Chatting in Chitwan
On the 7th November, still knackered from rafting, we had an early start to catch our 7am bus to Chitwan National Park, 4 hours away. The bus itself was the best we've been on - we knew we were onto a winner when we realised we were the youngest on a bus full of retired tourists! On arrival in Chitwan we checked into the Hermitage Hotel, one of the nicest places we've stayed, with rooms surrounded by gardens, a swimming pool (which we readily jumped into and enjoyed) and with the river running at the foot of the resort (in which we saw a crocodile on arrival basking on the side of the opposite bank)! After doing our own washing in the bathroom as we couldn't afford the hotel prices, and transforming our room into a launderette (not one of the most fun activities we do whilst travelling, especially Sophie having to do Trevor's boxers), we went on a guided tour around a local Tharu village. The Tharu people live in mud and buffalo dung huts, and were busy going about their day-to-day lives and trying to get dinner cooked as we peered into their houses and took photos. Later as part of the 3 day package we had booked, we went and watched a Tharu cultural programme, which consisted of numerous strange traditional dances with lots of stick banging and shouting, much like Morris dancers on speed. The highlights were a man dressed in a giant papier-mâché peacock outfit, and a fire dancer. That evening, with all meals included, we stuffed ourselves on a disappointing buffet of the most random selection of curry, pasta, rice, potato, all sorts of vegetables, and fish bones, including the heads - Trevor went back for seconds.
On our second day in Chitwan we went on a canoe ride down the crocodile filled river, in the lowest sided boats ever, where we saw lots of basking crocodiles and kingfishers. We then headed into part of the jungle with our guide Shanti on foot. Exploring the area on the lookout for tigers, rhinos, elephants, sloth bears, leopards, crocodiles, monkeys, deer and wild boar, the only thing we came cross were termite mounds, dung, and a few footprints. Sophie did however ask the guide the best ways to escape each of the dangerous animals, just in case! We were also accompanied by a Chinese family with a very irritating young child making a lot of noise, who we agreed would be the first to be sacrificed in the case of any attack. We then went to the elephant breeding centre, although the sight of elephants chained up was slightly disturbing, though we were assured they were about to go out for their 5 hour grazing session they have each day. We returned to the hotel on the roof of the bus for fun (sorry parents), with the guide reminding us to duck ever time we went past low hanging, potentially decapitating, power cables...a pretty bumpy uncomfortable ride that we are not in a hurry to repeat (unless bus tickets are ever sold out of course).
That afternoon we went on a 4 hour jeep safari through jungle and forest in the hope of seeing more animals. Accompanied by some very loud local Nepalese tourists who probably scared off all the animals, we only managed to see some white spotted deer and wild boar. During the second half of the safari one of the very annoying Nepalese tourists threw his crisp packet out of the jeep onto the forest floor (in a National Park!!) which Sophie was extremely annoyed about but decided to let go. However, after he repeated the same action again with more plastic packaging she could bite her tongue no longer and spun round to tell him off, questioning his actions and calling him stupid...things went quiet for a while after that which was a bonus! On the way out of the forest we managed to see a one-horned rhino in the distance drinking by the river bank, although we could only really make it out through binoculars. The rest of the evening was spent eating as much as we could from the buffet - you have to make the most of all you can eat food when you can while travelling (or so Trevor says)!
On our final morning in Chitwan we went on the back of an elephant for an hour long safari through the forest - you often have a better chance of seeing animals this way as the natural noise doesn't scare animals off so easily. Indian voices do however....This was the second time we had to have a go at people, telling the people on the elephant behind to be quiet a number of times, to give us a chance of seeing anything! This time we managed to see some more white spotted deer, a monkey, a large eagle, and finally a one horned rhino up close. The rhino was sleeping next to a tree and you could hear it audibly snoring. Surrounded by 4 elephants of people watching it we hoped it wasn't about to wake up!! With just a small horn the rhino was only young but still a sizeable animal with skin that looked like metal armour.
After Trevor said goodbye to the hotel dog he had befriended in Chitwan later that morning, we left to begin what was to be an epic journey from Nepal to Southern India...