My butt hurts...

Trip Start Feb 06, 2005
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Trip End Jul 2005


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Sunday, May 8, 2005

After leaving our passports with an agent in Kathmandu, we headed off to Chitwan national park, to fill in time while Chinese and Indian visas were sorted out for us (there should be ominous music here... the words organised and Nepal really don't occur in the same context very often).
We had learnt our lesson, and paid the extra 50 rupees (that's only one Aussie dollar... but it's heaps around here and you can lose perspective) for the tourist bus. The extra cash basically means no stopping except for food, only one passenger per seat and seats that are big enough for decadent western arses. It was lucky that we appreciated it because this was last time our butts were comfortable for a while.
Sauraha is the dustbowl town built for tourists on the banks of the Rapti river, which skirts the north of Chitwan, a sub-tropical jungle full of leopards, tigers, rhinos, peacocks, elephants, deer, boar and on and on and on. It was here that we arrived in the middle of the afternoon in the sweltering heat, and struggled to keep our cool while we negotiated hard with a hotel owner for a good package deal. When you get a nice room on the river for $3 you know they're getting desperate.
The first day we started off early with a canoe ride down the crocodile-lined river, followed by a very hot walk back through the jungle. The likelihood of our seeing anything was remote, but our guides made a good show of it anyway: "oh, you just missed a ... (crocodile, rhino, sloths, mongoose, etc)", or "there's a tiger in the grass about 10 metres away". The latter was possible, but the chances of our checking their story through the 2 metre high elephant grass was remote. It's here that you really have to ask the question... why do so many people pay so much money to get up close and personal with dangerous wild animals?
Our afternoon consisted of a bum-bouncing ride in an old Russian jeep through the jungle. We managed to see deer, monkeys, rhinos and hundreds of amazing birds... from the rear, as they ran away from the bloody noisy monster we were in. The stop-off at the crocodile breeding centre was good though. I especially liked the way there was such strong fencing betwen us and the crocs.
The butt-jolting didn't end the next day as we went for an elephant ride. This was very cool because our elephant was easily more than a metre higher than the other elephants, but it did mean that we got chest level with the great Nepalese power-line network (some of which aren't just bare wires anymore!). An elephant moves very quietly (though the Russian jeep moved quietly compared with Joe and me on our walk), and we surprised quite a few rhinos. Being within a metre or two of something as big and angry as a rhino is fun, especially when it's piss scared of the elephant you're riding. Our elephant had a trick.. at a command it would pick up a rock and throw it a few metres. The elephant guide thought it was great fun to do it at rhinos. For a happy people, the Nepalis have a surprisingly sadistic streak towards animals.
THe afternoon wasn't any kinder to our rear-ends. We rode bikes to the nearby elephant breeding centre, just in time to see the elephants coming back from work. We played with the baby elephants (definitely the highlight) before heading back to enjoy beers by the river for the last time.
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