Sunday, 26 December 2010

Have you ever come face to face with a wild Rhino? No, me neither, but I got very close to some

Merry Christmas everyone from Nepal. Before we get into what I got up to, mainly drinking, I will update you on my adventures within the Chitwan National Park.

It was started with a fortunate meeting with a friend I met whilst trekking at the bus station. She was headed to the park as well so I now had some company and also someone to share a room with, keep down my costs! Before you jump to any conclusions we have a purely platonic relationship but just happened to get on very well together, so sharing a room was no big deal; and don't think she was too fussed at me walking around in my boxers!

So we got to Chitwan early afternoon and found a nice cheap hotel to stay in. The main town where we were situated was based on the banks on the Rapti river and you could just sit on the numerous deckchairs, have a drink and look out over the jungle which was on the other side of the river. The bonus was that Chitwan is also 4 hours furhter south than where I have been staying, so it was really warm in the daytime ie. short weather.
After a quick drink we went to get prices for our jungle tour. We decided to go for a 2 day walking tour, staying over at a small riverside village in another part of the park, and this also included a 45 minute canoe ride and a 1hr 30min elephant ride upon our return. The price for all of this was 4,000 rupees, about 35 quid - sweet!

Early the next morning we set off on our tour. There was just myself, Francoise and our 2 guides - 1 for the front and 1 for the back as we were walking through the jungle so in theory anything could sneak up on us. Our guides were Sesir - a bit of a legend who 15 yrs earlier was attacked by a rhino which left him with the side of his body hanging open and a 3 month hospital stay, and Ram, the best tree climber I have ever seen. He could climb up any tree, no branches required, to look out over the jungle for any animals that were close by.
The tour started with the canoe ride, which was excellent apart from the fact that the mist was so dense you could only see about 5 metres in front of you. Still there were birds flying all around us as we made our way downriver to the walk start point. The canoes were fashioned out of a particular tree and were very low down, close to the water level. Excellent, when you have just been informed that there are crocodiles here, both freshwater and saltwater (the more aggressive maneating type).

After we disembarked from the canoe the first thing that was pointed out were fresh tiger prints! I thought this was a little too conveninent and had images of little kids being employed to walk around with tiger print plaster cast shoes on - but who knows?
So this was a jungle walking tour - and that literally meant walking through the jungle. It wasn't long before we were deep in the undergrowth, having to fight our way through trees and elephant grass - proper adventure stylee. It was great.
At about 10am there was some rustling in the nearby grass and we all had to climb the nearest tree to get our first sight of a wild Rhino. We had to climb the tree 1) for safety 2) because elephant grass is about 8 feet tall.
It wasn't the clearest view of the rhino but all said and done, we saw it.
The rest of the day was spent walking around, looking for signs of animals and listening to the sounds of the jungle to try and spot the wildlife.
Throughout the day we saw monkeys, 2 rhinos, deer, including the barking deer, so named because it actually barks like a dog - wierd, termite mounds, some 6 foot tall, and some that had been smashed up by the sloth bears (I didnt get to see one but did see ity prints and its vomit - which looked like a berry omlette, crocodiles whilst we had lunch by the river, wild boar and lots of different birds.

Kimbo Matts, just for you, some of the birds I saw were peacocks, ruddy shelduck, swallows, geese, wagtails, slender billed oriele, woodpecker and eagles. I can't remember anymore than that.

In the evening we had to cross the river again and stay at a little village on the edge of the jungle. Nothing much to say about this except that we met a father and son from Canada. There was something that unnerved me about the father as he was very softly spoken, but at the same time what came out of his mouth was very opinionated and harsh at times. Odd combination.
Still, we had a good chat and the best bit came when I asked him what he did for a living. He said he was a retired scientist who specialised in latex. Turns out he was Canada's no 1 specialist in the production of condoms! He then told me all about the excellent Durex factory in London. One word - surreal.
Because of his mild manner but at same time harsh comments which I found perplexing and as I have said unnerving, I referred to him as the 'Condom Killer' for the rest of trip because I could imagine him committing some horrible crimes whilst softly speaking to his victim.

Anyway, next day we were back in the jungle and saw pretty much all of the same animals again. We saw another Rhino, but a close encounter and good photo opportunity was still elluding us. The most eventful thing was Francoise climbing a tree and getting stuck. It took 15 mins to get her down, in which time I lost interest and practiced my own tree climbing, Nepalese style - which is quite an art and I was rubbish at it. I need to put in some proper practice time.
All in all, it was a really good 2 days and going off road into the actual jungle knowing that there were real animals that could do you some serious harm close by was quite exhilarating.
We also covered approximately 50km in 2 days which shouldn't have been an issue after my trek, but the heat made it hard work.

