Saturday, 28 February 2009


For the 1st time in such a long time I was up early for a reason! My sister and I were going to Chitwan National Park.

The journey to the Temple Tiger Jungle Resort was long and weary or I had completely lost my ability to travel in a bus. Travelling in the luxury of a Greenline bus passed me by and after 90 minutes we stopped for a short break. My fat arse needed a massage and my lungs were hungry for the sweet taste of tar only a cigarette can bring. I really am travel unfit!!
Back in the bus for another hour or so saw us arrive at the “change the bus location place”. A wait of 40 minutes was observed and then it was into a minibus for the drive out of the mountains and into the plains of the Teri and the town of Narayangarh. What stuck me most was how much like India it was. Noisy, dusty, wide roads with multiple travel directions all wrapped up in a bundle of confusion. From there it was an hours jeep ride, the jeep we had was in all fairness the biggest piece of vehicular shit I have ever been in. None of the doors would shut properly, the window couldn’t be wound down, there was more rust than metal and don’t even get me started on how bad the tracking and brakes were!!!
After an eternity of not breathing out we arrived at the river bank and glided across the wide Narayani River to be met on the other side by the welcoming resort staff. A quick slurp of juice and one tikka later it was onboard a really good jeep for the 4km ride through the jungle to the resort.

The resort is set on the bank of a small river with viewing platforms looking out across it. The accommodations are 20 or so good sized raised huts with a small terrace and reed thatching on top of the roof. A well screened dining room was next to a large open roundhouse complete with a good sized raised fire pit, great chairs and thankfully a well stocked bar with impressively cold beer. After dumping the bags in the room we went and stood on the viewing platform. To the left were elephants grazing on the tall and fresh grass and to the right was a rhino, a rare one horned Indian rhino at that, in the river grazing on the river grasses.

A little while later it was time to go on an elephant and ride off into the jungle in search of wildlife. Having never ridden on an elephant before it took a while to get used to its movements. Sitting on a small wooden platform (thankfully cushioned) behind the driver the diagonally rocking movement was somewhat unusual. Entering the Sal forest (Sal being the local name for the dominant tree species) we became quite and watchful. By now, the slow rhythmic footfalls of the elephant and my rocking motion had become one. After a few minutes we came across some spotted deer that startled by the elephant ran across the path and into the undergrowth. Then a couple of wild pigs were seen followed by the very rare and reclusive Chitwan jungle chicken!!! So, deer, pigs and chickens: I was kind of hoping for more!!!
Leaving the forest behind (which accounts for 70% of the park’s 950 square kilometres) we entered into an area of grassland.

Large swaths of the tall elephant grass had been burned deliberately to fertilize the soil and to keep the grass land free of trees. Shortly we came across a small group of rhinos, keeping quiet we slowly moved closer till we were only 30 foot away. The 5 rhinos stopped their grazing and looked up. Having a wild and free rhino look straight at you is an experience. Having 3 rhinos do it is something else. The camera clicked away and after a while the rhinos lost interest and went back to their foraging. We continued on as the sun slowly edged towards the horizon. Heading back to the lodge we came across another rhino feeding, it paid us no attention at all.

Back at temple Tiger, sitting by the fire (without a sound of a generator nearby), drinking a cold beer was a perfect way to end the day.

The following morning it was up early, coffee and a fag and then off for a dawn elephant ride. It was still quite dark when we came across a rhino and as I didn’t want to use the camera flash I choose to just watch it instead. Moving out into the grassland with the weak sun struggling to push back the mist we came across a few more rhinos, several deer but sadly no tigers.

Later on in the morning we went for a jeep ride. Apart from trees and the occasional monkey we didn’t see much at all. Arriving at the end of the ride at the river bank we waited whilst the boatmen punted the canoe upstream to meet us. Climbing in we set of down stream. On a nearby sandbar we saw several Gharials warming themselves with their long and narrow snouts raised off the ground. The pace of the river ebbed and flowed as the depth rose and fell whilst the water made its way to the Indian Ocean.

In the afternoon we went for a jungle walk, for protection we were all given a long wooden stick!!!


Oh…and some advice
Rhino charge: run away zig zag fashion???
Tiger: back away slowly???
Bear: play dead???

So, perfectly safe then!

Due to all of the fallen leaves littering the forest floor the noise we were making made us sound like a herd of overweight elephants. So only a few monkeys stayed around to check us out. The nearest I got to seeing a Tiger was a fresh paw print in the muddy bank of a small stream. You know what? That was enough for me!

Come the evening I was sitting by the fire with a glass of golden nectar in my hand…life was good

The next morning it was time to leave and go back to Pokhara.

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