Big Red excerpt: Alone in the jungle!


The Jungle ride

As we head back to the resort, my guide asks if I want to ride Mumbai back to home base. I assume he means for me sit behind him on the elephant’s neck. Although this isn’t on my bucket list of things to do before I die, being in the moment, I respond with a yes.

I realize my guide is making no attempt to join me. I assume he’s going to use a rope to lead Mumbai back. Instead, he hands me the elephant goad he used. Unnerved, I have no idea how to direct an elephant, with or without an elephant goad. Clinging to Mumbai’s neck, I lean down to hand the guide my camera so he can take my picture.

The picture taken, I wait for him to lead the way. Instead he jogs a few feet ahead, snaps one more picture, then takes off running, with my camera. Are you kidding me? What kind of guide abandons a tourist in the middle of a jungle, let alone one sitting atop a 12,000-pound elephant? How the hell am I supposed to find my way out? Fear washes over me. My mind is busy cataloging the possible dangers. What if the elephant gets spooked by one of those as yet unseen Bengal tigers or a sloth bear or a jackal? What if I fall off and get trampled? Surely the guy is coming back?

After a while, my so-called guide still nowhere to be seen, I realize I am alone. Totally alone. On top of a huge beast. In the middle of nowhere. Petrified and fuming, I have no option other than to cling to the elephant’s neck.

Something tells me sitting upright and maintaining balance is key. Instead I’m half on, half off her neck, grasping her long strands of hair as we go down a steep hill. The basket tilts at such an angle that I feel as if I’m about to be shot out of a cannon. Holding on with a life-or-death grip, my legs flail against her sides.

As we move forward, I pray that Mumbai has the way committed to memory. Elephants never forget, right?

The Callien Sword

Mr and Mrs Makantas were sitting quietly on multicoloured winged back armchairs by the roaring fire, Mr Makantas smoking a rather large U-shaped pipe and drinking Berry Beer, and M[...]