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Published: October 4th 2012
The transition from Western Europe to the jungle primeval was stark to no one’s surprise, but it provided many beautiful encounters. The park is far away from the madness (and general filth) of Kathmandu and affords the opportunity to see all manner of wildlife. Chitwan National Park is known for its bird life, rhinos, elephant breeding area and the elusive tiger. We didn’t see hide nor hare of a tiger, but then again, few do….even the guides. But it’s a great tourist hook, we’re sure.
The drive from Kathmandu to Chitwan is a five-hour drive that would challenge the shock absorbers and framework of the best of vehicles. To merely describe the roads as full of pot holes and the like would be letting the general description of the road off easy. The route (calling this a road is stretching it) took us along a rather rugged up and down hill journey sharing while sharing the road with every conceivable form of transportation. The road conditions on this stretch of highway are treacherous by any standards, yet it serves as the main conduit into Katmandu. Traffic lanes are not marked and there is an ebb and
the water feels good
flow to traffic across those imaginary lines you have in your head that will either make you laugh or cry or shriek depending on your level of experience with this sort of thing. Merry Jo was just starting to feel better after a case of gastrointestinal issues and this ride was doing her no favors. Our driver performed well and safely delivered us to our destination.
On this drive we did view a few incapacitated vehicles—victims of ill-timed driving decisions or vehicular failure as some were seen in potholes with broken axels or on the side of the road upside down. And yet the bicycle riders and motorbikes seemed un-fazed or worried by all this mayhem.
The Chitwan National Park is located near the town of Sauraha, Nepal. The temperatures have been around 32C (94F) and feels like 100% humidity. Breezes are practically non-existent, so welcome to the jungle. You have to remember that not only have we been living in San Francisco these past 15 months, but also encountered snow in Iceland just a few weeks ago. Our middle-aged bodies cannot possibly adapt that quickly to this rapid sultry onset, so we soaked
our clothes with perspiration each day and that was that. Our activities here included 3 showers per day!
Day one, we got settled in, had lunch and took an ox-cart ride (cross that one off the list) and came back to take a quick shower, only to hear a bit of commotion from the camp. A rhino had been spotted! This elicits quite a reaction from even the staff as they spread the word and whip the tourists into a rhino seeking frenzy. We quickly scrambled to a van, which transported us to a nearby river, where a male was lazily lounging in the water not 25 yards from us, clearly unimpressed with the 75 or so strangely-dressed visitors to his watering hole. In the distance, a female was spotted who was slowly sauntering down to the water to join her mate. When she got almost in the water, we were herded back to the van (for our safety) and taken back to the lodge. Seems the female rhino can become somewhat irritated with visitors and seeing as how she could easily chase us down and do whatever to us, a well-executed retreat to the
van was a wise course of action at this point. We are told they can run 40 km(25 mph), clearly faster than anyone in attendance.
The Maruni Sanctuary Lodge was our housing of choice and we found it simple, comfortable and clean. The manager is customer-focused and does all he can to make your stay meet expectations. This is not intended as an advertisement, just our experience. There are fans in the rooms that keep you surprisingly cool given the conditions, and we got by just fine.
Depending on the time of year any number of nature and jungle activities are available. March is the best time to see tigers but we were very happy with all that we saw in our time here. There it is again….the elusive tiger.
Our first adventure into the park the next day was an elephant safari. Essentially, four people are perched atop each elephant on a wooden platform with a cushion. Our sure-footed elephant tromped through the jungle just shy of two hours in search of the brown spotted deer and rhinos. The ride was serene and peaceful through thick trees, brush, and
vines. We crossed two rivers and up and down a few hills. Far more comfortable than riding a camel, we can assure you. We saw a few local deer but that was about it. So, a nice ride in the country nonetheless. A short time after this, we indulged in the wonderfully misrepresented “elephant bath,” where we both hopped on the back of these wonderful pachyderms, who proceeded to step into the river, fill their trunks and they drenched us in river water! Then for laughs, they sink into the water, turn on their side so everyone can watch you fall off the elephant for their entertainment. All in all, a wet and wonderful time.
That same afternoon, we took off on a jungle jeep safari, which turned out to be four hot and bouncy hours in the back of an open jeep. We were rewarded with many bird sightings, including a stork, multiple kingfishers including the white throated Kingfisher, the Paradise Flycatcher, the Eastern Imperial Eagle, the Rollerbird, the Bee-eater, the Bulbul, the Cormorant along with herons and cranes in their gorgeous natural habitat. We heard the calls of cuckoos and parakeets and spotted some woodpeckers.
We also enjoyed the company of a Dutch couple and also Cary (an American ex-pat who is now in NZ). We hung out with him for most of our short stay and enjoyed his company. He was awaiting his wife to come in and they were both off to a rather lengthy trek up in the mountains.
Never a dull moment at the Sanctuary. The next morning, we found ourselves up and at it early for a leisurely canoe ride, followed by a visit to an elephant breeding area, followed by a jungle hike. The elephant breeding area included a darling little one that stole the show. There were also twins. The jungle hike allowed us yet another rhino sighting, so now we’re up to three on this trip. They seem to just sit all the time in the water and eat…sounds like a good deal.
We are tired, yet happy travelers lucky enough to see many different things in a special habitat. And we are just getting started here in Nepal…..
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