My journey from Bhaktapur was easy. I hired a local driver for the 20min ride to Sauraha for USD12 and picked out the royal park hotel for the coming days. I certainly earned my upgrade in accommodation. I got the room for USD27/night. It was magnificent. Large bathroom, nice large bed and balcony overlooking the green and well nursed gardens of the hotel. Around chitwan, all looked very indian (which indeed is only a stone throw away) and Hindu religion dominates in stark contrast to the Buddhist sherpa settlements in the khumbu valley.
Having a shower (i think i only had a handful proper ones in the 8 weeks i was in nepal now) was great. My selection of change clothing was limited though. While i carried my down jacket – utterly useless – i thankfully also had shorts and sandals. Freedom for my feet that had been trapped in heavy boots for weeks.
In the hotel i quickly booked up for the elephant safari next morning and jeep safari in the afternoon and headed out. Not far from the hotel on the riverbank is the chitwan bar & restaurant. Its run by a nepali guy for 13y now and his 6 month austrian girlfriend. I met two Catalan girls, who departed for Kathmandu next morning and a guy from seattle. Fun conversations over a beer watching the sunset about each others travel experiences ensued until a monsoon like heavy rain shower forced a relocation. We rescued ourselves temporarily under a small shelter on the beach before heading for dinner. after some sweet nepali wine, more discussions about life itself kept the discussion going. We were joined by kamal who runs Ever Wild Trek & Tours and my jungle walk guide to be. I was home before midnight, still tired and with a 6am breakfast to look forward to.
The elephant safari wasnt far away and outside the official national park. It looked promising initially. Mahood’s (7y trained elephant riders) were waiting for guests and i enjoyed a good coffee while waiting. Then came the shock. Once a three people jndian family and i were sitting on the back of the elephant, the mahood hit the poor animal frequently with an iron stick to make him obey. The elephant even started bleeding. Unacceptable and clearly not a recommended activity. I hear some European operators have already taken this offer off their programs. I salite that decision. Wildlife wise, it was a productive ride. Crocodiles, bambi / deer, two rhino’s, many birds and other elephants (with people riding them).
After 2,5hours i was back at the hotel and caught up with blogging and emails leaving me just enough time for a chicken curry lunch before joining the jeep safari. it was boiling hot as we took little ferry boats to cross the river and hop on the cars. We would see nothing bar jungle forest and a crocodile. Again, not an activity i would recommend. On the other hand, conversations with a danish and a columbian couple reduced my boredom substantially. Towards the end of the journey we all got a good rain shower. Heavens had opened, we had no roof until a cover was handed out. No animals, but some action at least. Besides, it is reasonably enjoyable to drive through the jungle.
Back in sauraha i booked my two day walking & canoe trip with kamal who was already waiting for me looking for business. Some USD200 was the price (so there were extras …). Since we would stay at a local village (madi) near the park, i check out of the hotel early. Then i headed back to the chitwan bar for some local riverfish (technically forbidden to be caught) and a bit of party and chatter with the locals and the austrian girl. Was fun. Not sure what her parents make out of this development … she had come here for few weeks holiday having quit her job to do so. Then her friends travelled home without her. Now she wants to get married to her nepali boy after 6 month or so. Partly visa related (hers has already expired as i write this). Her parents dont like it, but i guess love had its own mind.
Cruising down the river in not yet too hot morning weather was fun. We had kamal, another guide, the skipper and myself onboard. A bathing rhino and several crocodile spottings were the result. I was slightly disappointed that the trip, which i had booked for 3 hrs, only last a little longer than two hours. It seemed like a two hour trip was just stretched a little longer. Then we started walking and kicked off with another rhino we had seen from the boat when we landed. Some good shots. We continued trough the jungle seeing a lizard, birds, deer … but no bears or tigers.
Just before lunchtime heavens opened again and we got soaking wet. I also slipped off a footbridge and filled my boots with fresh river water. We rescued ourselfes to a nearby army post and had lunch. In the afternoon we took a long and boring road to get to a watch tower to spot tigers. We managed a deer in three hours waiting or more before we aborted and continued on the long road towards a larger street (well, dirt road).
The bus we stopped took us to the park entrance. The ride was ahort but fun. A bus full with people, decorated in typical style inside with loud Indian/nepali type music playing. From there we crossed the river and followed it to the village madi (30mins walk).
We arrived just before sunset. Nice house with more than 10 rooms and a roof terrace overlooking the river and its surrounding flatlands. There were a few people speaking english, we had some beer and the local rice wine (roxy) and the guides had some jungly weed to smoke. Good fun and great to get the feet up. Highlight were the freshly made potato fries – absolutely excellent.
We got up 5.30am to get to the tiger spot early. There we met a french couple that shared our tiger spot already the day before. We would wait six hours during which we saw a rhino & baby crossing the river, a slosh bear running the other direction, a wild boar family and some hunting birds. Just the tiger remained elusive.
We tried at a deserted tourist resort nearby (tiger tops) and saw more rhinos near/in a water hole. No tiger. Still, a stunning place though my guide violated any cient safety rules there is by going there. Rotten staircases and paltforms. I didnt mind. We beiefly returned to the former spot without luck until i called it quits. It was my son’s 7th birthday and i needed network coverage – back to the village for another, bigger night at rewa river view lodge. Great time.
Then it was time to leave. Back to kathmandu, see rory, jon and Tim and have a little party and some souvenir shopping. The last night i spent talking for a long to to Lyn from brisbane. Really good chat of two people that love hiking. The reggae bar for some great live music. Time in nepal for me was up … now i just need to get my luggage checked in (well over my allowance again!)