Published: July 7th 2008July 7th 2008
The Wet - White Water Rafting Through the Mountains
A day after returning from our trek, we headed back up into the mountains on another rickety bus, this time to raft the Kali Gandaki River with 16 other brave souls (made up mainly of Irish, Aussies, Brits and Canadians). We set out in two rafts and spent the first half hour learning a few basic skills. The first major rapid was called "Little Brother" and because it was reportedly too dangerous (several deaths in the last three years), we all got out of the rafts and walked around the rapids. This gave me confidence in my decision to go white water rafting in a third world country ... clearly the guides really knew what they were doing and held a high standard of safety like what I'm used to in Canada. We all got in the raft and our guide told us that we were approaching the second rapid ... called "Big Brother". I asked the guide if he got the names mixed up. Surely, he meant that the dangerous rapid was "Big Brother" and the one we were approaching was "Little Brother". Our guide, Ram, laughed and assured
me that he hadn't made any mistake. My memories of Big Brother aren't all that clear but I do remember our guide yelling "Back, back, HARDER!" and then the side of the raft on which I was sitting crashed against a huge rock face. It was like a car accident. Everything was in slow motion. I could see that my position in the boat was going to get it the worst, so I dove in the centre of the raft and waited for the impact. I was sure that a portion of my bum cheeks was going to get scraped away by the jagged rocks. Apparently, the 20 minute safety briefing at the beginning of the trip, where they tell you about diving into the middle of raft for safety, paid off for me because I came out of that unscathed, with both bum cheeks intact. I was scared and trembling, but fine. The guy in front of me, though, was not so lucky - he came out of that a bit bloody.
After that introduction to the Kali Gandaki River, I was back to being worried about the low standard of safety and experience of our guides. We
had signed up for a three day trip, so we had a lot more rapids to tackle. The rest of our first day was great, though. We had a few fun and rapids and a lot of laughs.
We got to our camp site in the late afternoon - a lovely beach on the river. Everyone had to pitch in to set up camp. We pulled the boats ashore, set up tents (made from a raft standing on its side with a tarp over it), and carried an uncountable number of water buckets up to the beach for cooking. Our guides prepared dinner for us and we all helped ourselves to the buffet they set up on the beach. After dinner, we all pooled together the cheap rum we had brought along on the trip and handed it over to the guides. A few minutes later, Ram came back with a huge soup pot full of hot rum punch. All 17 of us helped ourselves ... again and again. We sat around chatting and exchanging funny stories from our day on the river.
The next morning we dismantled our riverside camp and headed back out onto the river.
We stopped at a very high waterfall where we all took a power shower and a while later we had our lunch at a beach up the river. That night, after our second camp was set up and dinner was done, a few women from the local village came by to sell some luxuries like Coke, Beer, Snickers bars, chips, and, of course, more Rum. Well, we had a bit of a problem ... 17 of us and only 12 bottles of rum. The Irish crew (four of them) bought out the entire stock of rum and then talked one of the local women into going up to village and bringing down more for us. The Irish crew ended up buying 17 bottles between the four of them and the rest of us bought at least a bottle each. Those villagers made a quite a killing that night!
Since it was our last night, our guides built us a campfire and made us more rum punch out of the new (terrible) rum. Each of us, with a rum punch in hand, sat around the fire listening to our guides drum on plastic water containers and sing traditional Nepali songs.
We all clapped along to the beat of the music and when we could pick up the chorus, we'd try singing along. The high point of the Nepali music performance was dancing around the fire (like something out of Lord of the Flies) imitating the Nepali dance moves our guides were showing us. When they asked us to sing some Western songs, we broke out the ipod and sang along to Oasis, the Rolling Stones and favourite TV theme songs. By this time, the pot of rum punch was nearing the bottom. The climax of the Western musical showcase was all of us in unison belting out every last word of Bohemian Rhapsody. Magic.
Well, as you can imagine, waking up at dawn the next morning wasn't easy for any of us. Paddling down the river was a bit harder that morning, but Ram suggested that a dip in the river would cure our hangovers. Most of us did the next rapid on our backs outside the boat. A bumpy but fun and refreshing way to shake off the night before. We all climbed back into the raft and started to head back to Pokhara.
The rafting trip
was a lot of fun, but also a great way to see a bit more of Nepal. There were so many villages along the river with people washing clothes, fishing and playing on the banks. The scenery was gorgeous, too. We highly recommend rafting for anyone who plans to visit Nepal.
