Travels to My Elephant in India | Blog
Back in March Mr B and I were invited to join my friends team on the Travels to my Elephant race organized and created by Quintessentially Foundation. We were to drive local Indian auto rickshaws 500km across India. Why wouldn’t I say yes?! This was all in aide of supporting and raising money for the Elephant Family charity, an organization dedicated to saving the Asian elephant from extinction.
The race was called 'Travels to my Elephant' to replicate the journey Mark Shand took upon to save Tara the elephant from a life of begging and starvation which he documented in his best selling book.
In 1989 he purchased Tara in South Orissa, she was starved and used for begging, it was love at first site so he brought her and rode her gently for several hundred miles to the largest annual elephant fair in the country. He was looking to sell Tara to a good home however after falling in love with her decided to give Tara to Bob Wright the owner of Kipling Camp to live in the comfort and sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh rather than continue life as a begging elephant.
16 years on at the ripe old age of 68 years old Tara spends her day being pampered. They have tried to introduce, at different times, a male and female elephant to keep her company however after many years of being alone she ran away each time not happy with sharing her space. Each day she is taken for 5 hour walks through the jungle roaming and eating with her 2 minders to keep her company. Then she takes a stroll down to a river half an hour away where she has a bath and finishes her day off with a massage. Looking healthy and happy Tara is one of the lucky ones.
The 48 teams of tuk tuks have managed to raised over £1.975 million which will be donated to creating ‘walk-ways’ for the elephants so that they can roam freely and safely without harming villages, people, crops and lively hoods and stay away from the bullets of poachers. 90% of Asian elephants have now gone and by 2030 they will be extinct if we don’t help to protect these kind hearted animals. We still have £25,000 to raise to meet our target. To donate please click HERE.
After traveling 4505.82 miles from London we where finally ready to start the race. We arrived at the Indian royal families house in Panna to see our 48 tuk tuks lined up so amazingly decorated. No-one would miss us!
The first day of driving was the hardest, traveling over 203km which was to take us between 6-8 hours. On Indian bumpy roads it was challenging for the most experienced and confident of drivers. I left this to my husband while I tried to map read and feed us boiled eggs and bananas to keep us going!! I don’t think I would have ever seen the beautiful sites of rural India that we did if it wasn’t for traveling in a rickshaw.
Mr B and I arrived at the camp for the first night after 5 hours and 20 minutes of continuous driving. We thought there was a few tuk tuks ahead of us but we came in first! A cup of chai tea and a chocolate biscuit was extremely welcomed. We were dusty, tired and had sore bottoms…. Our first night we went to bed at 8.30pm at Tigers Den in Bandavgarh National Park we were knackered!
We woke at 5.30am and wrapped up in a blankets we were full on anticipation that we were could see a tiger on our safari. 2 hours later after driving around and seeing lots of deer and the most enormous spiders we joked they should re-name the safari and call it a spider safari! We decided to head back to the camp for breakfast and to pack our things up as were off again driving another 5 hours to our next destination. To our utter amazement the tracker quickly reversed the jeep and pointed enthusiastically into the jungle were we saw the most stunning female tiger. I couldn’t believe it…. We hit the jack pot! She was snarling and roaring at us as she was protecting her cubs near by. We stayed still and just watched quietly and they finally came out and we saw her 9 month old cubs, the size of a large Labrador… not so cute and cuddly!
Day 2 of the race was done in convoy as there were a couple of accidents the day before so to stay safe the race was now re-named an adventure and we rode in a long line through the rolling hills of Madhya Pradesh. It was far more fun as seeing the local faces when a 48 decorated tuk tuks roared though their village was amazing, everyone cheering and waving at us. A few of us brought sweets and gave them out to the kids as we drove through. The biggest challenge driving the tuk tuks was weaving around the free roaming cows that wondered the streets and motorways!
Driving into our camp was magical. They had set up luxury tents on the river banks of Kosamghat which was a holy river. It was stunning. With a slow running hot shower and a quick change drinks were served and the party began at the pop up ‘Shand Club’ it was so much fun! Pole climbing and Indian dancing were top of everyone’s lists for the night. The vegetarian food served was unbelievable.
Day 3 was a quiet day thank goodness as our heads were pounding from the local rum and whiskey consumed. We drove 21km to a village to pick up our colour dyes as we were to have a Holy Party! We lacquered ourselves up in coconut oil and wore white clothes and the colour battle began…
Day 4 was our last driving day. The brightly coloured noisy convoy set off again for the last time to our final destination to meet the famous Tara. Enjoying lunches at temples along the way and shopping in local markets it was going to be sad to say goodbye to our tuk tuk the lucky lemon.
We stopped 5km before reaching Kipling. There was an air of sadness of finishing this insanely fun adventure but an excitement of knowing we had accomplished such an amazing journey. We arrived and the music, dancing and cheer when we all came over the finish line was intoxicating. We did it! 500km in a tuk tuk….
The next morning was our allotted time to visit Tara. 1 week of endless traveling to spend 10 minutes with Tara… we all groaned that it seemed a little unfair that we couldn’t spend more time with her however we were told she had a very busy schedule! I now understand why Mark Shand fell in love with her at first site. She was so beautiful, her eyes told so many stories and being in her presence for the little time we had was more than enough. Her energy was overwhelming and I think we all walked away feeling the satisfaction of the past week was fulfilled by our brief encounter. The money we had raised, the hours we had driven, the km we had passed it all made sense now. To save these glorious animals from extinction was worth doing it all over again a million times over.
To donate please click the link HERE we only have £25,000 to go to hit our £2 million target.