Chitwan, page 2 of 3
Our second day in Chitwan we took it easy again, which is not normal since you have to do at least two excursions a day while you're in Chitwan! In the afternoon at last we booked our elephant-ride you cant go to Chitwan without doing the elephant-ride. The ride started at four o'clock. At half past three it started to rain terribly. Bad luck, this was only the second time we had rain! We hoped the ride would be canceled, but no, a bit of rain couldnt be a problem! Luckily it didnt rain so much any more, but sitting with four people on an elephant, covered in a very thin very yellow raincoat and trying to change your lens without getting it wet and without dropping it on the ground proved almost impossible.
You wouldnt believe how strange an elephant moves when he walks. But for the lack of speed you could think to be trying some kind of attraction in a pleasure fair! Of course we had our horse riding experience in Mexico and that was very bad, but I doubt if I would have survived three hours on this elephant. Fortunately it lasted only one hour and we saw so many animals that I forgot completely about all inconveniences.
Animals dont seem to notice elephants; they behave as if they arent there. And luckily they ignore also the screaming tourists on the back of the elephants: "Look look, a deer, and there is another, look, look, a rhino and here is a pair of them arent they cute, they are making love!" Here you see some pictures I managed to take, but due to the weather there was almost no light so I had to change my lens back again, couldnt use the tele, terrible, and I always seemed to be on the wrong side of the elephant (nice expression: 'To be on the wrong side of the elephant', never heard before?).
Back on the ground again we went looking for the guide who offered us his services this afternoon, when we visited the booking office. He walked up with us and explained the possibilities, but we had by then so many bad experiences with people walking up with us and offering services that we were quite rude to him. We were a bit sorry now, on second thought he seemed quite reliable and we wanted to book a jungle tour with him. The elephant ride was interesting, but short (luckily!), and we wanted to walk by ourselves in the jungle. It didn't took us too much time to find him and he explained us we could take a half a day tour, only to the jungle, but also a whole day tour, so that we could visit both the jungle and some interesting villages in the neighborhood. I liked the idea of the villages, but a whole day was too much for us, so we asked for a tour of four, maximum five hours.
Our guide warned us to wear dark-green or brown clothes, no light colors and absolutely no red because the rhinos seem to like this color very much I didn't have any darker t-shirts, so I bought an original Chitwan Park shirt in the shop of the hotel. I wore it already that evening and noticed that it didnt only work against rhino's, but also against mosquitoes! My white T-shirt attracted an enormous amount of mosquitoes when I was sitting reading outside under the lamp; my new green T-shirt was absolutely not interesting to them!
Completely prepared we went walking the next day, accompanied by our guide and even a second guide! This was a bit much protection for only the two of us, but it seemed to be Government Regulations. In fact the government seemed to care much more about our safety while we were visiting the reserve than while we were traveling in a speeding bus Our head guide, Raj Gurung, a real Gurkha, explained the day before that as soon as we left, we would be a family caring for each other. It took a while, but towards the end of our tour we more and more reconciled, as you will see on the last picture of this page!
The weather was good, some clouds but no rain. We walked through woods carefully looking left and right, but the only animals we saw were butterflies! Now and then we met other people, also accompanied by guides and also carefully looking left and right. We paused on a crossing of many sand-paths, a kind of information exchange point for the guides. Nobody had seen many animals till now, but we got some tips to find monkeys, not very far away. With renewed courage we went on. We tried to make as little noise as possible, but this was very difficult with all those dry branches laying everywhere (of course you need a lot of training before you can sneak around without being heard, I learned that from reading many Karl May's). Indeed we found the monkeys, a mother with two baby monkeys, but they were very shy and we didnt get a good look at them (in fact we saw much more monkeys from much closer by in Amber Fort, Jaipur...). So we went on. The guides showed us all kind of footprints of deer, cows and rhinos. Now and then one of the guides would freeze, supposedly checking if he could hear a rhino walking through the high grass. But no luck.
Anyway our guide Raj Gurung taught us a lot about the jungle. He let us experience it not only through the eyes, but also through the nose: smell herbs, through the mouth: eat special anti cold herbs (my cold disappeared immediately to be honest), through the fingers: touch dont touch me plants that close when you do touch them. This way all your organs of sense get involved, quite different than only looking. In some countries I saw many beautiful things, but didn't experience them, which gave me the feeling that I was not really there, only watching post-cards or something like that. This feeling can last for weeks. Anyway you don't have to worry in India and Nepal about full experiencing, all the noise and the dirt and the dust convinces your body soon enough that you're really there!
The guides told us that we would go to a small lake, Nandan Tal, where we could eat our lunch and possibly could see a rhino. On the way to the lake the guides showed us a lot of footprints, now especially from rhinos and of a tiger! No tiger to be seen of course, but when you are on foot it is quite exciting enough to see the footprints of a tiger, no need for the real animal!
When we arrived at Nandan Tal it wasnt necessary to freeze and listen, from far away we could hear screams and splashes, obviously not of a rhino but of human beings! Some small boys enjoyed themselves in the lake. And - only a bit quieter - a lot of nearby villagers were busy washing their clothes in the lake. So no rhino to be seen. After a while they went away - encouraged by our guides, who were upset because the villagers werent allowed to be there, surely an everyday problem between guides and villagers.
We sat next to the lake to eat a bit and after only a quarter of an hour I saw some movement on the other side of the lake and an enormous rhino appeared! Our Gurkha guide explained us quietly that we had to be very careful, because this was an extremely dangerous exemplar. They had a lot of respect for it! I asked how they knew he was dangerous and they explained you can recognize an aggressive male by the damaged ears and horn (always nice to know). Furthermore the rhino was very big, much bigger than the animals we saw yesterday. By now the rhino was completely immersed in the lake, which looked suddenly much smaller. The guides threw some branches in his direction to make him stand up so we could see him better, but this was no use, dangerous aggressive or not, now he was taking his bath and he didnt intent to move for the next hour!