The Wild - Safari Trip in Chitwan National Park
We returned to Pokhara and left almost straight away for Chitwan National Park to do a safari in the jungle and with hopes to see an Indian Rhinoceros. We decided to stay "in the park", which is a bit more expensive than if you were to stay in the town outside the park gates, but we felt that it would be a far nicer experience to stay in the jungle and the chances of seeing animals are much higher.
We arrived at Island Jungle Resort and our guide gave us a little welcome speech and outlined the schedule
. W were completely surprised with the organized all-inclusive feel of the place. It was sort of like the Love Boat, in that our daily activities were planned out in 15 minute increments - 5 a.m. Jungle Walk, 6:30 a.m.
Another Elephant in the Grass
A person on the back of the elephant has just spotted the first rhino...let the chase begin!
Coffee, 7:15 am breakfast, etc. There was a chalkboard that we could consult to find out our daily activities. After traveling independently for so long, we didn't adjust to this very well, but we realized that the structure would allow us to make the most of our short time in Chitwan.
After our "cruise director" finished his speech at exactly 1:45 p.m. we made for our rooms, changed our clothes and immediately went for our first elephant safari, which left at 2:00 p.m. on the dot. Our elephant took us around looking for animals. During the first 45 minutes of the trip we spotted nothing but wild chickens. We were on elephant back with two girls from Australia, Jodie and Chris, and the four of us entertained ourselves immensely by immitating David Attenborough, "We're coming upon the most intriguing and dangerous animal of the Nepali jungle ... the wild chicken"
and feigning exaggerated excitement over each sighting.
Just when we couldn't come up with any more wild chicken jokes, we heard another mahout (elephant guide) shout - A rhino had been spotted in the area! Our guide led the elephant off the beaten jungle path and into the
This is one of the only clear(ish) shots we got of the rhino from the back of the elephant...
bush. The elephant started crashing through the trees to find the rhino and the four of us sat on top ducking under tree branches and trying (unsuccessfully) to avoid massive spider webs. When the elephant would slow down, I'd look down and find that I was covered in all sorts of jungle stuff
. spiders, ants, milipedes, weird insects I'd never seen before, fluff, non-specific wet stuff, dirt, and leaves were all over my face, my hair and my clothes. Once the mahout heard another call we'd set off in a new direction, laughing hysterically and dodging the same hazards. We caught up with the rhino, though, and it was amazing to follow it in the jungle for awhile. I was really surprised with how big it was and by it's body. Chris, a big fan of nature documentaries and skilled David Attenborough impersonator, knew all about the Indian Rhino. I had an image of African Rhinos in my head, so was surprised with the armour-like body of the rhino we were seeing. After our mahout took a look at his watch, we promptly headed back to the resort as our alloted 2 hours on elephant back was drawing to a
A Wee Spider Chris Caught in Our Room
Can you see the size of the egg sack this thing is carrying???
We came home and sat in the bar overlooking the river until exactly 7:30 p.m. when dinner was served. After dinner, we went to bed. The electricity at the resort was powered by generator and shut off at 8 p.m. this left us getting ready for bed in the dark. Before getting into bed Chris felt something substantial skitter across his foot. We decided it might be necessary do a spider check. We pulled out our headlamps and began the searching under the sheets and pillows. Chris lifted up some clothes off the bed and a HUGE (the size of your fist) ran out. We shined our lights on the monster and saw it was carrying a massive egg sack underneath its body. So gross. Now most of you know that Chris will not kill insects or spiders. Why? I have no idea. His insistance on trapping them and setting them free always takes longer, but at least it adds comedy. After chasing it around for awhile, Chris finally caught it in a glass and moved it outside. The search continued and we (Chris) caught another two spiders from our room and then went hunting in the Aussie
A Fine Balance
Chris is standing on the Elephant while it tries to shake him off
girls room across the hall. Nobody slept soundly that night. In fact, one of the Aussie girls woke up in the middle of the night to one of these big spiders on her face and when she went to swat it away, it ran into her hair. She didn't tell me about this until we were on the bus back to Kathmandu.
The next day we woke up and went to check the schedule. On the way we noticed tiger pug marks in the dirt trails around the resort. That day we took a boat ride down the river, where we spotted a crocodile. Later, Chris took some time to get into the brown river, despite the crocs, and bathe with the elephants. He had a great time playing with the elephants, while I stayed on the banks taking pictures (safely out of the range of the "Mugger" Crocs). While Chris was in the water with the elephants, a rhino came out of the jungle and crossed the river. It was quite incredible! We watched it cross the river and then swim/wade back to our side of the river the jungle.
