Steering the great beast through the Chiang Mai jungle, I had a vision of sacking Rome and laying waste to my enemies.
Steer the elephant by kicking his ears -- not hard, but firmly -- and balance yourself by planting your palms on the great humps of his skull. First lesson:
The elephants come with no carriage. You must drive them with nothing but their necks beneath you, and their necks feel as coarse and powerful as truck tires. (The Chiang Mai elephant park we visited to gain our steeds very unfortunately boasts that you can "ride the elephants bareback.") With my wife behind me, we led a khalasar of pachyderms through a canopied greenland.
Notice the voracious appetite of our steed. How did Hannibal possibly feed these things?
Food is not the only incentives to which elephants prove responsive. On a hot day -- and hot days in August in northern Thailand feel like a blast furnace -- they'd eagerly travel through the jungle for the promise of a bath.
Noble, faithful creatures are these elephants. Canny as well. During a break in our trek, we noticed our steed reaching for a fallen stick to scratch himself. That's right: he used tools.
I know there's an epic Man Is The Bastard song about an elephant who escaped from a Hawaii zoo, but for the life of me I can't remember what it's called and Wikipedia isn't helping. Either way, it's surely for the best that I didn't hum it to our elephant as we maneuvered through the jungle.