POLO PLAYERS DESCEND ON MEGHAULY AIRPORT
Elephant polo players from around the world descended upon the Meghauly airport today for an afternoon of serious practice in preparation for the commencement of the 16th annual world Elephant Polo Championships.
The players, upon arriving at the Meghauly airstrip, immediately began engaging in a variety of practice techniques. The practice routine begins with a trip to the bar, where Bloody Marys, Tuborgs, Carlsburgs and (of course) buckets of Chivas Regal provide the players with the elbow, wrist and liver fortification critical for success at the tournament. Once this process is well under way, sticks are inspected, elephants are observed, mahouts are discreetly interviewed, opposing players are given false information about the players talents and team strategies. The players also try to find time to mount the elephants and practice swinging the sticks a time or two. This afternoon of practice is obviously vital to the teams chances of success at the WEPA tournament.
Although the British Gurkha Gladiators, ever rugged and adventurous, brave the Nepalese road system and make the 5 hour drive from Kathmandu in land rovers, most of the players arrive in Meghauly by airplane.
The journey to Megauly begins at the Tribhuvan International Airport located on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Polo players are expertly guided through the check-in process by the courteous and professional Tiger Mountain tour guides. Cigarette lighters and matches are stuffed in various bodily hiding places prior to passing through domestic customs to the boarding area. Men and women are channeled into separate lines and enter a tiny curtained room where their belongings are surveyed by the serious customs agents. Despite rumors of confiscated matches and expectations of bribes, the players pass through customs without a hitch. Entering the domestic boarding area, matches and lighters are pulled out of their secret bodily hiding places and put to immediate use. The point of this entire exercise, if there is one, is difficult to grasp.
The polo players are then organized into two groups and taken by bus to the Lumbini Airways twin otters. Tiger Mountain has recently contracted with Lumbini to provide exclusive service for its guests down to Meghauly. In addition to the classy seat covers in the plane, polo players are provided a superb in-flight snack and beer service. Lumbini is probably named after a little town on the Indian border, not so far from the western border of Chitwan National Park. Lumbini is the birthplace of Buddha, and there is probably a connection between this and the enlightened feeling one has while flying down to the jungle. Or maybe that feeling comes from a combination of the beer and the fact that during some points in the journey your life passes before your eyes as you fly so close to the mountain ridges that you can count the spots on the snow leopards. Wait a minute. There arent any snow leopards in these hills.
Regardless, the flight gives the passengers an exquisite view of the dramatic and rapidly changing terrain of central and southern Nepal. The plane flies west and south, skimming the tops of the terraced foothills of central Nepal (the hill country - although these hills are probably higher than the Appalachians - relativity must be kept in mind while journeying through Nepal). The flight proceeds along the Trusuli and Narayana Rivers and over the yellow and green patchwork fields of the Terai. The Trusuli, although it has lost the nearly neon turquoise hue that it dons when roaring down from from the peaks of the Himalayas near Langtang, is still a deep blue-green, magnificent river meandering west through the hills, connecting with the Narayana, which then flows south into the Terai and on through the jungle on its way to meet the Ganges.
Looking north one sees the rugged white peaks of the Himalayas still rising from the earths crust into the crystal clear blue sky. Looking south one sees the brilliant yellow mustard fields of the Terai, defined by dirt roads and thatched roofs. As the plane lands in Meghauly, the brightly colored banners and flags of the elephant polo field consume the players field of vision as they prepare for their arduous afternoon of practice.
HORSE PISS REPULSES ELEPHANTS
If youve ever wondered how to keep an elephant off of your lawn, your answer has finally arrived. Just invite some horses to come over and relieve themselves on your lawn and you will be ever free from elephants.
Polo horses arrived in Megauly the day before the official practice day of the tournament. The horses took a break from their normal horseback riding duties at Tharu Village and came up to Meghauly to help kick off the first-ever horse polo exhibition at the WEPA championships.
Upon seeing the horses and smelling their aromatic deposits, the elephants staged a boycott. They flatly refused to take a step on the polo field until the Tiger Tops staff had sprayed carpet freshener all over the pitch. From that time on, the horse polo was played in an entirely different section of the airstrip, much to the enjoyment of the Meghauly villagers and elephant polo players as well.
OLD FACES; NEW FACES
The 16th Annual World Elephant Polo Championships are officially commenced in the most appropriate setting, the bar at Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge, when Jim Edwards welcomes returning and new players and teams to the jungle.
The most noticeable change in the make-up of the 1997 group comes from Peter Prentices new team, Chivas Regal. The old red and yellow striped jackets of the team that shall not be mentioned are replaced by the attractive black and maroon Chivas fleeces. Superchicks are nowhere to be found, although with the Screwy Tuskers back in unprecedented numbers and boundless spirits for their fourth year and the Tiger Tops Tigresses arriving in splendid form, the absence is barely noticeable. Chivas has managed to bring along a couple of handsome cinematographers, much to the pleasure of the womens teams. Tiger Mountain India provides the group with a splendid mix of Indian and British gentlemen, and the adorable British Gurkha Gladiators have, of course, returned in grand style. The National Parks team, spearheaded by Ram Prit whose infectious laughter can heard from all corners of the round dining hall (go figure) are back and ready to do battle. The American Braves have made their first appearance at the tournament, truly brave souls who have no idea what they have gotten themselves into. And, of course, the Tiger Tops Tuskers are present, stronger than ever, led by Kristjan Edwards, Jim Edwards son and.
The bar is somewhat quieter this year, due in large part to the absence of the mercenaries and a certain South African, but the persistent bellowing of the happy rhino at the Tiger Mountain India table compensates for the relative tameness at the bar. Also noticeably absent this year is James Manclarke, co-founder of WEPA. He is back in Scotland preparing to embark on an adventure of a different sort, but has sent his regrets via telegram.
The tournament schedule and handicaps are announced, with congratulations extended to Alf Erickson for his brilliant negotiations on behalf his Screwy Tuskers, for whom he managed to secure a -1 handicap, based on his teams fabulous eighth place finish for the previous three years as well as its steadfast refusal to gain an advantage by utilizing the assistance of a Nepali ringer.
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