Ten mintues later, we were heading back
into the jungle on foot and our guide knew exactly where that rhino would be after seeing it re-enter the jungle. Before we left we got a very short introduction on figthing off wild animals. If tiger near, walk away very slow and do not turn away from tiger or he will attack. If bear near, stand in group and make much noise. If rhino near, stand behind big tree. Okay, now we go.
For those that know me at all, you will probably know that I need information and a lot of it. This little safety pep talk just left me scared and on edge. I kept saying to Chris, "So, what do we do again if a tiger attacks?"
We all kept quiet on our walk in the jungle in order to better our chances of spotting animal. I just kept reviewing our animal attack lesson over and over in my head and would jump out of my skin each time I heard a branch break or leaves russle. At one point I considered making some noise - coughing, sneezing, laughing - something to scare any animals away, but I knew that would ruin it for the
I sweat right through my shirt!
The fear I felt in the Rhino Encounter caused me to swear a little...
other people on the safari. I kept my mouth shut and my fingers crossed that wouldn't find that rhino. Unfortunately, our skilled guide tracked that rhino down and we followed it around the jungle, catching glimpses of it through the bushes.
Our guide called out to the other guides and elephant tours to let them know that we'd tracked one down. Soon we started to hear other groups coming closer. This is when things went wrong. So, we're standing in the jungle and the rhino is on the other side of a bush, only a few meters away. I couldn't see it, though. Then all of the sudden, our guide started yelling at us to jump into a root hole beside a fallen tree. He was swatting his stick against the trees and yelling. He was visibly terrified. It took a second for me to figure out that the rhino we had been following had turned back on us and was heading right in our direction. The elephants closed in on the rhino from the other direction and in order to escape, the rhino had to turn around. "Down, Down, Down", he shouted and pointed into the hole. Then
he'd lift his hand indicating that we should shut up and not move. Then the guide started to wave his stick and yell again. I just stood there completely terrified looking at the hole in the ground wondering what sorts of creatures I'd find inside. I came to the conclusion that a snake bite or spider bit would be better than being trampled by a rhino, so I was prepared to jump in. The guide kept shouting and beating the bushes with his stick and after only a few seconds (which seemed like an eternity) I saw the rhino run off beside us. Everyone in our group let out a huge sigh of relief and then we all broke out laughing. In the few seconds it took for that drama to unfold, I sweated through all of my clothes. I must have lost 3 litres of water. I've never been so scared.
So, I was about done and ready to head back home but everyone else in my group agreed to continue the chase. It was such a nightmare. I reassured myself about continuing the safari by reasoning that it was extremely unlikely to have that happen twice. Ten
Up A Tree
Here I am up a tree hiding from two male rhinos who were having a bit of a tiff
minutes later our guide started yelling again and we had to run off the path into the jungle. I was still so scared from the last episode that I plowed over this really nice couple from Chile in order to save myself. A bit of a low point. Once I caught up with the guide, he started to explain in broken english that there were two male rhinos in the grass fighting and that they are very aggressive. He demanded we climb a nearby tree for safety. I've never in my life climbed a tree, at least not that I can remember, but I scurried up that tree so fast. Once I was up there, I kept hearing it crack - the tree was dead. I could have started crying right there. Chris was not as terrified about all this as I was. While I sat up in the tree, I watched Chris standing around on the ground. I'd whisper angrily to him, "get up in the tree ... now". He'd just laugh and say, "That tree is rotted out. If a rhino comes by, I'll hide behind another tree." I was sweating bullets waiting for the big aggresive rhinos
to attack all the while staying perfectly still so not to disturb the structural integrity of the rotted tree. Eventually our guide called us down from the tree and said it was safe to start walking again. I looked at my watch and noticed that our time was finally running out. I quickly reminded our guide of the time and suggested we start walking home.
I had a massive headache. We returned to the resort and drank beer on the patio until dinner time. I also drank two litres of water to replenish all the fluids I lost in my terror sweats earlier. Before bed, I apologized to the Chilean couple for pushing them in my moment of panic in the jungle. Safaris on foot - I'd never do it again (Chris would, though).
This was the end of our safari and our time in Nepal. Over the next few days we made our way back to Kathmandu, then Kolkata, and finally Bangkok.
There are more photos below