On Sunday, September 20, Chang(e) Caravan joined the citizens of Chanchoengsao, in their local festivities that combined the Global Car-Free Day with the provincial river- protection day.

Strangely enough, this was our first day in a town, after walking for days skirting around the Khao Yai National Park, and none of us, including our great friends and fellow-travelers, the elephants were particularly happy about it.

But the enthusiastic welcome by hundreds of bikers from local bike club, students from the local schools and colleges, farmers and traders who are members of agri-nature foundation and soldiers of local military unit, made the short walk through town worthwhile.

To add to the increasing diversity of the Chang(e) caravan, a local horse-riding club joined with their ponies while para-gliders from the local flying club did salutary passes over our elephants who had donned brand new cotton banners that proclaimed “Our forests, our health cover” and “Don’t be Stupid, Chang(e) now”.

Thong Dang, the handsome tusker, whose majestic appearance and gentle ways, has earned him a massive fan following through out our journey, led the Chang(e) caravan, now a massive mob of 2000 people. Thong dang was of course absolutely unflustered and led mob with great aplomb.

Throughout this journey I have struggled to find words to describe Thong Dang, but I cannot do better than celebrated author Peter Matthiessen’s  marvelous description of an elephant -  ‘There is a mystery behind that masked grey visage, an ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires and the sea.’

Shailendra Yashwant