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Published: April 3rd 2008
Chitwan National Park
We were in for a long, dusty ride down from Pokhara to Chitwan National Park in the south but the changing scenary kept me entertained along the way. We also had a luxurious (in comparison to the minibus) coach to spread out in which made things a lot more comfortable. There were actually seat belts and even the chance to watch a DVD - strangley no-one was interested in watching the only choice - Cannonball Run! The driver was also a lot better and took great care to avoid any bumps and ruts in the road (not for our sake you understand - this coach was his pride and joy!).
The scenary along the way started to change from mountains to hills to plains. We travelled for a long while by a huge river of turquoise blue set in a ravine below the road. Tiny hut style homes clung to the edge and children waved as we passed by. The driver had estimated a 4 hour drive so I passed the time listening to my music and watching the Nepalese countryside go by. We saw paddy fields with oxen being used to plough them. Finally we
saw a sign to Chitwan National Park and turned down a dusty track.
All along the track were huts and housed made from clay mud and straw rooves. Very different to the ones we'd seen in the mountain areas of Nepal. Half way along the coach stopped and we were suddenly surrounded by school children dressed in their school uniforms. Helen asked if it was ok to hand out some pencils she'd brought along and Miss Lawlor (she's a teacher back in Ireland) was suddenly enveloped by a mass of grabbing, clamouring hands.
Eventually the track came out onto a wide, open plain by the river and we were taken across by boat to our Island Jungle Lodge - our home for the next two days. A short walk took us to the lodge style accomodation we'd be staying in. We all have little mini straw roof huts to live in with a toilet and shower room too. All quite basic but all we needed. Mine was called Egret 2 and the others all had bird names too. Michelle and Linda had Owl as their name and seemed a bit miffed. Turns out that 'owl' means old if
After lunch we had our first elephant back safari. My god it was painful! 4 of us squashed butt cheek to butt cheek in a wooden contraption designed to cut off your blood supply and give you bruises where you aint had bruises before! We also had to be really quiet so as not to scare away the wildlife. This was extemely hard for our group - prone to rawkous cackling! This was stifled to giggles instead as we plodded, lurching from side to side further into the jungle/woodland. The three elephants split up and headed off into different directions hoping to see the rhinos and if incredibly lucky a tiger. Eventually after a false alarm chicken we saw some spotted deer and then some hog deer. We also saw loads of birds including a flock of parakeets. But no sign of any rhinos or tigers. Then our elephant guide/steerer/driver/ pilot (Irish Linda's suggestion!?!) pointed out a tiger paw print in the mud next to a watering hole. Exciting - they do actually come this close to the lodges then - no midnight walks then! We were taken further into the jungle through more dense undergrowth, the
elephant just pushing his way through with us getting twacked by branches and getting mouthfuls of cob webs. Still no sign of anything bigger than a deer and some monkies when all of a sudden we heard a whoop way over the other side of the reserve and our guy whooped back and started urging our elephant on. Rhino had been spotted. The exciting/painful hunt began with whooping and calling going back and forth. Then all of a sudden there in the grassy scrub area in front of us were two rhino. It was so exciting to see them so close and in the wild. All too soon they disappeared into the scrub and we carried on towards the where the others were. We eventually caught them up back near the lodge where a single rhino was out in the open about 200m from the lodge bar!! What a privilege to see these amazing creatures living naturally in the wild.
After lunch we went down to the beach area to help with the elephant bathing in the river. This turned out to be great fun. We waded out to the elephants, almost completely submerged, climbed up on their necks
with the handlers and then they stood up and squirted us with water from their trunks. Then they went back into deeper water and rolled so we were thrown off. Great fun.
That evening much everest beer and gin and tonics were consumed on the riverside veranda. The night sky was amazing, clear with zero light pollution. We were even visited by some fire flies flitting about above the water. And so to bed for an early morning safari on foot.
6.15am and no sight of the Irish contingent. Raj was starting to get a bit twitchy but we weren't concerned. They would be there on the dot of 6.30am - maximising sleep potential - and on the dot there they were! They didn't disappoint, but unfortunately the jungle safari on foot did. Apart from a few bird spots for me (no-one else finds birds very interesting) - nothing. The guides put on a bit of a show of - mmm we can smell rhino and made us clamber through some bushes - but to no avail. Then it was a lovely peaceful boat ride back.
I spotted amongst other birds, pied king fishers and great and
little egrets, bul buls and another type of brightly coloured kingfisher larger than our native uk species.
After a quick breakfast it was off on another elephant back safari. This time prepared, we had reorganised the groups and had the ones at the front at the back and the ones at the back at the front (grass is always greener at the other side of the elephant seat!). And so to the stiffled giggling again. Surprise surprise the first thing we saw was a chicken. Followed much later by a cockeral, followed an hour later by come chicklets! Did we spot anything else, 'pheck' did we heck as like! The sarcasm re Chitwan Chicken safaris and the probable use of animatronic rhinos and tiger paw printers abounded. Everyone shuffled off for a snooze after lunch so I went to join in with the new comers with the elephant bathing. This time I had a go at elephant bucking bronco where you try to stay on while the elephant waggle his head about. I was rubbish at it but these two American girls of about 12 and 10 years old were pros.
