Dumbo Rides an Elephant

I didn’t really have a lot planned when I went to Nepal…”I wanna’ ride an elephant!” was basically all I had on my mind; aside from that I was very open! What did I end up doing before I got to that? Well national parks, jungle treks, and canoe rides to name just a few! And yeah sure, sure, they were all fun…of course…but I couldn’t shake the fact that no matter what happened, I would have to ride an elephant on this holiday! Hmmm…perhaps the several million times I had watched Dumbo with my previous class may have had something to do with this fixation…


Whatever it was some guy said that we could book to do it the following day! I was so excited, I couldn’t wait! YEAAUHHHH! It was finally going to happen, WOOOO! FINALLY! Perhaps we would get stuck up in a tree, and there would be a magic feather, and we would make friends with some crows, and, and, and…

Well, no – naturally there was torrential rain…all night. So much so that the hotel room became an overpopulated zoo of creatures and critters; at first it was shocking every time you spotted a lizard on the wall, or a moth at the light – but after the millionth sighting it became far too commonplace to mention. Instead you just sit there swishing every now and again, as every tickle of wind or twitch of your skin feels like it may be a carnivorous insect you thought you would only ever see in the movies. The rain trickled through the badly made ceiling, but the mosquito net was providing ample shelter, despite the fact it had huge holes just about everywhere. A hippo could have made it through some of those holes…never mind a tiny mosquito! But you very much get what you are given in those places!

I had a decision to make that soggy next day – do I miss the opportunity because of the awful weather, or do I just go for it? Well despite not having any kind of raincoat, waterproofs or even a plastic poncho to drape over my pathetic shivering body – I decided fuck it, and went for it; after all what fun can be had in a hotel room? Well, lots of fun (obviously), just ask the owner of the Beverly Hilton  but the possibility for fun is reduced to next to none when you are dealing with a duo of diarhorrea stricken travelers…who have no access to toilet paper, never mind AC or television. With all that said, as soon as I stepped out (in a t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops and a baseball cap) I had immediate second thoughts as to whether this was such a good idea…the rain was very heavy, and I was drenched through and through within a matter of seconds…but still, elephant ride? Probably should still do this? Yeah…this is a good idea…a very good idea…

Rain Truman GIF

We piled into a truck; myself, my sister, and a young American couple. This is when my sister announced that as a vegan she would just be watching me from the sidelines…I mean I understood, it wouldn’t make sense that you don’t want to eat something but it is fine to ride it around…so I nodded in the most understanding way I could muster, secretly hating her for leaving me along with these complete strangers, I mean, who are they? What will I say to them?

The rain was still chucking it down when we arrived. In the distance there were large wooden shack-like platforms, that we would soon be using to (not so gracefully), clamber on these huge animals. I went first, giving one last look down to my sister who stood there with my umbrella grinning at my predicament. I pulled myself up, and was met with quite literally an upturned table and a battered cushion to sit on – that was what they attached to an elephant in order to use it as transportation. Where do I even sit? The guy gestured (in the most awkward way possible), that I should put one of the chair legs between my legs…and wrap myself around it…I fought the urge to laugh, and did as he instructed.

It was now turn for the couple to get on with me. They struggled for a long time, slipping, and sliding on the wooden surface – and often unintentionally pushing their bums in my face…I sat there and tried to pretend it wasn’t happening, but whenever our eyes met – I tried to politely nod and smile, but it probably came off as very creepy…there’s no way around it in that situation. 

Not Creepy GIF

Once we got moving we started to chat a little bit, the usual; who? what? where? questions – they were actually pretty cool people; an art teacher and a musical therapist. But once this idle small talk was out of the way, all of a sudden the guy sprang into the strangest bit of dialogue I may ever hear…

“Hey, you heard about claw? The Claw? No? Well yeah…I watched a documentary recently…and there’s this tiger called The Claw. It’s like a killer tiger…runs wild.”

“Oh…really? Where is he a-“

“Here. Yeah, Nepal. And The Claw is female by the way. She’s pretty bad-ass.”

“Mhmm…well, that’s…comforting. Thanks so much for telling me that. Good info.”

His girlfriend chuckled, and looked off into the distance – I wonder if he had kept her up all night talking about The Claw, maybe she watched it with him – I wish I had, then I might be prepared should he jump up and –

“So yaaaah…Claw like…killed fifty people, or was it eighty? Maybe one hundred and twenty…yeah one-twenty in total, fifty people last year-“


“It gets pissed off at elephants carrying people, and jumps up – swiping at people. This dude had a hand off.”

