Our trip to Chitwan started with a morning flight to the village of Bharaptur from the same small airport that we used for the Himalayan flight.
The drive to the Temple Tiger Green Jungle Resort was picturesque through small villages and rice fields. The resort is next to the banks of the Narayani River and Chitwan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Chitwan National Park, established in 1973, is the first national park in Nepal. Originally the hunting grounds of the ruling class, the area is home to the One-horned rhinoceros which were close to extinction by the end of the 1960s with only 95 remaining, and 70% of the jungle having been cleared. The population has now recovered, as well as that of Bengal Tigers, although not without some cost to humans. In order to establish the park, soldiers destroyed the villages located inside the boundary of the park, burned their houses, and even threatened people at gun point to leave.
Our resort accommodations consisted of small bungalows along walkways, raised several feel off the ground, each with its own balcony overlooking the surrounding jungle. I was reminded of tree houses, and I was enchanted! But
they were also air conditioned and comfortable, with their own baths and with enough distance between them to ensure quiet and privacy.
The morning wake up calls consisted of a visit by two of the employees, who arrived with coffee ... and cookies! It was enchanting!
The meals were buffet style and flavorful, and their round room where they were served was comfortable and beautiful, with cool porches shaded by its thatched roof.
The only thing that was a problem to some of my companions was the intermittent internet access. But the early morning walk through the grounds for exotic bird viewing more than made up for that inadequacy, at least in my opinion.
That late afternoon, we enjoyed the highlight of the two day visit, an elephant safari through the surrounding jungle. Slowly, we moved through the dense jungle, crossed rivers and beautiful grasslands as the sun was sinking in the horizon. We came incredibly close to several of the rhinos that inhabit this area. They were massive, and I was slightly nervous, but they didn't seem to take much notice, or maybe it was the size of the elephants that made them behave calmly.
It was a memorable experience! Fortunately, the threat of bug bites never materialized. I never even applied any bug repellant, but I heeded their advise to wear long pants and long sleeves to protect arms and legs from being scratched by branches.
The next day, we enjoyed a jeep safari through the jungle. The highlight of this trip was seeing a leopard through the trees, obviously talking some nearby deer, and then hearing the deer sounds of alert in the distance. A brief but exciting experience.
Afterwards, we boarded a long canoe to cross the Narayani River for a beach picnic inside the park. The canoes are manned in front and back by handlers with long poles and we were pulled down and across the river in this manner through calm and rapid water. Much to my disappointment, we saw none of the Mugger crocodiles because of the recent flooding of the river that even caused some shifting in the banks with new sand banks and high dunes, but it was a fun adventure anyway.
During the lunch break on the beach, made comfortable by using the removable benches from the canoes, we also got to have
close and personal experiences with some of the domesticated elephants used by some of the area inhabitants, including a playful and adorable nine month baby whose idea of cuddling included almost knocking me down, but I loved it! His father was a wild elephant renamed Romeo!
A more thrilling experience was seeing the large paw marks left in the sand by one of the Bengal tigers who also live in the area. Just the size was impressive. Remembering a growl I had heard earlier, and attributed to the elephants, I nervously watched the high grasses nearby and retreated my way to the group.
That night, back at the resort, we were entertained before dinner by a dance troop from the nearby Tharu village. They were young men and women who performed traditional dances during which they gyrated with perfect coordination to hit their sticks against those of their immediate companions. It would have hurt, had they missed. We ended up joining them at the end, without the sticks, although I found myself breathless after the brisk pace.
Earlier in the afternoon we had stopped at their Tharu village during an ox-cart ride before sunset. We had the
opportunity to visit the homes of a couple of the villagers, and hear about some of their habits and way of life. The Nepalese in general, and certainly the Tharu, are very much clan oriented. The families built their homes almost forming their own circular compound, regardless of whether some houses were mere huts, and others more elaborate. They also cultivated their own patches of rice, and each household was allotted a certain area that they used for their own consumption.
All in all, the visit to Chitwan National Park was a complete fabulous side trip during a memorable experience in Nepal.
The return flight to Kathmandu was interesting in that, even though the airport was barely more than a small strip with a small room, the extra security precautions were observed here too. For an unknown reason, our flights was delayed by more than an hour, so I entertained myself watching the locals who were flying to reunite and celebrate the festivities of the festival with their families, in their best clothes, all colors and bright jewels.
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