Originally Published on December 5th, 2014.
From deep in the heart of South Africa, October 2014: By 9 am this morning I find myself rocking and rolling on top of a huge elephant named “Emily”. Emily, over 1,000 pounds of her, is in motion along with 7 others. Snuggled up beside her is “Alana” a 1 year old baby who nurses every time we stop or when Emily wants to eat, which is often. Following is her two year old baby with a trainer sitting on her back.
Rudy and I are perched (literally) in a saddle high up on her back. Her skin is like the toughest leather you can imagine, caked with mud from her river bath and silver gray in color. In front of us is Emily’s driver trying to keep her under control.
Elephants I soon find have a mind of their own and go when they want to go, eat when they want to eat and take off in a strange kind of gallop through the bush when frightened. My big issue with Emily is when she walks she has a rolling action that is exactly like being in a high sea. Well, you probably guessed it….after about 30 minutes of this I had sea sickness but in this case it was motion sickness. I struggled to not throw up down the back of our driver's shirt who sat on Emily’s neck in front of me. We still had a ways to go and I knew I wasn’t going to make it.
Finally I said, “I’ve got to get off of Emily, I’m sick.” Our driver looked at me thinking I was nuts. Here we are out in the bush, 10 feet up in the air with no platform to dismount. Did I care, I was going to bale! He yelled to bring water. I didn’t need water I needed to get off of this 1,000 pound hunk of animal. Rudy was oblivious to my sinking condition, no surprise!
Emily decided to eat a passing tree, not a limb but an entire tree, five foot high. She gets her trunk around it and pulls while giving it a big kick. Out it comes and she immediately starts stripping the bark off while the tree hangs out of both sides of her mouth. If she was so darn smart when it came to food why couldn’t she kneel down and let me off her back.
Fortunately, a disembarking platform appears in the bush and the driver made straight for it. Two natives come running, climb up the platform and pull me off just in time. The driver was saved, I was relieved and Rudy was still trying to figure out what the big deal was.