Royal Chitwan National Park "Expedition" • November 7-9, 2006

There are few things quite as fun as counting chickens before they're hatched. The idea of a "Rhino Spotting Expedition" to Nepal's Royal Chitwan National Park were the chickens wanting counting, and the hatching occurred when we actually did climb Kyajo Ri early, and managed to move our Lukla flights forward a couple days.

Matt Scott, Jean-Claude Latombe, Kathy and Mark decided to check out the jungle, having had enough of the freezing cold of the high Himalaya. Emery Dameron, who was also on our Kyajo Ri expedition, elected to stay in Kathmandu, to relax and hit the stores, all full of fantastic Christmas gift ideas. The four of us crazies asked Ang Karma Sherpa, our "Man in Nepal", if he could arrange a short, three-day trip to a jungly resort. Here are the pics.

Other Recent Trips

Normally it is about a 5 or 6 hour drive to Chitwan National Park from Kathmandu. However, our trip was a bit longer. Not far from the park, perhaps an hour, dreadful noises starting coming from the engine of our van, the oil pressure dropped and in the space of about 30 seconds the thing ground to a halt. (Photo on left, above). Careful analysis of the timbre and rhythm of the noise, and other key evidence, indicated that we had a bad main bearing, or some similar serious-sounding automotive nasty.

So, our intrepid driver got on his cell phone (everyone in Nepal has a cell phone, it seems) and, among other things I'm sure, rustled up another vehicle for us, this one coming from the park to meet us. A couple hours later, another gray van showed up, slightly smaller and slightly older, but at least with a functioning engine. We left the first driver there, in the middle of the road, wondering if we were to see him again. He assured us that he would have the engine "good as new" in no time and that we'd see him again at the pickup in the park for our return journey to Kathmandu. And indeed he did, and we did.

Not far down the road, in our slightly older and smaller van, thwap, thwap, thwap, thwap..... A flat. Quickly repaired with an unbelievably bald spare, we were on the move again shortly. With a brief stop in the next town to have the "real" tire fixed, we were at the Park in no time.

The photo on the left above shows the first van, Matt with arms crossed and Kathy on hips, and the driver on the phone across the street. The second photo is our second set of wheel, with the driver changing one.


The van dropped us off in a lovely field, big trees all around, at the edge of a rather large river. It was quite beautiful in the setting sun, but we remained a bit unsure of ourselves as there were absolutely no buildings anywhere in sight, and other than this sign, little, or no (much closer to no than little) indication that we were anywhere other than in the middle of nowhere. Two local fellows on bikes loitered nearby.

Eventually, we saw elephants with "saddles" on the far bank of the river, and it occurred to us that the name of the resort does indeed imply that it lies on an island. With new-found confidence we relaxed a bit, waiting for a boat, or maybe a helicopter, or perhaps a hastily built bridge.


It turned out to be a boat. We all boarded, including the bike riders and their bikes, and we cast off.


The setting sun as we cross the river. You can just make out the "Chitwan" sign a bit down and right of the sun.


We arrived just at dark, were given a brief orientation and ushered off to dinner. I took this photo of the river from only a few steps from our little cabana, just after sunset.


The following morning we had a look around. The resort is made up of perhaps 15 bungalow type buildings, each capable of housing about 4 clients in two rooms. They are a bit rustic and one needs to keep a weather eye out for giant centipedes and such like. There is no electricity, but the staff kept us well supplied with kerosene lanterns and mosquito coils.


The Programme Board kept it all running smoothly. The seldom-changing items appear on the right side of the board, and the "special events" on the left. As you can see, wake up call is early, very early. But if one wants a full day of walks, elephant rides, boating and tours of the local village, one needs to get a move on.


As I believe is the custom, our first scheduled event was a guided walk in the jungle. The four of us were joined by about six or seven other new arrivals and we dutifully tromped off into the brush after our guide. The walk mostly consisted of learning some of the local medicinal uses of various plants, (all of which I have forgotten) and trying not to be left behind. We did see, however, a fresh tiger track, seen here.


Our next activity was perhaps the local delicacy, the elephant ride.

"Your elephant is waiting, sir..."


Really, it is not a bad way to travel, especially if one is concerned about possible rhino, tiger, bear, boar or crocodile attacks.

Our driver kept to the trail with the aid of a big stick, which he would periodically use to give the poor beast a good whack on the head.


This, perhaps, gives a more accurate idea of the nature of the outing. Kathy took this picture, not intending to emphasize the rolly motion.


And at 2 in the afternoon, just after a big lunch, is the elephant bathing. The main objective is to have fun, rather than actually clean anything. You can see Kathy on the rightmost fellow. Matt also took the ride/swim. Mark and Jean-Claude elected to stay on shore, taking pictures.


Fun with elephants.


Elephant portraits, anyone?


After a brief rest, our next activity consisted of crossing t the mainland, and wandering in through the local village.

Our boat for the crossing arrives.


After crossing the river, and a short bus ride, we had a bit of a walk to the local village.


All of us felt a bit apprehensive about walking through the local town, viewing the natives in their "natural habitat". But, soon the infectiousness friendliness of the children and openness of the town-folk put us largely at ease. I suspect the resort must somehow compensate the village in exchange for their tolerance of the troops of foreign tourists traipsing through the town every day, cameras a' blazing.



Rice fields.


More cute kids.



Perhaps he is running for office?


While we had been wandering through town, our intrepid boatmen had poled and rowed upstream some mile or more, and were waiting for us on the bank. We all piled in and drifted gently downstream to the resort.


Heading back to our home for the night. This was, for me, the nicest part of the three days–the beautiful river and sky, the luxurious fragrant air, watching the shore drift by.




The first thing the following morning, we had another elephant ride. Here, they are tanking up in preparation.


Looking for crocodile tracks. Soon we left the shore and headed inland, crashing through brush in search of a rhino, which, rumor had it, was lurking in the area.


And "thar she blows". The rhinos are fairly tolerant of the tourist-laden elephants. But eventually they get tired of the game and wander off into the thick brush. I've never been quite sure why the rhinos like to wallow in the mud so much. Another question for Wikipedia.


After the final elephant ride, and a leisurely breakfast, it was time to head back to Kathmandu. Another pleasant trip across the river, and indeed our intrepid driver was waiting, repaired engine and all.

We had an uneventful trip back to Kathmandu.

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