Edit Blog Post
Published: November 28th 2010
After a bit of repacking and post trek binge eating,we were ready to leave the dusty streets of Kathmandu and head for greener pastures.
Our destination for a bit of relaxation was Pokhara. A small lakeside town with views of the Annapurna Ranges. It felt like a million miles away from Kathmandu and was exactly the sort of place where we needed to chill out for a bit.
As it turned out, it was lucky that we arranged to stay here for nearly a week because we both picked up colds and didn't feel like doing much at all. The only activities we did were taking boat out on the lake for a three hour paddle and visiting a few museums. The rest of the time was spent eating, sleeping and catching up with our friends from Edinburgh.
Our next destination was a stay at Chitwan National Park which is one of the most popular places to visit in Nepal.
You are given two options when visiting the park. Either staying inside the park grounds or 'going cheap' and staying in one of the resorts outside the park.
Quite obvious where we stayed but Parkside Guesthouse
The big male rhino
Gopal took this photo. I wasn't going any closer!
turned out to be fantastic. Our guide Gopal made it such a good experience for us, for anyone thinking of visiting, go for Gopal at Parkside – he was one of the best guides we have ever had. It makes such a big difference when the person guiding you actually has a passion for what he is talking about. There wasn't much that Gopal didn't know about animals and plants. He would gaze into the distance and come up with something like ''There, to the right of the biggest tree, just by the rock where the branches meet, it's a kingfisher, there can you see it?'' He must have the most amazing eye sight, the way he could spot a tiny bird from hundreds of meters away.
Over the four days we visited the park in every way thinkable.
The most comfortable way to spot animals was by gliding down the river in a dug out canoe. In about an hour we spotted about 30 different varieties of bird ranging from bright blue kingfishers, huge snake catching eagles and parakeets. We were sitting back and feeling really relaxed when we noticed another canoe had was been steered towards
the river edge ahead of us. On the other side of the bank, an old man was motioning to something in the river about 100 metres in front of us.
A pair of rhinos were submerged in the water, contentedly blowing bubbles and ignoring the group of excited tourists that had gathered on the river bank. The adrenaline rush from seeing these huge animals in the wild is amazing. They are massive and built like army tanks!
After watching the rhinos for awhile. Our little group of four was given a safety briefing before setting off on a animal tracking walk through the jungle.
While the animals aren't usually aggressive, coming across a mother with babies or a couple of angry males could be dangerous. Gopal explained what we were meant to do in the case of meeting up with: Angry rhinos:
Climb up the nearest tree or if you can't manage to climb, then hide behind the trunk to confuse it. The rhinos have poor eyesight so if you can't find a decent tree, weave in and out of the trees so the rhino can't charge you. Angry sloth bear:
Don't. Turn. Around.
Jungle trek at Chitwan National Park
Huddle in a group to look more threatening and sing a song.
(The lack of detail on this one worried me. Clarification: what song? Could singing out of tune make it even angrier and bring on an attack? I'm a details person.) Angry Bengal Tiger
Stay still. Pray to the God of Tourism. Angry wild elephants:
I had turned a bit pale by this stage so Gopal said ''Don't worry, we are safe, sometimes we don't even see a wild chicken!'' and of course, why should I worry when both Gopal and the young animal tracking guy were armed and ready to protect us... with bamboo sticks!?
We had only wandered about thirty meters into the undergrowth before the tracking guy froze and motioned for us to stall still. My heart started pounding and I was half-way up the nearest tree before we spotted what had caught his attention. It was a wild chicken.
Feeling a bit pathetic, we continued on, but the next time the tracker stopped, the fear was a bit more justified. We had stumbled across two rhinos. The undergrowth was so thick that we were right
next to them before they were spotted. We were less than thirty meters away from some of the biggest and scariest animals I have ever seen and this time they weren't resting in the water. Perhaps I was imagining it, but they did look agitated. So yes, I was completely and utterly packing it and didn't know whether to sing, prey or climb. In a slight panic I settled for clinging into the animal trackers back. He didn't seem to mind so it became my survival strategy for the rest of the day. It was almost an hour before the adrenaline stopped pumping through my veins and by that time we had spotted monkeys, three types of deer and crocodiles. It turned out to be a very long day!
The most frightening moment came when we walking through in the thick elephant grass that was almost ten foot high and really dense. It was impossible to see animals in this grass until you actually come right up to them.
Gopal and the tracker, stopped and motioned for us to freeze. They whispered that the grunting sound we could hear was two male rhinos fighting. In the grass it
Elephant football at Chitwan National Park
was impossible to know where the rhinos were but the noise sounded extremely close. Our group was guided over to a tree while the tracker tried to judge which direction the losing male was going to run in. This time I actually did manage to get half way up a tree before Gopal looked at me and said ''Um.. what are you doing?''
Lucky for us the losing male ran out of the grass out onto the river bank. The local women who had been cutting grass, dropped their baskets and ran for their lives as the rhino charged in their general direction.
After this, I was a bit of a nervous wreck and we were all coated in sweat and mud. I was happy to leave the beasties in the jungle and grasslands and get back to the safety of the guesthouse!
Elephant trekking through the jungle turned out to be much more relaxing than animal spotting by foot. Gopal hooked us up with a fantastic mahout who took us away from the rest of the tourists. We rode in silence through the trees and were able to get up really close to the animals. Being perched
Big ol bugs
Chitwan National Park
up so high, it wasn't scary. Not even a rhino would take on one of these elephants – they are massive! The elephant and mahout obviously had a good relationship because he didn't have to whack the poor thing over the head at all during our ride!
We were all pretty disappointed in the visit to the elephant breeding centre – no one likes to see such huge and intelligent animals in chains. Gopal also knew we were disappointed that the elephant bathing only takes place for part of the year so he arranged for our group of four to visit a resort owned elephant yard one evening. There was a baby elephant there that we were free to have a play with. There isn't too many things in this world that are much cuter than a baby elephant. I didn't even mind when he dribbled black muck all over our clothes!
Spotting animals by jeep turned out to be pretty hopeless. The noise of the engine must have terrified the animals off but we did get a chance to watch the monkeys for quite awhile.
Three days of animals spotting in Chitwan turned out to be
For some reason, the leeches just wouldn't leave this poor lady alone!
just perfect and a good way to end our time in Nepal. The next day we boarded the Greenline bus bound for Kathmandu before making the mammoth journey by plane to the Philippines.
Tot: 2.517s; Tpl: 0.076s; cc: 12; qc: 31; dbt: 0.0317s; 2; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb