Elephant Polo has been around since the late 19th century. It’s mainly played in India and Nepal (we’ve looked for a club near to Market Harborough but there doesn’t seem to be one!) We have dressed the British Gurkha team for the Elephant Polo Association World Championships for a couple of years now and we wanted to share the story of the Rusty Kukris trip to Nepal in December 2012… by Lieutenant Colonel (Retd) Chris Darby (late Royal Gurkha Rifles)…
The Time The Himalayan winter when snow closes mountain-passes and rivers flow clear.
The Place Karnali Lodge, a jungle camp sheltered by the dappled light of the hard wood forests of West Nepal. A place where for centuries travellers have come to find solace and adventurers their fortune.
The Teams Adventurers, philanthropists, sportsmen and romantics from across the globe drawn by chance, however slim, to play in one of life’s last great games.
The Game The 31st World Elephant Polo Association World Championships – and the stakes; a place in the World Cup Final and, perhaps, the right to call yourself World Champion!
The Rusty Kukris are the veteran’s wing of the Flying Kukris RFC; an Asia based British Gurkha rugby team famed throughout South East Asia for its panache on the park and its sporting prowess of it.
The route to Karnali from Kathmandu was via a taxi (amidst the confusion of a general strike), a light aircraft (below the Himalayas) and local minibus through the dust of the terrain so match practice was as much about regaining inner equilibrium as it was about connecting with elephants, mahouts and small round balls. Having said that, each of the teams managed at least 20-minutes of good natured ribbing at the opposition’s expense and at least some time on an elephant, and it’s fair to say that a great deal more skill was demonstrated by a number of focused individuals than has traditionally been permitted. Of greater concern was the menacing presence of the Handicapping Committee which, from the comfort of pink gins and thrones atop the commentary dais took all it needed to perform subsequently its arcane arts.
The Flying Kukris enjoyed a spectacular week in Nepal and despite their mixed results on the field made life-long friendships off it. But none of this would have been possible without the support and help received by the team from Joules – their sponsors and outfitters; the vision, insight and extraordinary effort of Kristian Edwards and his team at Tiger Tops; and, of course, the elephants – the real stars of the story.
It is probably also worth noting that the Kukris did win a prize at WEPA 31 and, given that the sport is played for the sake of the game and for its enjoyment rather than for gold or glory, the prize they won is amongst the competition’s most prestigious: Winner of the WEPA Kukri (and prize for the beast turned-out team) The Rusty Kukris.