Ratanakiri is red and dusty. So red and dusty, in fact, that Dustin and I returned from our morning of moto biking and I thought I saw in the mirror a distinct tan line from my helmet. After a shower, it turns out that was just dust from the open road. (Now I understand the burnt sienna-stained bathroom floor.
Today, our road challenges were not slick, clay-like roads, though we did have a couple lucky breaks in our adventures.
Lucky Break #1: Dustin avoids a near-death encounter with a cobra. Ok. I'm exaggerating a bit. We were on our way to see some ethnic minority villages when we saw a sign for a waterfall and decided to stop. It was a great find, with no tourists around. Anyway, we're getting ready to leave when Dustin nearly runs over the snake with the moto. I don't know what kind of snake it was (I didn't even see it) and by the way Dustin recounts the event, the snake was more scared of him, "hopping" back into the bushes upon seeing Dustin almost run it over, than Dustin was of it. But just to be safe, I wacked it on the head with a large stick so that rascal wouldn't be bothering us any more. (Ok, I exaggerate again, but doesn't it make the story more interesting?)
Lucky Break #2: Our "kind of drunk" elephant driver gets us to our destination in one piece. In the afternoon we took an elephant ride. When we arrived to meet the elephant, Chico - our amazing unofficial Ratanakiri tour coordinator - was talking to a man who he said "is a little drunk." Next think I know, we're boarding the elephant and this eccentric little man hops on the elephants head, from where he does the steering. Our ride from that point only got more interesting.
We started off on the road and he decided to do a little offroading to snack on some berries off one of the trees. I'm not sure what they were - he didn't offer us any. During the jungle portion of our trip (if that's what you want to call it... the road was in eyesight) he'd stop and let the elephant eat, which is understandable, but then he'd stop to smoke his pipe or to get water from under our seat. Now, our seat is just big enough for Dustin and me, has no back, and balances on the hump of a gigantic elephant. The water retrieving was not an easy task. At one point, he was sitting on my foot while I desperately hung on, trying not to fall into the brush below. Did I mention I'm afraid of heights?
We did manage to make it through the day alive, thank goodness. Today, we're taking it easy. It's been raining all morning, which has given us a chance to relax and heal our sunburns. Tomorrow it's back to Phnom Penh and onwards to the beach!