Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Travel Parable: Giants of the Mae Tang Valley

THIS STORY IS A PART OF THE PRODIGAL MAGAZINE “Travel Stories” Prompt for this week. What a great catalyst for stories. Click HERE to read all the great stories already collected on their site.


The babies begin to squeal, maybe from excitement or anxiety but either way it sets in motion a great earthquake of movement. All of the families nearby surround the little ones in a tight circle of protection and then the call goes out, a trumpet in the jungle’s canyon, to call the rest of the family to the circle. There is something so profoundly beautiful about nature unfolding right in front of you and something unbelievable about the filial ties of these giants of the valley, like one large foster family, protecting their collective children.

The ground quakes as the irises of my five riverside companions begin to expand in fear and adrenaline. Shaken out of my awe, my survival mode kicks into high gear and I realize the predicament of my close proximity to “nature unfolding” in front of me.

Mae Pherm, one of the wise matrons of the herd is leading the pack towards the circle of protection, and my body stands squarely between the babies and their surrogate grandmother—her limp from the beatings she suffered while working for cruel masters almost unnoticeable as she leads the stampede. I barely have enough time to step back, nearly flush with the grassy end of the riverbed and almost falling onto the rocks and raging water below.

The trumpeting echoes through my ears, off the hollow center of the valley, as the reverberations of heavy feet match and expand the quake. Out of the way, barely in time, I remember to turn the video function on my camera for the last second of the stampede—as five full-grown elephants rush past me, stopping abruptly at the edge of the circle of protection and surround the two baby pachyderms. My camera catches the final few seconds where sound and motion meet, and trunks bellow up to the heavens.