The Jungle Book

I was so excited to finally be heading to Chitwan as it meant I could tick off the top thing on my to do list for our trip – see an Elephant. I had pretty much been telling anyone who would listen (or even if they weren’t) how much I couldn’t wait to see one. After a pain free bus trip (yes they do happen!) we arrived in Chitwan and arranged our next few days activities, basically all focused on elephants. I didn’t have to wait long to see one because about two hours after we arrived our guest house had arranged a truck to the Elephant Breeding Centre nearby.

We thought we were just going for a quick drive down the road but we actually were given a tour of the local village so we could see how the Tharu people lived. Hard to imagine that people are living in huts made of bamboo and cow dung about ten minutes from our hotel with all the amenities. From there we had a canoe ride across the Rapti River that separates the national park from the rest of Chitwan. It was a bit precarious but we made it across and to the Elephant centre. I squealed when I saw my first elephant off in the distance and was annoyed when our guide led us through the museum first – didn’t he know I just wanted to see a baby elephant? Finally we got to wander the breeding centre and it was pretty exciting but also disappointing all at once. It was amazing to see these huge animals up close but so sad to see them chained up. The little baby elephants were gorgeous as they lay there sleeping so it was hard to stay upset about the chains.

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As we wandered back to our commuter canoe we were lucky enough to see the buffalo crossing that happens everyday in the afternoon. We sat and watched two herds of buffalo crossing the river as the sun was beginning to set. It was a gorgeous setting to watch the wildlife. On our way home we also spotted a working elephant wandering down the road. We decided to explore more of the town so we followed the elephant into downtown Chitwan where we found a Riverside bar to sit and watch the sunset over a few drinks. It was the first of many riverside drinks at sunset!

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The next day we had signed up for a whole day jungle trek so we were up bright and early with our safari suits (in my case long leggings and van sneakers) with our packed lunch ready to head off. To get to our starting point we had a dug out canoe ride. A dug out canoe is one made from a single tree. As there were about 10 of us in the boat you can imagine how big the tree would have been. This ride was even more precarious then the last but we did manage to see some crocodiles sunning themselves on the banks of the river. We jumped off the boat straight into some long grass where we had an introductory chat about our jungle trek. Our guide told us about all the different species of animals we may get to see and all about Rhino and bear safety. Apparently there have been attacks by both these species so we had to learn how to defend ourselves from them, as well as watch our for the 40 different types of snakes and many many insects. Thoroughly scared I was going to die in the middle of the Nepalise jungle we started to head off on our walk.

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About three minutes in I had cuts up my arms, picked off three leeches and had my feet soaked in mud. I was thinking it was going to be a long day but soon enough we were out of the grass, into the shaded jungle and spotting wildlife. It wasn’t too long before we spotted some monkeys high up in the trees and spotted deers – or as our guides called them ‘bambis’. It was a scorcher of a day and it wasn’t long before we were resting by a river bed hoping to spot some wildlife taking a drink while we rested on seats made of leaves. We weren’t lucky enough to spot anything but I was grateful for the sit down.

By about 10am we had been walking for hours and not seen anything so my enthusiasm was starting to wane. Thankfully we took shelter in an observatory tower, had some food and a nice long rest out of the sun. We still hadn’t seen anything super exciting so we continued on. A few hours later we came across another observatory tower, but this time instead of sheltering from the sun we sheltered from the rain that had just started. It cooled the place down so after a rest we were ready to head back into it. Thankfully the next part was along a smooth road in between jungle and grass which made the walk a lot easier. Or so we thought until we came across a washed away section. The guide and James attempted a massive leap over it – and made it except for some muddy feet, Mish and Hamish wandered through the water in their hiking boots, but I took the pansy way out and got a piggy back from the guide. It meant my feet didn’t get wet and I didn’t break a leg trying to jump it. We continued along the path until we had another washed away section. This time we had to cross using a makeshift  bridge out of concrete cylinders and bamboo sticks. Typical of my clumsy self I fell in feet first ending up with wet shoes and a muddy bum, making the piggy back pointless.

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As I squelched along in my wet shoes we were all chatting away when we had the sound of a rhino running. We had made the rookie mistake of startling it with out voices. Thankfully it didn’t run too far away and we got the chance to sneak up on it again and this time got to see it. It was amazing to be standing about 6 or 7 metres away from it, admittedly all I could see was its backside and ears as it stood behind a tree. It made the long hours in the sun and walking in the mud worth it. The rain had held off and it was onto the next view point – this time our observatory tower was a tree. Not as comfortable but at least we got to rest our legs! After our final rest we had an hour and a half walk back through the jungle and all I was thinking about was a hot shower and a sit down when our guides suddenly stopped us and told us to get down and be quiet.

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We weren’t sure why we had stopped but after a few quick hand gestures we were back on the trail and were a few short metres from a sloth bear. It saw us and had a bit of a stand off which was kind of scary because you werent sure if I was going to charge but thankfully the bear scampered off. Our guides chased it a bit further to try and capture a few photos for us but it was too quick. We were close to the end by this stage so we were pretty chuffed we saw two amazing creatures. What was even better was that after 10 hours of walking we were at the end. It was a great experience and I am glad we did it but by the end of the day I was wet, muddy and exhausted. I was looking forward to the next day when we would be doing it all again but on elephant back!

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