Scared Man GIF

I nodded, but stopped talking for a while, worryingly there hadn’t even been a flicker of humour behind his words…it was spoken to me as if it was a public service announcement that every elephant rider should be aware of – the rain continued to lash down, soaking my now laboriously heavy t-shirt within an inch of its life. I pictured all the way this fabled Claw character could kill me…or how the weird upturned table construction could just slip off its ropes, and I could break my neck quite easily…or maybe we would fall the other way? Then I am pretty sure that the guys beard would break my fall…but then I would be stuck in the middle of the jungle…The Claw would definitely get me then…


It took me a few seconds to work out where the sound had came from…it was a hollow, loud banging, that echoed around the jungle with a solid dull tone. THWAAAACK! This time I didn’t miss it, I had just saw the “driver” lash the poor elephant full force on the skull with his heavy steel implement. We looked at each other in total disbelief. I stared at the steel rod…it as curved on one side so it could be used for beating, and spiked on the other so it could be used for prodding – both seemed like cruel punishments. The elephants head was battered, pinkish brown where the same torture weapon had been used over and over, year after year, for this very purpose. THWAAAACK! I was filled with an uncontrollable rage – I rarely feel anything like it, but I stared at the back of the driver’s head…trying to stop a crazed urge to pull the implement from his sweaty hands, and beat him around the skull with it – see how he likes it, maybe I would throw four adult humans on his back, and hit him every time he decided he was exhausted. THWAAAACK! ARGHHHHHHHHHH! STOP!

Anger Control GIF

“I hope The Claw jumps up, and eats that guy.”  I muttered. The couple laughed, but I was pretty serious. I had previously had no idea of this side of things, so it was deeply troubling for me – honestly I just wanted the whole thing to be over…but it was now dragging. This was exacerbated by the fact the torrential rain made the terrain very difficult for the elephant to navigate – much to the driver’s disapproval. Yes, we still had a long way to go yet. 

After a short while we spotted a strange fish in the water, it swished and wriggled near the surface, in a snake like motion. “Croco” – mumbled the driver, I hadn’t noticed at first, but he was right – I could see small limbs just under the murky river…it was huge, but paid us no attention. I was amazed to see it in its natural habitat, as opposed to sitting bored out of its mind in a dusty zoo someplace – but when paralleled to the elephant’s situation, it made me even more upset. I was holding out a slight hope that the crocodile was on its way to meet with The Claw, and that they were going to form a superhero team to take out elephant riders for good! It didn’t ever happen, well not yet anyway – these things take planning, and planning takes time. I get it! 

Afterwards I thought about the whole thing, and the issue at large – I know now I will never ride an elephant again, or pet drugged up tigers in Thailand…I don’t knock anyone who does, because I was one of those people up until a short while ago! I just ask that you make yourself aware of the sad and cruel reality at play here. It’s depressing I know, but it’s an important issue we shouldn’t overlook. People are on the poverty line in these countries, and use these things to make money…but it isn’t their fault, it is the tourists fault for giving demand to such things. The cruelty I saw, has me breathless right now  even thinking about it…let’s try and make it a thing of the past. No creature deserves treatment like that. 

51 Replies to “Dumbo Rides an Elephant”

  1. Well I guess this is why every now and then an elephant goes “nuts” and squashes one of the guys… and of course nobody understands because they get treated “oh so well”… I wonder if there are nice guys as well… I sure hope so…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I probably would have cried. Elephants are pretty much my favorite animals. I feel sad when I visit the zoo because, even though the animals seem well cared for most of the time, it’s still rather sad.

    I’m not a tree hugged by any means, but some things are hard to stomach.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Neither am I! Certainly not! But seeing that just motivated me, just made certain things clear. You are right about zoos, some are great and some are not – often they are well cared for, and seem to be better off than if they were in the wild …but really that isn’t where they should be.


  3. I was at the fair they have every year where I live, there were these bears wearing tutus on unicycles and they were muzzled….I’ve never been able to go to the fair or circus since then. Paired with watching a documentary once about animals in the circus, and it spoiled those things for me for the rest of my life!!
    I definitely agree with you about bringing issues like these to light, too many animals are treated like garbage rather than living things and it has to stop!
    (Can you tell by my outburst that I love animals way too much? haha!)


    1. Oh God…urgh, I hate that. I don’t know what you saw on the documentary, but I had a rather horrifying experience at a Chinese circus…maybe I will write a story about it one day…hmm, well anyway, it featured monkeys riding bicycles which I laughed at, they seemed to enjoy it! (Seemed to) But then the tigers came out and were whipped till they performed, bears came out to dance, and God knows what else. It was a very quiet ride home for myself and everyone in my group. Disturbing.


  4. I didn’t know, thank you. Not that I’ve ever done anything like elephant-riding or tiger-petting, and like the other poster, I also refuse to go to the circus. My feelings on zoos are mixed. It’s a tough issue when these sorts of things support poverty-sticken areas, but there must be a better way.


