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Toby Romano

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all
Conceal.” – Lord Byron

I’m inclined to believe that the words of Lord Byron resonate with all would be travelers, especially those hailing from the developed west. Distinctly marked by an apparent alienation from nature, disenchanted with superficial entertainment and fleeting cheap thrills. One feels an unmistakable and enduring breeze blowing one towards a more rudimentary form of existence, where simplicity reigns, in an attempt to bind severed ties and re-establish connection to a universe that has drifted and become hidden behind infinite smart screens. However, one can’t help but question whether Byron would be such a staunch advocate of the pathless path if he saw just how pathless the forest of Huay Pakoot can be.

Upon entering the forest for the first time, one is confronted with a strange cocktail of contradictory emotions, which fluctuate effortlessly between wonderment, excitement, apprehension and the seemingly invincible voice of doubt which persistently asks the question, what on earth are you doing here? The trek to our quarry takes over an hour, in which time we, in novice like fashion, negotiate river beds, treacherous banking’s, unforgiving inclines, and the merciless humidity. All the
while immersed in an alien, eerie, yet completely enchanting beauty. The charming chimes of the elephant bells signal the start of the dream like scene. Emerging nonchalantly and completely unaware of the awe inspiring effect they have on their weary yet captive audience, they materialise from behind the sea of bamboo. They appear as ancient as our legs are beginning to feel, yet surprisingly, with magisterial grace. It’s impossibly difficult to describe with complete accuracy what the experience of meeting an elephant in the wild is like. One can potentially be accused of laziness or of copping-out by simply saying that it must be an experience that can only be understood subjectively, yet any attempts made by any descriptive power would undoubtedly do it an injustice. What can be said with confidence however, is that the arduous and gruelling foreplay of reaching this magnificent climax is instantaneously and absolutely vindicated.

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