Welcome to the jungle

December 27th 2009
Published: December 27th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

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The elephant races in Chitwan.
On the night of Christmas Eve and the early morning hours of Christmas it rained. The first rain since I've been here. The after effect of the rain was a crystal clear view of the Himalayan Mountains that surrounds Pokhara. It looked like they had been put on display in HDTV. I made it to the bus office by 7:30 a.m. Christmas morning to catch my bus to Chitwan -- the jungle in southern Nepal bordering India. I found a shop that sold cheese and crackers so I had Christmas morning breakfast (yay cheese!) while I waited for the bus. I was excited that it was Christmas so once I got on the bus I started flipping through my Ipod searching for Christmas music to celebrate. I decided I would fill the nearly six hour bus trip by listening to Christmas music. That would get my in the spirit. After seven minutes I had listened to all two Christmas songs on my Ipod. Only five hours and 53 minutes to go..... Note to self: download more Christmas music.

Once I arrived in Chitwan I checked into my hotel and went on a walking tour through the Tharu village. Definitely a
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Me riding an elephant through the jungle.
more rural place here, lots of stick/clay/straw huts for houses and beautiful yellow mustard fields. Most activities are done as a group from the hotel. There are usually around eight of us travelling together. We walked by some elephants and made it to the banks of a river known as the place to go to watch the sunset. And so that's what we did. Sat there and watched the sun go down over the river. One thing I hadn't really considered was that this meant we had to find our way in the dark back to our hotel. We arrived back, had dinner, then went to see a Tharu stick dance. It was basically men and boys with large sticks that they hit against each other. Part martial arts and part dancing. Day 2 in Chitwan began by taking a dugout canoe ride down the river. It was cold and foggy, and by the end of it my back was killing me from sitting on a small piece of wood for two hours, but still somehow enjoyable.

After the canoe ride, next up on the agenda was a visit to the elephant breeding center. Not really that exciting -- a bunch of elephants and some baby elephants just hangin' out. Then our guide told us that we were going to hunt for crocodiles. 'Hunt' meaning 'look for' not 'kill' obviously. So we set off through the jungle on the banks of the river in search of crocodiles. I saw at least four, but my big accomplishment was not falling in the river when I had to walk across a log being used as a bridge. It was covered in mud and so were my hiking boots by this point so I was sure I was headed into the river. Thankfully I didn't fall. I chose the best time of year to come to Chitwan because the elephant festival is going on right now. So my afternoon was consumed by watching elephant races and a soccer match between two teams of elephants: one of the funniest and strangest things I've ever seen.

Today, day 3, in Chitwan also began with elephants. I went on a jungle safari this morning. Not by jeep, oh no. But by elephant. I actually rode an elephant through the jungle in search of other animals. I got very close to several rhinos...within 10 feet. And had monkeys swinging from tree to tree above me. Very Jungle Book. When I found out I would get to do a safari by elephant back I thought the biggest danger would be falling off the elephant, being trampled to death by the elephant, or being attacked by some other wild animal. I was wrong. The real danger I soon realized was being so high up that the tree branches were constantly hitting me in the face. I'm lucky I didn't have an eye poked out.

I was supposed to catch a bus back to Pokhara after my elephant safari, but here I am, still in Chitwan. Because the country of Nepal is so screwed up the entire city of Pokhara (the second largest city in the nation after Kathmandu) has been shut down. I'm not sure why or how, but I'm told I can't go back today. Maybe tomorrow?


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