Sunday, December 30, 2012

Chitwan, Nepal, part 3: The jungle by jeep, canoe, and elephant!

The jungle by jeep.

The dug out canoe that took us across the river into Chitwan.
Our driver managing the dirt roads in Chitwan National Park.
Monitor lizard.
Juvenile storks.
A menacing-looking crocodile regulating body temperature by keeping it's mouth open.
Boom! Rhino. He even smiled for the camera.
Gharial snouts.
The sun setting through elephant grass.

The jungle by elephant.

Our daily schedule posted on the board. It felt like we were at summer camp.
Out of the heavy fog, the giants came lumbering to pick us up.
First stop is a cool drink of water.

The two of us looking right at home on our elephant, Beauty.
The mahout climbing on board via the elephant's trunk.
It wasn't too long before we came across these two having breakfast.

Bree posing with the rhino.

Our elephant Beauty.

Bree gets a goodbye kiss.
After the elephants trudge through the jungle they are taken to the river for a bath. Tourists actually pay to join them.

The jungle by canoe.

We took a dug out canoe for an hour trip down the river.
Marshmugger or otherwise known as the flesheater, on the banks of the Buri Rapti.
We saw almost a dozen crocs. they just stared at us as we floated by. 

He doesn't think we see him.
After the canoe ride, we walked through more jungle. This is a termite mound, a favorite snack of the local sloth bear.

Water buffalo giving us the stink eye.
Crossing the bamboo and sandbag foot bridge.
Pony carts, which are taxi cabs for the locals.

Chitwan, Nepal, part 2: The jungle by foot

Our guide, Brama, armed only with a couple of sticks.
Walking in the jungle in the early morning with heavy fog gives it a fun, eerie feel.
Spotted deer through the morning mist. 
First rhino sighting. We were on foot. She was sleeping. So we decided not to disturb her.
I'm no arachnologist but I think this is a St. Andrews Cross.
Matt taking a close-up of our second rhino sighting.
Another sleepy rhino.

We set out into the misty early morning to go on our first jungle encounter (1/4 attempts to see rhinos, crocodiles, elephants, sloth bears and the elusive jungle cats). We got a brief lesson on surviving a rhino charge (hide, preferably behind a big tree - I guess our guide didn't trust our zigzag running skills). It was nice to meander through the forest paths with someone who had grown up on the edge of the park, but also had some good naturalist knowledge as well. It felt counter-intuitive to slink (almost) silently through the jungle, so we could startle and upset wild animals. I also am amazed at how naturalists can walk in the jungle looking for animals while not tripping on roots, it's kind of either or for me (although by day two I had improved and was feeling kind of Jane Godall-ey).

We lucked out and had two rhino spottings that morning, plus crocs, rhesus monkeys, barking deer, spotted deer, sambar deer and lots of birds. Both rhinos where sleeping when we found them (or maybe it was one, sleeping in two spots?) the rhinos are not bothered by the people on elephants, but don't like people on foot. One of them stood up with enough intention to make our guide have us jump up behind some trees. Once she was satisfied we were put on notice, she settled into breakfast.

We had tried to avoid the whole package tour thing, but the hotels here are so programmed for it that they get a little punchy otherwise. We managed to negotiate a reduced schedule (for a reduced rate) and in the end are happy that we have someone telling us when to get on the bus and into the jungle. Along with the walk we explored the park by jeep, elephant and canoe. (And, spoiler alert! saw rhinos each time)

- Bree

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Chitwan/Sauraha, Nepal, part 1

We were fortunate enough to catch the elephant soccer game.
The yellow team's goaltender looks down field at the action.

Like any good soccer game, there was a streaker.
The crowds watching the game.

The game ends and the crowds congratulate the winning team. Of elephants.
The erector set-esque, hand-rotated rides seemed to be thoroughly enjoyed by the children.

Tharu men perform a traditional dance.
Tharu women perform one of their dances.
We took the bus from Pokhara to Chitwan with a family we met at the hotel. Their 3 year old son Lincoln had a tough time, what with a bit of food poisoning. But he stuck it out and was very good about it. We only had to stop once on the way.

We checked into our hotel in Chitwan (the town is actually Sauraha, Chitwan is the national park). And after a quick lunch headed out to see the elephant soccer game. It was pretty incredible. The elephants were surprisingly nimble and good at the game. The white team won, 3-1. No red or yellow cards were thrown. The game was part of the larger International Elephant Races held every year here in Sauraha.

In the evening we attended the Tharu culture program. It was a packed house, with the mostly young crowd going nuts, like it was a Justin Beiber concert. The traditional dances were really cool, with a mixture of singing, music and some dances that bordered on martial arts.

- Matt