Mike visited:

» Thailand
» Myanmar (Burma)
» Laos
» Cambodia
» Vietnam
» India
» Nepal
» Egypt
» Jordan
» Uganda
» Tanzania
» Malawi
» Mozambique
» Swaziland
» South Africa

View a map of his route.

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Things that go CRACK! in the Night

Journal entry, Wednesday, July 16, 8:09pm
I've got kind of an intense situation going on right now. I'm up in my treehouse in Kibale National Park, it's perfectly dark outside, and I'm hearing things – big, mammoth things – moving around outside. Something is crashing through the bushes and trees just 30ft away from my perch.

the treehouse
I started hearing the noises as I was walking back from dinner, a ten minute hike through utterly dark forest with just an old paraffin lantern to guide the way. As I neared the treehouse I heard some giant animal smashing through the trees, heavy footfalls thudding on the damp ground. (In fairness, those heavy footfalls may have been mine – I was sprinting to the treehouse. The lantern swung wildly at my side, casting freaky, choppy light through the bush. What a relief when the giant ladder came into view!)

The crashing in the bush is coming closer, trees bending, snapping. Now a pause. I get the feeling that there's a great beast who's thinking out there, just a few feet away.

A loud snort! Maybe it's a water buffalo? That's more likely than…

More crashing!

I just held the lantern out the main window to get a look. Succeeded in blinding myself. Silence. Then the crashing continued, more agitated than before. I get the feeling that, whatever it is, it's getting annoyed.

I took a closer look at the treehouse supports. This place is up on a bunch of stilts and it's also anchored to a fat center tree. Solid. An elephant couldn't… No. Why would they want to? And if a berserk elephant decided to push this house down, what are the odds of her doing so tonight?

Heaven help me – an elephant right out front just blasted her trumpet! Tremendous noise! Sent me leaping off the floor.

morning window view
Sweet baby monkeys! There's a new source of crashing now in the distance!

Ahh! Crashing to the north too!

It's a nighttime gathering of the elephants, and I'm right in the crossfire.

I've turned the lantern down as low as it'll go – no use in attracting attention up here.

You've got to be kidding me – a shot just rang out.


Wait – that was a tree being cracked over!

The elephants are breaking trees! Damn big ones too! And here I am sitting in a…

perfectly harmless, right?
No, no, no. Don't think about it. Just put out the lantern, stay quiet. Think about all the good elephant stories. Dumbo – he was a good one, right? And those elephants I rode in Asia – they wouldn't want to push over a treehouse and stomp on the person inside, would they? And that book I read about the English guy who rode an elephant across India – they practically fell in love.

Yes! That's the spirit. Elephants are perfectly harmless.


What do you think?

  • Has a six-ton elephant ever gone berserk and pushed your treehouse down?
  • What was your most dangerous encounter with a wild animal?

Posted on July 18, 2003 01:38 AM


Comments (post your own below)

you sound like you were scared! I can't say that I'd be a pillar of marble in a situation like that myself so I'll leave it with: Glad you are okay - more glad it didn't happen to me.

Posted by: Aeon on July 18, 2003 03:01 AM

Ahhh... that sounds a bit more like the Pughey I know. Reminds me of the now legendary "Ostrich" incident. I'd love to see some more pictures of your tree house. Wasn't that every kids dream... roosting in a kickass tree house...

Posted by: Chad on July 18, 2003 09:49 AM

We're great fans of your site. This story reminds us of the story we were told on a trip to the Taman Negara rainforest in Malaysia...
As we hiked past a national park fishing building a ways into the forest, our guide mentioned it was the third or fourth one built on that spot because each time a new one was built an elephant would come tramping out of the woods and knock it over. But I'm sure your elephants wouldn't do that . . .

Posted by: Matt & Kristy on July 18, 2003 10:35 AM

No elephants, but I did once have a brama bull (breed that American expats farm in Costa Rica) sneak up behind me and lick the perspiration off of my shoulder. Guess I looked like a salt lick.

I have a long held phobia of getting bit by a rattlesnake thanks to almost running over one on an elementary school bike trip. Not to mention having a hospital roommate being treated for an especially nasty bite from one. They actually used the process of drawing out the venom from her bloodstream by putting needles in the soles of her feet {shudder}.

Posted by: Mary Taylor on July 21, 2003 03:20 PM

Hi Mike!!!
I've been enjoying your website and raving about it to my friends. I'm happy to know that you have not been trampled by elephants. So, I think I read somewhere that on average you're spending $30 a day. I'm curious...are you going to have money left over and be able to extend your travels or are you coming home after a years journey? Anyway, be safe!

Posted by: Kelli on July 21, 2003 06:54 PM

I'm with Chad, more photos of that tree house. Would especially like closeups of the monkey butlers I have heard about.

Posted by: craigers on July 22, 2003 03:10 AM

What's That Brittle Cracking Sound?

Posted by: Timothy McSweeney on July 22, 2003 11:26 AM

Hi Kelli

Great to know that you're following along.

I might extend the trip by a few weeks. But I'm not heading to South America or anything.

Africa is putting a dent in the budget too. Safaris, whitewater rafting, and transportation can be very pricey. I've spent $50 a day while in Uganda.

I'm keen on getting home before too long as well. I've got a new niece who I need to meet. And family and friends to catch up with. I'm in terrible need of a burrito too.

Posted by: mike on July 25, 2003 08:16 AM

Funny post! So how much bigger are the African elephants than the Asian ones?

Burritos are the #1 thing I miss from home. I saw a Mexican restaraunt I'm looking forward to trying. I have low hopes, though, since I haven't seen any Mexicans here in Bangkok.

Posted by: Terry on July 31, 2003 08:30 AM

Maybe they wanted retribution for all those elephant foot ashtrays..

Posted by: Drexel Ferguson on August 26, 2003 06:10 PM

your story was great. were you really scared?

Posted by: on January 8, 2004 12:14 PM

Comments closed.


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