Climbing up to mount the enormous elephant that will take me to the top of Amer Palace, I’m immediately dwarfed by his size, yet impressed by his gentle demeanor. Perhaps it’s the colorful painted designs on his head and trunk that make him approachable, or the thousands of times he has given this ride that makes him mellow. Safely seated in the basket attached to his back, with my Russian-speaking fellow rider beside me, we begin the ascent.
With each large step the elephant takes, we are shifted across his back until I’m sure we will fall. But he always brings us back to balance as his weight transfers back to his opposite foot. The slow rocking motion quickly becomes soothing, dictating the pace of our movement as well as that of my mind. My normally-racing mind is slowed to the lumbering pace of our elephant, and with that slowing, I take in more of my surroundings. The Amer Fort we’re ascending is a vast palace, stretching across the mountainside for hundreds of years. As we zig zag up the ramps to the palace courtyard, we see groups of Indians sitting scattered beside the elephant path. They’re here for the show, a bunch of white foreigners riding on elephants…what a sight!
The further up the Fort we go, the more stunning the views over the mountains and valleys become. I can’t communicate verbally with my new Russian friend, but we are both pointing and smiling, and I know we are sharing a beautiful experience that doesn’t need words put to it. We have the good fortune of a sunny, clear day so I can see far and wide the stretches of Rajasthan.
As we near the top and our elephant ride draws to a close, I send good energy and appreciation to our gracious driver, our elephant. He is taken back to the entrance to escort more visitors, and I now get to explore Amer Fort, my destination. My guide teaches me the complicated history of this beautiful palace, taking me in and out of the walkways, rooms, and courtyards that are decorated with great purpose and intention. It is an enjoyable day at a breathtaking palace, and I’m glad we visit on our way to the Pink City, Jaipur, India.