Indian Unicorn Hunting
Trip Start Sep 15, 2008
122Trip End Jan 01, 2009
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
The bus station for Chitwan Park is a dusty lot in the middle of nowhere. Only a few buses arrive each day, but there is always an army of taxi and hotel touts ready to pounce. In fact, this was one of the most aggressive hotel tout scenes we'd seen. As the pros we are (ha!) we managed to break away and find a taxi willing to take us to our hotel of choice. One poor Chinese man had about 7 touts all yelling at him at the same time. He genuinely wanted to hear about each hotel but they would all yell at the same time so he'd spend 3 seconds listening to each person, which made it look like he was watching ping-pong as his attention bounced from one tout to the next.
The town beside the park is very small (2 blocks of "downtown") and very relaxed
At 7am the next morning we walked over to the elephant parking lot, climbed up the mounting platform and jumped on our ride. Then it was off into the jungle. As you can imagine, riding on an elephant is pretty rough, but the scenery, wildlife and experience was worth it. We saw dozens of samba and barking deer, a peacock, two mongooses, and luckily the one horned Rhino, well actually two Rhinos. After 2 hours of bouncing around we were almost as excited to get off the elephant as we were to get on the elephant that morning. We bought a few dozen bananas to feed our elephant and said goodbye.
After a lazy day in town we walked 5km to visit the elephant breeding centre, where 20+ elephants are involved in increasing the trained elephant population in Chitwan. Most of the elephants were eating or giving themselves dust baths. One of the youngsters, a one year old, would walk outside of it's pen right up to you to check you for treats
Back in town Arik decided to try out the local barber shop. Ever since Morocco there have been hundreds of barber shops / stands in India and Nepal giving shaves and haircuts. Some times it's just a guy with a mirror tied to a tree, a stool, a bucket of water, and a straight razor. The price of a straight shave was always very cheap. In Morocco it was $1.50. In India it was between 50cents and a $1.15. Here in the jungle it was 60cents. The barber used a new blade, perhaps saving the need for a tetanus shot, but that's not to say the operation was all that sterile... in any case, Arik survived and his face was nice and smooth (which doesn't happen often on this trip).
In the morning we had breakfast at the river in our bathing suits. Starting around 9am everyday the elephants get a river bath. For $1 you can join in, riding them into the water and splashing around with them. The elephant would buck you off, let you jump off of its head, shoot water out its trunk, and just roll around in the water with you. Chitwan wasn't what we had expected to experience in Nepal, in fact we had never really heard about it until we bought a Lonely Planet in Kathmandu. The elephants, the rhinos, and the relaxing little town made it a great experience
We packed our bags and walked over to the bus ticket office only to find out there is another strike between Chitwan and Darjeeling. Our best bet was to head south into India and then train around the eastern corner of Nepal and up into Darjeeling, as the strike could last several days to a week, yessesh!
So we had another day to relax, which we don't mind. The hotel is cheap, we found a restaurant we really like, the temperature is perfect, we have lots to read, and we're in the company of 200 elephants.