Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Poo Collection at the Park

Off we got to the pens
Report to collect our barrows and tools
Here we are again - another chore - at first glance "yuck" but really not that bad!! And really, we prepare food for the elephants, so what can we expect but to produce more of this stuff!!

 After our task allocation, we collect our tools - pitchforks, rakes and shovels and wheel barrows and head out to the pens. We have a mahout watching the gate as we pass through as some of the elephants watch for an open gate to investigate.

I have found that pitchforks and rakes are the best tools, as the pick up involves a lot of corn stalks, as well as the other stuff. The older elephants are unable to process all the food they eat so some of the corn stalks are still intact when we collect it all. Shovels are only useful for the pure poo, but pitch forks are more versatile.

There is no real smell, and it is all not very messy!! Most of the people wear thongs, and some wear gloves. Our biggest problem at the moment is the wet ground (we are having heavy rain during the evenings, which makes the ground very wet and boggy for the wheel barrows.

Another big problem is the elephants themselves - as they graze around and also like to check on what we MIGHT have in the barrows!! Sometimes we have to deviate our paths as an elephant has blocked the way.
Despite comments, I DO work

And to prove that I DO some work as well as take photos!!!!

And the poo is useful, as after a lot of treatment and chemical treatment the poo can be made into paper products and cards, which we can buy at the shop.

With all our task collected and transferred to the compost pile, we return our tools and wash up the barrows

Monday, August 20, 2012

Elephant Nature Park - Aug 15

Volunteers head out for poo collection
  Day 3

Starts and we are shunted around our tasks again - we have 3 groups - A, B and C. These are for morning duties, and in the afternoon we have different jobs

Today our group has first job of (elephant) kitchen. The menu changes each day - mainly depending on what sort of food is available!!! Today we have pumpkins and melons. These have to be washed first to remove any insecticides from the skin, before they are cut up by machete wielding people - some of our people are quite dangerous with the implements. Most are like lightning - never strike twice in the same place!!

Other volunteers head for the elephant kitchen -

Bananas await for preparation
Baskets for the washed pumpkins

For fun, one can cut the pumpkins

Bananas need to be sorted, with riper ones selected for peeling, for the older elephants who have difficulty in eating as they have no teeth.

Bananas to be peeled

When filled, baskets are taken around by human chain to the various spots where the elephants feed
A group taking the food baskets around

Pom is here to welcome us

The gift shop

A change - to washing melons

The elephants arrive for lunch

Feeding the family

Some elephants are impatient!!
Water sports - with elephants

Bath time - again

Water sports - with elephants

Stepanie is in charge of the dog shelter

Volunteers resting at the dog pound
We have a gift shop which is quite popular. Then back to the kitchen for melon washing and cutting.

We do have time to watch the feeding at 11am

After lunch it is bathing time again at 1pm - and back to the river for the elephants
and the volunteers and visitors!!

And again it is a perfect opportunity to splash others and also get wet!!! Take a waterproof camera!!

Spreading poo compost at the dog pound
The volunteers around the dog pound pool
After this it is back to work - and this time we are moving elephant poo compost to the dog shelter. Recently Chiang Mai suffered some serious flooding, resulting in many homes being destroyed and many people and animals affected. Lek was concerned about many dogs who were left behind when their families left their homes. Lek's people rescued several hundred dogs - many being reunited with their owners. Many however had no where to go, so Lek built a dog shelter for them opposite the elephant Park. Now there are over 200 dogs. But whilst they have shelter and water and are fed, there is no shade, so our job was to transfer elephant poo compost into piles around the dog runs, and then later return to plant trees into the poo piles.

Elephant Nature Park - Aug 13

Well, here I back again at the Elephant Nature Park - to see , feed and  play with the elephants - visit since last Aug. Things are much the same - a few less elephants - some accommodation changed - the walkway up to the skyway fell down so is being replaced.
Medoc walks past
Intro to the Ele. Kitchen
It is rainy season here at the moment - but wet weather is short and VERY heavy - get used to coming back sodden wet - good idea to put a bar of soap in the pocket and wash as you go!! 

Here are some photos from our first day. As usual pick up is from Chiang Mai around 8am, bus to the volunteer office, and then bus to the Park (about 1 1/2 hours) - then introduction and show around the Park and the building.

We meet the first elephant
Our first elephant feed
We had time to also collect some food (elephant food that is - pumpkins or bananas) and head out for our first "hands on" and meeting of the elephants

We followed this up with lunch before some more instructions and films. Then we finally were allocated to our rooms and collected our luggage. My room is upstairs over looking one of the elephant shelters so it will be good to come out in the mornings and see the elephants there. We might also hear them if they decide to carry on a bit!!
More feeding
Bath time in the river

Getting wet in the river
After lunch we were taken down to the river and help bath the elephants. This involves throwing water over the elephants whilst they stand there. The best fun is to throw the water high and OVER the top of the elephant - then the people standing on the other side get wet. Generally it is more an adventure getting wet!!

A local Thai elder conducts a welcoming Ceremony for all new Volunteers, which involved some sprinkling of water over the new comers, and also tying a string around one's wrist - left for women and right hand for men.
Introduction night

The Elephant Park - at the end of a rainbow
Dinner was slightly late due to the ceremony, and then afterwards we adjourned to the Conference room for our self introduction program - so that we could get to meet all the volunteers that we are spending time with over the coming week

After this we were able to head for our rooms and bed for our first night!!

I am sharing with Sandros from Belgium and who is on the 2 week vet program.

Elephant Nature Park - Aug 14

At 8am we assemble for allocation of our morning duties
A group heading off to cut sugar cane
Day 2 -
Workers about to board their first class transport to the corn fields
Our VC, Jack, gives out safety instructions  about handling machettes 
 We have daily jobs to complete - these can be in the elephant kitchen preparing the food, or out in the elephant pens sweeping up the poooo, or out cutting sugar cane or corn, planting trees, painting walls, distributing elephant compost or even repairing something that has been leaned on!!

We cut into the corn

We cut corn

And more corn

We cut quite a bit
For corn cutting we are issued with machetes and instructions to cut just above ground level. Then we have to stack in piles, for the local people to come and tie with rope.
We have time for a drink - but not too long!!

Loading bundles
Then we have to carry the bundles back to the truck for loading.

The truck pile gets higher and higher. We were brought out to the field in the back of the truck - quite illegal in our countries, but fast and efficient here. With such a load, how were we to get home again????????

Climb aboard
That was a simple question to answer - we travel on top of the load!! Again quite illegal, and assuredly a bit uncomfortable with corn stalks sticking in various parts of the anatomy!!! But fully air conditioned!!
The view from the top

Very comfortable trip

The descent from the truck
The biggest problem was getting down at the end!!!! Sometimes there were cameras around - at the wrong moment!!!
Now time for a nap