Trip Start Sep 01, 2006
16Trip End Oct 28, 2006
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Yesterday Rani was back from here Perahera and looked as pleased to see me as I was to see her, my first job of the morning is to carry a bucket of water down to her sleeping area then I don my green marigolds and start to clean her bed area. Chandana moves all the old palm leaves and I make a start on shifting her poo. Elephant poo is not as heavy as you would think but they make up it by producing vast quantities! My job is to pick it up and lob it about 30 feet away towards the river, I am getting muscles in places I did not think you could and am getting a pretty good aim now. Once I have throw the poo I use the water to wash down the area and brush it, when I went back to get my bucket I found it was dry as a bone and there was a guilty looking elephant standing next to it
Every morning after vet check we do an hour with Mr Kuru in his organic garden, Mr Kuru is a rather famous gardener in these parts basically he is the Sri Lankan version of Percy Thrower and we feel like Blue Peter presenters in the Blue Peter garden (but without George the tortoise)
Gardening Sri Lankan style is pretty hard work, Mr Kuru is very fond of telling us that Sri Lanka is a poor county and there are no power tools, instead there is a selection of very heavy wooden handles tools, his favourite being the "manatee" which looks like a spade that's had a head on collision with a wall and lost, the head of the manatee is at a right angle to the handle and you can (with practice) dig with it, by swinging it up into the air and whacking the ground with some force. There is also a "fork manatee" which is the same design by has prongs instead of the sold head. Not only are they both very heavy (and Mr Kurus garden in a very hot spot with bugger all shade) but the wooden handles are it seems designed to give the holder blisters in under 5 minutes flat, we don't even bother mentioning the blisters unless some one gets a really impressive one or one on top of the other.
In this environment of heat and heavy tools we dress in our lightest clothes, hats and carry numerous bottles of water. Mr Kuru on the other hand wears a shirt (that appears to repel dirt) full-length heavy trousers and I kid you not knee length welly boots. He gives us various tasks to do each day and whilst we are huffing and puffing waving manatees around like demented ninjas the man never breaks a sweat
His garden is very impressive and he is growing a selection of vegetables, being an organic gardener he has of course a compost heap (actually he has two) and they make my compost heap at home look rather feeble
They are the size of a small car each and at least 50 % of each heap of is made of Mr Kurus secret ingredient elephant poo, at least twice a week we have to go and collect large wheel barrows of (or loaves as its known in the trade) and pile it on the compost heaps (not a job anyone actively volunteers for. Other jobs include making elephant poo soup (poo and water) hitting hard ground with the manatee or fork manatee, or collecting the decomposed compost and after normally getting covered in it first, digging it into the ground using the dreaded manatee
Mr Kuru thinks that washing, feeding and vet checking elephants is time we could be spending in his garden and his liking for elephants appears to begin and end with the waste products they supply for his garden
Yesterday Raja the male tusker who is not as tame as the others and thus washed further down the river away from the other elephants and tourists had to cross the garden to get down to the river. The first I knew was when Mr Kuru started shouting the warning "rouge elephant, rouge elephant" to the volunteers nearest Raja and his Mahout and then he stood there manatee in hand watching that Raja did not trample his carrots
Today I was given the relatively easy job of collecting piles of dead plants and then carrying them back to the compost heaps, on my 5th trip just as I was dropping the plants I felt a sharp sting on my finger and yelled as loud as an international yeller at the yelling world championships (visions of Mr Kurus numerous warnings about snakes sleeping in piles of plants in my head) once checked out by Mr Kuru he concluded that actually I had been bitten by an ant and I was sent off to wash my hands feeling a tad embarrassed
Although physically its very hard work I do enjoy the gardening, Mr Kuru is a very interesting chap with quite a wicked sense of humor and lots of interesting stories from his various high profile jobs including tending embassy gardens
If only he would entertain our idea that elephant driven ploughs could replace the manatee
Hope you are all well