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Published: January 13th 2008
Chitwan National Park was created in 1973 but has been protected since 19th century by becoming a hunting reserve of Nepali. Strangely the fact it was actually a hunting reserve may acted to protect it from habitant loss. In 1950s when King Mahendra heard only 100 rhinos and 20 tigers remained in the area and removed the peasants.
The Park consists of Forest, Marshes and grassland and is home many wildlife species including the horned Indian Rhino, tigers and leopards. But sadly much has been lost under Maoist struggles as conflicts have prevented the protection of this valuable region.
With the opportunity to see tigers and elephants I was very much looking forwarding to getting to Chitwan but the trip there was not without a few embarassments. Chandra miss understood the location of a toilet at one of our stops, which embarrassingly resulted in several of us peeing in a empty room of an outbuilding when the toilet was actually a proper toilet in a very small building next door! Anyway when we realised the mistake we fled the scene quickly with very red faces. What must the locals think of us Westerners!
But we arrived after a
long bus journey without further incident to find ourselves staying in a luxury accomodation near the park itself but there was little opportunity to enjoy our lovely rooms as we were advised that a trip was planned to visit the local Elephant Breeding Centre.
Being a Intrepid trip and encouraged to use local transport we mounted bicycles and peddled along rocky tracks to the centre. One crash later by a member of the group we some how all arrived in one piece at the river where we swapped pedal power for paddle power to cross the river. On the other side several elephants awaited us at the centre and we were given an opportunity to feed the elephants and tickle the trunks of the babies. The trunks are amazingly dexterous and a cheeky little baby raised itself onto hind legs to reach the extra distance to grab and extra biscuit with his trunk, all the time looking at me with a soft deeply intelligent eye. A touching experience and all too short lived as we had leave to negotiate our way back down the rocky track before the light totally failed though for me I returned in total darkness
after my chain broke. Well not exactly true two locals on a motor bike helped by riding alongside me to light the way.
Next morning we headed off on a 1 hour boat trip down the river to start a 5 hour trek through the tall grasses and marshes of Chitwan National Park with high hopes that we may see Tigers or Rhinos. Our progress down the river was watched by smiling crocodiles on the river banks and wading Egrets. We arrived at our drop off point and after a briefing on what to do if we happened to encounter either hungry tiger or charging rhino we split into two groups and bravely set out on our trek. We headed off slightly nervously into the tall grasses of the banks which looked like something out of an Indian Jones Adventure movie and I am sure I was not the only thinking these long grasses would prevent us seeing anything until it was on top of us and we were potential tiger steak or may end up seeing the point on the end of a rhinos horn but 5 hours of trekking yield only their footprints. And in the hot
mid day sunshine most wildlife remained out of sight for much of our hot and sweaty trek.
Actually I tell a lie we did see a few tigers - sadly only Tiger Leeches and there was no escape, several of us finished the trek dripping blood from puncture points where they managed latch on unnoticed.
We over nighted on the edge of the park on the banks of the river where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset whilst sipping a refreshing beer. The next morning we rose early to take a very bouncy open top jeep ride through local villages back to our hotel. Nepal is made up of 3 very different terrains and at Chitwan I was seeing a new totally different Nepal, beautiful and rural lowlands.
Now hot and dusty from our 2 hour jeep ride back what we were all in need of was a bath. Though the idea was for the elephants to have a bath it was Lilly, Maggie and Myself that took a shower of cold river water as we clung rather ungracefully to the back of an elephant as it bathed and dunked itself in the water.
Surrounded by fellow
bathing elephants with riders the air was pierced with delighted screams as elephants threw trunks of water or tipped unsuspecting riders into the water as they knelt for a better soaking (I am sure encouraged by their keepers!). A unique and memorable experience of Chitwan that is for sure.
And that evening we headed once more out on the back elephants for a safari ride. The ride gave us sighting of rhinos, deers and peacocks - oh and two scarey memorable moments;
The first experience been a bull elephant in the vicinity calling constantly to the female safari elephants, no doubt eager for some female company which could pose a problem should he find her with four riders on her back. But he remained at a safe distance and as it was we got to enjoy the experience of their deep rubbling communications that resonated, vibrated and tingled through our bodies.
The second experience was when we caught sight of a large python crossing the trail in front of us. I am not sure if our elephant thought it was a log until she got close and then realised her mistake but she boldly carried on forwards
up until it moved. Then she squeak trumpeted her alarm sounding like something from a TV cartoon and went if fast speed reverse, dancing all the way. A funny sight I am sure apart if you are not clinging to her back like rodeo riders! The python must be a rare sight because our Mamut excitedly communicated it to the other elephants riders and the poor python must have jumped out of its skin as it was surrounded by 8 watchful elephants thrashing trunks and trumpeting.
Again as the light faded we headed back along the roads and through villages to our resort with our heads bobbing dangerously close to electricity pylons which extracted yelps from us to move the elephant over - all to the amusement of the elephant's owner.
Sadly this ended our time in Chitwan as the next morning it was time to head to our last destination in Nepal but that night I slept soundly still trembling with the vibrations of elephant talk.
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