    1. That’s the thing I had to consider, especially when writing it down – I don’t want to be all “LET”S MAKE THOSE HORRIBLE PEOPLE STOP!” because I understand that it brings in money, that quite literally they need to survive…to feed their family, and weather harsh environments. But yes, maybe there is a better way…or perhaps at the very least, standards can be improved.

      Circuses…urgh, dislike. I am not totally against zoos, but same with them – you get some good ones, and some very bad ones!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. up until I read this I was always wondering what it would be like to do somehting like this. Now, I don’t even want to fathom the thought of even doing it ever. Thanks for your insight. and Thanks for the like on my post. I am a fan of our blog now nad look foward to reading frequently.


  6. What a sad tale! I have always loved elephants so… I would look at them in the zoo, and see the wisdom and loneliness in their eyes. Gentle giants. They say that elephants inherit wisdom, it does not surprise me. Once, there was an elephant named Myrtle in our area, giving rides. Two friends and I went. There was nothing but a bare back to sit upon, and it was wonderful. I saw nothing that would make me think Myrtle was anything but loved. My best friend, one of the girls that rode the elephant with me, has passed away. But writing this now, having not thought of it for so many years, I can almost feel her here with me, remembering Myrtle the elephant. I am sorry that your ride, was not like the one we had. 🙂


    1. Well I am pleased to hear that it isn’t EVERYONE – that would be doubly upsetting, I suppose it all depends on the owner, but it seems cruelty is all to common in certain Asian countries 😦 a sad fact. Your story however, was very uplifting, it must be lovely to have that happy fond memory of your friend. 🙂 thank you for sharing it – that’s what I like to do too, think of the good times rather than the loss itself – I am writing a story at the moment with a similar outlook, maybe you will be able to relate to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. When I was in Mexico, I saw drugged up tiger cubs for petting on the main shopping avenue. I was horrified. And I was very concerned that once these tigers were big and not cute any more they would be either breeding more cute cubs to drug and pet or they would be killed. They even had the handlers dressed in uniforms to look like they belonged to a government controlled park or sanctuary. It lulls the unsuspecting tourist into thinking that these folks are trained handlers that have the animals best interest at heart. The tourist thinks the cats are easy to handle because they know and trust their handlers when in fact they are tripping. I didn’t have enough Spanish to give them a piece of my mind but I was rather loud in speaking to my husband (and the crowd around us) about what I figured was going on.


    1. Ahh that is awful. I have heard the same thing about the big cats, very sad – especially when you think where they SHOULD be…roaming the plains, or wherever else. But until the crowds of tourists cease to exist it will continue. 😦


  8. I had a similar experience in Thailand, though we went to some “sanctuary” that has you ride the elephants bareback, as it’s meant to be less painful for the elephant. I didn’t notice anyone beating the elephants whilst I was there, but they do carry the hooks, and my elephant had some scars on its head, so yeah, obviously it happens. In addition to feeling horribly guilty afterwards, it was also probably one of the most terrifying experiences of my life, as I’m scared of heights and was convinced I was going to die the entire time, so I’m not even sure why I did it (I think like you and Dumbo, I was inspired by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, even though it’s the worst of the trilogy (I don’t acknowledge the existence of that other film)). Now I just feel like a jerk.


    1. haha, you’re not a jerk Jessica! A jerk wouldn’t feel guilt on behalf of someone else’s suffering! So don’t worry about that. I do know that THAT Indiana Jones film…you know the one…is also a form of suffering to watch, but probably an unbalanced comparison…I digress.

      Sorry you saw that stuff too, I do think without the upturned table it would be a lot better for the elephants – that looked heavy and VERY uncomfortable. Especially with four or five people on it.


  9. That is just bizarre. The platform you sat on clearly didn’t work very well, so why use it? It hurts the animal and it doesn’t even work. That’s just irritating.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This was a really interesting read, and it’s particularly fabulous because you’re able to admit that you were once unaware of the cruelty to animals that occurs in these ‘adventure/fun/lets-all-go-do-that’ activities that people pay hundreds of dollars for.
    I came across a photo of me patting a drugged up tiger in Bali a few weeks ago, and all I could do is shake my head at myself. I had this huge smile on my face in the photo… Was I stupid? That tiger was literally unconscious.
    Another very enjoyable read!
    Thanks John 🙂


    1. Well exactly Amelia, exactly. I don’t think you were stupid, not at all – I suppose like myself you don’t realise what is going on at the time, it is easy to get caught up in the idea of it all…if only you take a step back you kinda see it for what truly is.

      Anyway, I didn’t have myself down as an ardent animal cruelty protester haha, but some things just make you think I suppose!

      Thanks for reading, appreciated as always 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I share your observations and feel for the animals. Same reason why I refuse to ride elephants or pet tigers. Thankfully in Singapore, our zoo animals are having a better life than most 🙂


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