bit of excitement to our lives.   The next day I was sore, sunburnt and dehydrated. I pushed that boat with everything I had and even now, 3 days later, i'm still stiff and sore. 

I hope you have enjoyed reading about our adventures and experiencing it through the photos. Thanks for all the prayers :)

Bec xxooxxo