3/13 Namaste everyone! Just returned from Chitwan park and an incredible 2 days of safaris and adventures. It started with a bumpy open jeep ride into the jungle to the Eden resort, very Indiana Jones. The resort was beautiful, very open, lots of gardens and clean and great food, one of the best dal baats I’ve had in Nepal (still hasn’t been my home stay though). The first day after a short rest and afternoon tea, we took a jeep to the Tharu village, the Tharu are the indigenous people of Chitwan who build their houses using dung and reeds. After a tour of the village they took us to the Elephant breeding center where we were introduced to the only set of elephant twins in Nepal and one of only three sets of twins in the world, and rows and rows of elephants, disappointingly chained to a pole with a very short chain. The twins who were chained close to their mother could not reach her at the same time so only one could get to her at a time. After the elephant center we were treated to a Tharu cultural show with different tribal dances involving fire, sticks, and a host with a very funny “engrish” accent.
The next morning we woke up at 6:30 am for breakfast and then headed out for the elephant safari. We were split into two groups on two elephants and sat on a large padded basket on the elephants back. The driver sat around its neck and slapped its head with a stick to control it. We followed a large pack of other elephants before splitting of on our own. The first animal we saw was a hyena caught far out in the bush by Brendan but nobody else caught it. We eventually split off on our own and saw more monkeys jumping through branches above us. Eventually we were called by other guides about a rhino sighting and turned around to come into a clearing where a mother rhino and her baby were surrounded by a set of elephants. The guides wanted to get the rhino and the baby separated for pictures so they had the elephants knock down trees and scared both of them into different directions. As excited as I was we were upset about the way that they were forcing the rhinos into running and scaring them, and our driver understood so he eventually pulled away.
As we left the rhino area we spotted lots of deer families out in the bush and walked out into the river where we saw crocodiles sunbathing out on the bank and just enjoyed a nice slow jungle walk all the way back to the starting point.When we got back we were supposed to go straight to the elephant bathing time, but due to a man who had fallen off because of “elephant surfing” (you imagine what he tried to do) they were in danger of closing out the bathing time to the public. Our guide, knowing we really wanted to do it, led us to a secret elephant bath where they were bathing one elephant, coincidentally the one that we had been riding and we got to get on its back while it washed. We got into the river and climbed on top and it lifted us up (bareback this time) The elephant has an extremely tough and leathery skin and lots of small furs, and they are extremely friendly. Several times the elephant would lift up it’s trunk and spray us with a big gush of water. After several drenches the elephant leans to one side or the other and tries to shake you off. I was able to hold on but eventually gave in when it leaned forward and I tumbled right off his trunk.
After the elephant bath we went back to the hotel to dry off (and remove several coatings of elephant snot) and after lunch we took off for our canoe trip. The “canoe” is basically a hollowed out tree trunk where the oarsman controls the boat with a large pole on the current. We saw lots of Siberian lovebirds who had migrated down, red and white birds resembling a duck. We saw gharials, a type of crocodile with a long thin snout, long rows of teeth, and a small hump around the tip of its nose.
We eventually parked the boat on the side of the river and got out for the jungle walk. The jungle walk consisted of us walking the full length of the river (about 2 1/2 hour walk). The first thing our guide does is scare the hell out of us with the various evasion techniques for each animal. If we saw a rhino charging, we climb a tree, if we see a tiger, look at it in the eyes and back away, and if we saw a bear….run like hell.
Realize the animals in this part of the jungle are completely wild and we had no guarantee about our safety or what might happen. Our guide’s plan for defending us was tossing rocks at them. After an initial start to a very silent walk, we saw more monkeys flying above us, and then about 20 minutes in we heard a very loud rustling in the bush. We could make out a large gray mass in the bush about 15 feet in front of us and knew right away it was a rhino about to cross and we thought it had spotted us and was getting ready to charge. Right away the guide moved us into a road that it was about to cross and after anxious moments it moved slowly right across. We crouched down and our guide’s only words was “get ready to run.” This huge gray rhino stopped in the middle of us and stared us down for a good 10 seconds in which we were expecting it to charge. A mixture of fear, excitement, and adrenaline filling us. After deciding we weren’t a threat, it decided to finally move on.
After our rhino encounter we moved off the trail into thick bush and into high grass where we climbed onto a watch tower in a large clearing. We saw lots of deer prancing around in the high grass and sloth bear tracks in termite mounds. As we were walking back toward the forest, we heard a loud crash through the bushes and a large black and brown mass lept through the grasses. According to our guide a large sloth bear had just crossed less than 4 feet in front of us, but none of us except Emma saw it. A little excited and shaken, we made our way back into the jungle where we saw tiger claw marks on the trees and tiger prints in the sand. We came out of the walk just around sunset, and took a boat across the river. We ended the day across the river with a coke and snickers bars watching the sunset over the jungle.
The next morning we woke up extra early for a bird watching where we spotted eagles, hornbills, kingfishers, and parrots in the early morning jungle as well as more elephants who had become so common to us by now. They are as useful as a horse is to most other countries. After our bird watching, we packed up and left to home.
So that was the end of our jungle adventure, where I discovered my inner Steve Irwin, I would like to return and do the jeep safari where it takes you even deeper into the jungle.
Next up we are taking a trip to Lumbini, the historical birthplace of the Buddha and the place that is to Buddhists what St Peters is to Catholics. A place of contemplation and pilgrimage and hopefully an inspiring trip. That’s all my adventures up to now so I’ll keep everyone updated again soon. Namaste everyone! For other posts by Michael Restivo – NEPAL : MiamiRealEstateCafe.com