We got back to the main town just in time for sunset and chilled out with a nice meal, some beer and a game of cards.

Next morning we headed off for our elephant ride. Each elephant carried 4 people, so there was me, Francoise and 2 fat-ass Yanks, Ken and Brenda. To be fair to them they were tolerable Yanks who were here to visit their newly acquired Nepalese son-in-law's family. Still, they did come out with some typical American tripe. For example:
1) when the elephant was weaving around the grass and trees he shouted out to his daughter on another elephant - "Hey Krystal, what we need to do is get the Caterpillar and drive straight through, none of all of this weaving in and out!"
2) when talking about his son-in-law - "obviously there are many cultural differences that I SUPPOSE we will need to work through, I mean this country isn't civilised"

After each ludicrous comment I just looked at Francoise, rolled my eyes and tried not to let Ken know that he was really funny, for all of the wrong reasons.
But saying that, he was a good guy and I did like him - honest! I am aware that I am sounding like a real bitch with the condom killer and Ken, but that is only 2 people out of many great people that I have met that I felt I needed to tell you about.

Back to the elephant ride and all of sudden a call went up that a Rhino has been spotted.  The elephant drivers went into action and soon enough there was an adult male Rhino and calf right beneath us. It was amazing to see them that close. The only thing I wasn't too keen on was the fact that 6 elephants virtually circled the poor things so all of us tourists could get a view and our photos. The calf was clearly scared and at one point it looked like the adult was getting ready to charge at an elephant, they all sensed this and so I had to deal with an elephant trumpeting it's trunk right near my earhole - it was loud!
Eventually, the rhinos found an exit route and all was well again. It was brilliant though.
The rest of the day was spent on a bike ride to 20,000 lakes - not sure why it is called that as there are only a few lakes and it wasn't that impressive. I am probably being negative because the seat of the bike was absolutely killing my arse and there and back was 40kms!

Our last evening in the jungle was spent eating good food and then watching 4 Nepali's butcher a wild boar that they had caught. Fortunately it had already been bled but I watched them decapitate it and then empty the contents of the body. The intestines were huge. It was really interesting and if I eat meat I think it is healthy to watch it being prepared for that purpose.

Next day myself and Francoise returned to Pokhara which is where I would be spending xmas. As I walking up the high street I ran into the 4 Oz girls I had met trekking (twins!) and had a drink with them. It was agreed there and then that I was to spend my Xmas Day with them.
Xmas Eve was spent firstly with Rachel, a girl I met in India and who is travelling virtually the same route as me and at the same time), then moved onto another bar to meet Francoise and Andy (a bird watcher from Notts who I also met trekking), to then be joined later by the Oz girls. It was a good, fairly drunken night.

Xmas day was spent as planned with the Aussies. We went to the 'Boomerang' restaurant (well I was with the Aussies) for Xmas dinner. It was lovely, sat by the lake in my shorts eating roast duck.
The girls also got me some presents which was quite embarrassing but really thoughtful. I got some wicked socks, good for the cold nights here and a really nice scarf. The rest of xmas day was spent drinking lots and lots of booze. In the evening we moved onto a really good bar here which has a live band and we danced the night away with lots of shots. It is fair to say that by the end of the night we were all plastered and this was proven by the girls falling over on the dance floor whilst hugging each other.
I have now also made some real friends for life. I will be meeting them again for NYE in Kathamndu (I imagine that will get messy too) and when I get to Oz I will definitely be spending some time living and hanging around with them in Sydney and Melbourne.

So that was Xmas - all in all a brilliant day and a great way to spend my first (and not last) Xmas overseas.

I think I am going to hang around here for a few more days. The Aussie girls have gone to Chitwan, Francoise is on her way back home to Canada, but Rachel is still here. Also there is a 3 day street festival starting here in 2 days so I want to experience that before moving onto Kathmandu for New Yr.
I am also considering going paragliding, which is on offer here. I have been told it is a great experience and the views of the mountains are fantastic. I wouldn't mind going trekking again but I am not sure.
We shall see.

Right I am off to get some food and get ready to watch Spurs tonight, ko time here of 11:15pm. I purposely got a room with a tv for the Boxing Day games. A decent hotel with nice shower and tv for $2.80 per night! Lovely jubilee!

No comments:

Post a Comment