Chitwan National Park

We had a memorable drive to Chitwan National Park. Memorable by the beautiful landscape, but perhaps more so by the traffic jam. The day before, a villager of Mugling had been hit and killed by a bus (There is only one east-west highway in this part of Nepal.) and the villagers used a technique they had learned from Maoist rebels, i.e., to take the highway in blackmail. Can't say as we blame them too much. We awaited a decision for four hours before our driver heroically got us past the now-starting traffic and on the road to Chitwan.

Traffic blockageTraffic blockage
Traffic blocked on the bridge at MuglingHard to see, but there are cars parked
all the way on the left
Traffic blockageTraffic blockage
On the bridgeWhew! Later, beautiful scenery

We stayed at the Island Jungle Resort, which is quite nice, though a tad primitive for us. The room/hut was fine, but electricity was only available in the evening from about 18:30 to 21:30. For light, they provided us with a lit Coleman lantern, which was more aromatic than bright. The food in the central dining hall was quite good, better than we expected. We found the restaurant's opening hours to be too strict, though. They had a very good program, which included some stick dancers in the evening from the local Tharu villages. And they did try to find a rhino for us to see. Unfortunately, we saw no rhinoceroses or tigers, only two woodpeckers and (maybe) a monkey. But we got to know an elephant named Saraswati quite intimately, especially John.

Island Jungle ResortIsland Jungle Resort
Our lodging (on the left)The Narayani River flowed in front of the hut
Island Jungle ResortDancers
The only rhino we sawTharu stick dancers

About dawn (06:00), John went on an organized nature walk, which was interesting and good exercize. The only animals he saw, though, were some spotted deer on shore of the river right across from the resort!

Nature walkNature walk
The jungle at 06:16Walking through reeds
Nature walkNature walk
A tiger's footprint, we were toldSpotted deer

Because of the traffic jam at Mugling, we had arrivedfour hours late, so we missed our scheduled afternoon elephant ride, the participants of which saw three rhinos. So we had our own ride the next morning, for just the two of us, which meant we were less crowded than with the usual group of four (plus mahout). Our elephant was named Saraswati.

Saraswati All aboard
Here's how a tourist gets on an elephant
We're off We're off
Saraswati takes us for a jungle ride

Riding on an elephant is ... interesting and somewhat athletic. You're stuck on this platform on his back, with a rail in between your legs. As it walks, the elephant combines a forward-backward rock with a double left-right lean, so the result is a slow figure-eight-shaped roll which gives your spine a real workout. If you get a leg cramp, as John did, there's no way to straighten it out to alleviate the pain. Still, it was a thrill.

Alas, no rhinos were to be seen. In the afternoon, the manager wanted to give us another elephant ride in order to try again to see a rhino. But we were so stiff and sore from the morning's outing that we declined the offer. Instead, John and Saraswati went for a swim.

Getting on He's on her
Crawling on Hang on
Water Getting off
An elephant shower Graceful, he's not
Crawling aboard He's on
More grace He's on
Under he goes Wet
Oops! Wet but contented

That afternoon, there was a scheduled walk upstream with a boat ride back. We don't know if they offered it as a booby prize or because of their -- erroneous -- perception of our ancientness, but we got to ride up in the boat. Going against the stream, the boatmen would probably have preferred an empty boat. Fortunately, we're both lightweights!

Boat tripBoat trip
A boat ride up the river and backThe jungle along the Narayani River
SunsetIsland Jungle Resort
Sunset on the NarayaniIsland Jungle Resort on the river
Tharu houseTharu house
Tharu houses

The next morning early, we were driven on the "road" (really, a collection of pot-holes) back to Baratpur to catch our airplane to Kathmandu. We noted again the houses of the Tharus. They consist of bamboo and clay walls with thatched roofs most of the time and many are quite pretty. We were told that the Tharus were thought to have originally come to Nepal from Rajasthan sometime on the nineteeth century.

Arriving at the surprisingly small and simple Kathmandu domestic airport, we settled in in the northeastern suburub of Bodhnath, a center for immigrant Tibetan Buddhists.

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