Happy Easter everybody – I hope you’ve been able to spend the holiday period with loved ones, resting and relaxing. I do apologise, this post is rather long!
After our hike in the Annapurna region, we spent a few days resting in Pokhara before catching the bus to Chitwan. I’ve been consulting the travel diary I kept whilst travelling: we caught the bus from Pokhara to Chitwan on the 24th of June. Reading my diary has made me laugh because I’ve written: “The bus ride was hell-ish. The first couple of hours was great, but the remaining was shit house”. Thinking back, it was rather unpleasant: an eight-hour bus ride with no air-con, knees digging into the back of the seats, and pot-holed roads. Nevertheless, we made it to Sauraha, Chitwan in one piece! Sauraha isn’t the largest city, but it is the more tourist-y one set up with the hotels and safari offices.
Chitwan was sweltering – humid, average of 30 degrees each day, and the middle of monsoon season! We had been staying at fairly cheap accommodations until this point, but we decided to splash out on a room with air conditioning once we arrived. Besides the heat and humidity, the first thing I noticed when we arrived were the elephants. They were elephants everywhere! People had them tied up in their backyards, under their own little shelters, similar to a dog and their kennel. People used them to transport goods around the town centre, and for tourist activities like elephant rides.
On our second day in Chitwan, we went to the Nature Park at 8:00am, to avoid some of the daytime heat. This was really neat – we saw rhinos hanging out in the river, peacocks and deer hiding in the forest, and a host of exotic birds. To me, this highlighted the biodiversity of Nepal – only a week ago we had been 4500 metres up in the air, watching Mountain Goats forage in the snow, and now we were in a tropical rainforest with an abundance of flora and fauna. The rest of the day was spent having breakfast at the hotel, watching cricket, wandering into town to check out the local shops. It was far more relaxed in Sauraha than in Kathmandu, or even Pokhara - there weren’t nearly as many cars or scooters.
Our third day in Chitwan began by going to the Elephant Breeding Centre, where conservations efforts are being made to ensure the local elephant population continues to increase, which was very fascinating. We then went back to the hotel for a spot of breakfast, where I enjoyed the news that Team New Zealand had won the America’s Cup! It was a great day all round. After lunch, we went back to the Nature Park to travel through the forest for a nature safari. We shared a jeep with another couple (not sure where they were from) and a family from India. It took about two and included a trip to the crocodile-breeding centre, which is another conservation effort. This was pretty neat, I hadn’t ever seen a crocodile up close before – they’re so stealthy!
Our fourth day in Chitwan began with a ride on an elephant. I have been debating writing this part because, honestly, it wasn’t pleasant. It was fantastic to be afforded the opportunity to go for a ride on an elephant, but had we known how the elephant was going to be treated before we paid, we wouldn’t have gone. Our elephant was a beautiful female, about 45 years old, named Suraskuli. You climb from a platform onto a sort of wooden seat that is fastened to the elephants with ropes, much like a saddle. The unpleasant part began when the guide, who was sitting at the front, started hitting Suraskuli on the head with a metal rod in order to direct her. It wasn’t a tap either; the guide held the rod above his head and smacked the elephant so much that the sound would echo through the forest. It was awful. Unfortunately, based on my experience along, it’s one thing I can’t recommend. I don’t know how other operations work, but this was one I didn't like. That afternoon was far more pleasant because Boy went to play cricket with the local kids in the village. Boy has told me that it was one of his favourite things he did during his time in Nepal, and I can see why – those are the kinds of experiences you look for when you’re travelling. That evening, we went to a Tharu cultural display which is a show put on by local peoples to showcase the types of dancing and singing that are special to the Sauraha region.
Our fifth, and final, day began by our hotel host taking us to the bus for our eight-hour trip back to Kathmandu. The ride back was nicer this time – we were lucky enough to have a bigger bus. We really enjoyed our time in Chitwan, and especially appreciated the opportunity to get to know some of the locals. One things I would be very wary of is – obviously – where you put your money. Had we known about how the elephants were treated, we wouldn’t have paid for that ride. I don’t really know how to combat that issue other than questioning the business before you pay and, if you're not satisfied with their answers, don't pay.
Apologies for making this post so long – I’ve had to condense four days of activities into a page and a half!
My next post is going to be about our final few days in Nepal, and my general thoughts on our time there.
Bye for now,