Highs and lows
Trip Start Sep 01, 2006
16Trip End Oct 28, 2006
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Sunday morning I was eating breakfast when I was told that the Mobile Vet unit had been requested to attend a male elephant that was limping badly, I was offered a space in the van and jumped at the chance. Once in the van it turned out that we were headed to Habrana, which is around 4 hours North from here. As I am completely used to the unique driving, complete lack of suspension and extended periods in the van the journey seemed to pass fairly quickly and once we arrived at Habrana we were taken to a large male elephant who was now unable to put his rear left leg on the ground. The vets carried out an examination and after ruling out some more serious conditions decided that it was most likely a snakebite that had caused the problem; with some medication and rest they said he would be fine and we left him and his very happy Mahout to go and get our lunch. Lunch was at a road side café and I doubt if any tourists have ever eaten in there, there was a look of panic on the café owners face when the other volunteer and I walked in whilst he enquired if we needed a fork or spoon (I doubt he had either) and a look of utter relief when we said we were fine to eat with our hands. Despite its shabby appearance (I am being very polite here!) the food was excellent and rather a bargain at around 35p a head for all you can eat (as long as all you want to eat is rice and curry) on the way back to Kandy we passed along the road where a van laden with explosives had driven into a navel convey earlier in the week. The wreckage had been cleared and there was nothing to indicate the incident except a Buddhist area that had been set up on the roadside where many people appeared to be lighting candles and chanting. Another 3 hours in the van and a short stop (well maybe not that short) at a lovely pub in Kandy before we did the final hours drive back to MEF for a well earned (and needed) shower
As I am coming close to the end of my stay here we decided yesterday to have lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Pinnewala orphanage, I was not feeling that hungry and decided to order the egg and lettuce sandwich (lettuce not being a very common item here) I was amazed (okay totally gob smacked) to find my egg was fried and not hard boiled as I had imagined but I have to say fried egg and lettuce sandwiches are not as bad as they sound. After lunch we did some shopping until the monsoon rain came and headed back to MEF full and happy (and a little wet). As soon as we arrived we knew something was wrong , as we got out of the tuk tuk someone rain forward to tell us that Gune had fallen just as he was entering the undercover area where he has being staying since his last illness, he was unable to get up and the Vets were on there way. The access the shed is normally along a grass strip but due to the heavy rain it had become flooded and we had to make our way via the road and down a slip road. Once we arrived we saw that Gune was lying on his side with only half of his body under the cover of the roof. Some of the mahouts and MEF staff had managed to rig a tarpaulin over him to keep him as dry as possible but he looked in a pretty bad way. As the rain was still falling and night was closing in we needed to light a fire, after searching for any dry material we managed to light a small fire nearby and fan it with a broom until it took hold. As we were finishing the fire the first of the Vets arrived and started Gune on a series of IV drips with Glucose and Vitamin B in an attempt to assist him to stand. We then spent the next 5 hours taking turns sitting with Gune and talking to him whilst we waited for the senior Vet to arrive (he was on a call to another fallen elephant) A few times it looked as f he might try to stand but he was to weak to do more than move his legs and when the Senior Vet arrived he confirmed everyone's worse fears that Gune would not be able to stand again. Our shift finished we went to bed very wet, tried and depressed hoping that over night would bring some better news. This morning I went down to the river at 6.30 to find a large amount of people sitting around near the main buildings ( many who had been up all night ) and sadly they informed me that Gunes condition had not improved over night. Today the vets have attempted to make him as comfortable as possible and around midday some Monks came from the local temple to bless him and perform a short service. This afternoon I went down with the Vets and assisted with another round of IVs by then the rain had increased to a level I had never seen. The tarpaulin had to be lowered and re hang as Gune had moved slightly over the previous 12 hours and I don't think I have ever been as cold, miserable and totally helpless as I was then standing in ankle deep cold water holding an IV up and looking into the eyes of such a gentle giant. It's around 10 pm here now and I am about to go down to the shed again as the senior vet is coming back
Tomorrow is my last full day here as I leave here early Friday morning, I would like to express how much this experience has meant to me but at the moment I don't have the right words so I think I will leave that to next time