A Fantastic 5 days!
Trip Start Jan 28, 2007
29Trip End Mar 31, 2007
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Our all inclusive package had specified tourist bus tickets but this generally means better class of bus (one with a little suspension and hopefully tread on the tyres and less than fall apart at the seams rattles)- They also have minimal stops which is a major consideration in the countries that work on the timetable of move only when there is 20 people more than actually fit in the bus...hee hee.
No other passengers had yet arrived and as we approached the bus the bus jockey and driver rushed to meet us and advised yes yes this is the TBus to Chitwan and grabbed our bags, hoisting them straight onto the top of the bus. With a 6 hours bus trip in front of us we were still hoping (praying) that the "real" tourist bus would roll in.
We told them to get our bags off the roof and as we stood with them we were surrounded by the driver, jockey and 2 of the local boys (who walk around the bus car park from about 5am with freshly backed cinnamon rolls to chatch everyone going to Chitwan and Kathmandu on the early buses. All trying to convince us to give them our bags and that "yes!!" - this was the correct bus. So to try and ensure that we really did have no choice but to get on this rattle trap I tried by saying "This is the tourist bus?" - "Yes" - "There is no other bus going to Chitwan?" - "No" - "So this tourist bus goes Pokhara to Chitwan no stopping?" - "Yes" - "So, no stop, stop stop?" - "No" So this is the tourist bus goes direct to Chitwan no stop?" -"Yes"- Ok so we surrender.
Little did we know... no that's probably not the case - the problem was we did know (or guess) - yep it was the right 'tourist bus' and the only one that goes each morning but our no stop bus then spent the next hour just travelling 5klms getting our of Pokhara! The bus travelled at 10 -20klms per hour max with the jockey hanging out the door touting for passengers wanting to go to any of the villages along the way.
It was after we picked up a whole bedroom suite (including the pillows) and then 5 mins later tried to squeeze a colour tv in the bus door which fortunately was an inch too wide that I commented to Rob that "I'm so glad we caught the 'Tourist Bus' and not the local bus! hahahaha - we laughed nearly all the way (at ourselves mostly - or was it slight hysteria??!!) - Cos this diary is really for our own memories I have to add that although we saw the humour as it was happening (and sort of enjoyed as it being so typical) it was also a horrible 7hours of bumps rattles and of course the blaring Indian music all the way (Indian driver..sigh) But also to be fair I must remind ourselves that the scenery and the countryside the whole way was lovely. Nepal really is a beautiful country even away from the mountains.
We finally arrived at Sahaura to be met by touts and staff from the local resorts and guesthouses. We had booked with Jungle Safari Lodge and thankfully they had a jeep waiting for us. We loved the place! Our room was great (and big) the staff so relaxed and friendly AND they had their own 2 elephants, kept right next door to our dining hall. We loved it so much we ended up extending our stay to 5 days and could easily have stayed longer.
..and when going down to the river that afternoon (where all the bars are set up_ we discovered we must have been the3 only 2 people in Chitwan to have missed them that morning. ha
Day 2 6am wake up call again and off to the elephant breeding centre. They were sooooo cute! and lots of babies, the youngest being 3 months old. It was an extra special experience because everything is so relaxed here. All these amazing elephants (about 20 I think) and there is just the guys pushing their feed around there - no official organising and watching the tourists.
We brought some 'elephant biscuits' and as there was a gap in the fence I was soon surrounded by 3 baby elephants all pushing and shoving each other for a bicy (and putting trunk slime all over my shoulder hahaha).
When Id walk away to try and get a gap they'd push after me... so good... They are just allowed to come thru the gap in the fence and took themselves back when the biscuit supply rang out.(It was so much fun to be able to interact and touch them as much as we wanted and felt so free compared to all the oz red tape you need to even scratch yourself these days)Definite highlight.
Rhino spotting time again.... Alas no success again - although we saw fresh foot prints and heard them close enough that we were all ordered to climb a tree (yeah right - Ive never had ANY arm strength at any time in my life) - so Rob was required to hoist my bum up the tree which took so long he would have been dead if the Rhinos had actually come our way...hee hee.
When we returned to the hotel the staff couldn't believe we still hadn't seen a rhino and the manager decided to make it his 'mission' hahaha
So the 5 of us set off for the 20,000 lakes for rhino spotting. This trip is usually for 2 hours but they stayed out 4 determined to find the rhinos as they often swim in a lot of the spots here. No Rhinos!!
The guide who took us "Ron Jan" told us we had to try a new plan of action - Everyone he said who comes to Chitwan desperate to see a tiger, only every sees a rhino - so he's theory - Because we want to see a tiger we were only seeing deers, monkeys and crocodiles.
So new plan for tomorrow "we don't care about the Rhino - we only want to see the tiger!"hehheehee - he reckons its a sure fire plan to see the rhino (...but we only want to see the tiger...shhhhhh)
We really weren't obsessed with the rhino business but the staff were determined and it had turned into a joke all around the hotel so we had to play along and they were all trying so hard we had to act like it was a big deal now due to their efforts for us.
Our day had already been make in the morning when we'd gone down to the river with 'Besenty" the 15 year old female elephant and her trainer. We spent 1/2 hours climbing all over her.
The trainer would call out commands to her and she'd roll over and throw us off into the water and then wait for us to climb on again only to then stand up (which was the biggest challenge for us - staying on her when she went from laying to standing position as shed go up on her 2 front legs first which would put us on a 80 degree angle until she brought her back legs up to stand)
Shed then spray water all over us with her trunk.
Her trainer would then give her a command and she would go from standing to a complete roll over onto her side - resulting with us being thrown backwards, front wards sideways depending on how ready we were for it..ha
Its amazing to watch all the elephants in the river.
That night after dinner, Ran Jan walked us thru the village and told us about the Tharu caste who have lived there for centuries - how they live and their distinct culture, housing and working of the farming community.
At 8pm we went to the small village hall for a Tharu cultural show performed by the local teenage boys. It only went for about 40 minutes but was really entertaining - the highlight was when the "peacock" came out (a reminder for me)
Day 4 - we loved the elephant bath so much we asked to go again.
Ran Jan had come down to the river with us and was patiently taking a zillion photos on our camera for us - nice boy - until he yelled out that he missed me climbing the elephant and to do it again..sigh... second time didn't improve and this time my 'belly flop' onto Besenty's head raised clapping yelling and whistles from everyone lining the banks on their deck chairs.... sooooo much fun!!!!
The result - unbelievable - even the staff were super impressed......... wait for it.....
SEVEN RHINOS - 6 adult and one 9month old baby rhino.
Besenty's trainer couldn't stop smiling and we were all dying to get back to the hotel to tell them, sure they'd think we were joking..hee hee
And.. the rhinos... we got so close. It was amazing riding on top of the elephant. We would spot them through the folige eating and the elephant would walk slowly up to them and they wouldn't even look up or pause, but keep munching as if the elephant was invisible, which I suppose in this the natural environment it is to the rhino.
We got so close it was fabulous. The Nepalese rhino is the type which have the 'armour' body which is fascinating. They dont look real- bit like a toy, but definitely beautiful animals.
Next morning - left Chitwan on a "real" tourist bus with partial suspension... sigh... so glad... hahaha.. 5 hours back to Kathmandu. Now in our last week in Nepal - time sure has flown.
Where I stayed
Jungle Safari Lodge