Later in the afternoon the incredible sleeping
Imaginative Travellers all went on a fast moving, bumby jeep safari on the mainland. We sped off across the plains and after some time of being jolted and bumped around a shout went up as a pair of rhino were spotted. We stopped so close - they are amazing creatures with their tough folds of amour plating and for this species just one horn. We carried on and came across a family of monkies playing about in the trees above us. They are so comical to watch and seemed just as interested in us as we were in them.
As the sun began to go down we headed off back, and after a half hour break down stop (much to the amusement of some local kids) we ended up back at the boat for a night trip over the river to our island. We were just in time to watch the local teenagers of the Tharu Tribe performing a stick dance. Very similar to morris dancing! Another enjoyable evening was spent on the veranda under the stars but an early morning start meant we had to be early to bed. Actually it was only me and Sharon having an
early start as we were the only ones interested in a bird watching walk around the lodges. I am now going to list all the birds we saw so I don't forget them all so please ignore if you aren't a birdy type:
Asian paradise flycatcher, red vented bul bul, chestnut tailed starling, greater yellow naped wood-phecker (couldn't resist!), oriental pied hornbill, plum headed parakeet, jungle crow, heard a common tailor bird - very loud but only tiny, black throated thrush, grey crowned pygme wook- phecker, heard orioles (forget which type), chestnut banded nut hatch, spotted dove, red whiskered bul bul, white throated king fisher, common iora (?), chestnut headed bee eater, white throated fantailed fly catcher (disco dancer as our guide called it), black drongo, orange breasted green pigeon, jungle myna, common rose finch, oriental magpie robin, sri lanka white eye, pied king fisher, common kingfisher, little egret, large egret, rose ring parakeet, pond heron, Indian pond heron, sun bird. And we also saw more tiger prints on the bridge near the lodges! And a fruticosa plant used as a remedy for diarrhoea.
Not bad for a couple of hours just around the lodge area.
a quick breakfast it was more 'phecking' to do (of our bags!) and back on the coach again for the long drive back to Kathmandu. I sat up with the driver this time and I enjoyed watching the river gorge scenary pass by. At one point a cavalcade of motor bikes and lorries with people waving flags went by - all part of the forth coming elections here in Nepal. Lots of shouting, flag waving and horn blowing. The elections are getting really close now and we keep seeing gatherings of various party supporters along the way with mega phones to get their message across. Apparently everyone has to get back to their home town to be able to vote so many people living in the cities just won't get to vote as they either can't afford to travel or are working. We wait and see what differences come of this election. The county seems to be at a huge crossroads. I just hope it all works out well for the majority of the Nepalese people.
Return to Kathmandu
Back in Kathmandu we were all reunited with our extras of luggage that we had to leave behind and
Nobody make any sudden movements!
Linda, Michelle, Linda, Helen, Sharon, Marc
after wallowing in the luxoury of proper showers set off for a night out at Rum Doodles, a famous Kathmandu restaurant where you get given a white wooden foot shape to draw and right on about your visit to Nepal. These are then nailed to the walls - there are hundreds of them. Our effort included references to the Chitwan Chicken Safari, dusty bin, Marc's minging toe accident, the mountains, renaming of puddings, a yeti, King Raj, smiley Krishna, and many more. A great reminder if we ever come back to Nepal.
No trip to Nepal is complete without an Everest flight. We were booked onto the first flight of the day - essential if you want to have clear skies for good photos. Well we thought we were booked on the first flight - it turns out you are allocated tickets as you turn up and other people had obviously been camping out all night. This wasn't the end of it either. For some reason, still unknown, ours was the only flight that didn't set off promptly when it should. There we were, sat like mugs, waiting and waiting and with no explanation as to
why there was a delay. Eventually we were taken to our plane and boarded it, only to be asked to get off and get on a different plane! But eventually we do get going and our luck was in. The skies were clear, the views were amazing and the mountains were just incredible. And yes we saw Everest, I have a certificate to prove it too!
And then, way to soon, it was time to say our goodbyes as the group went their separate ways. Dusty Bin, Linda, Sharon and Helen back home to Portugal, UK and Ireland; Michelle and Linda for a week in India; Marc off to do another trek and then months of travelling all over the place and me off to meet my new group ready for a three week long trip to India.
A big thanks to everyone in the group who made my time in Nepal so special. Particularly to our great leader Raj for all his attention to our different interests, his sense of fun, and his knowledge passed on so generously. Also our lovely Krisha who we all missed the moment he left us and patient Govinda. Not forgetting our
porters who carried our heavy loads.
I love Nepal!
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