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Royal, Chitwan National Park : Jungle Survival Skills, other sights and thrills.

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Elephant safari, Royal Chitwan National Park.

Groooan!” Why do I still have half my clothes on? Why is my room door open? F**k! I hope none of those f**kin’ bees got in!!! Where are my glasses? Oh, what are they doing on the floor behind the S-bend of the toilet. Hmmm? Something went a little wrong here last night didn’t it. Why do I have “75 girls” on the brain? Oh yeah I remember. I missed all the action. Still, at least I slept right through all the noise that would have been involved. The sleep of the dead. The sleep of Rakshi.

Nevermind, it’s time to don my khaki trousers and shirt and get out on jungle safari peeps… the ladeez will still be here later! And, actually after the initial first-moments of daylight fog lifts from my mind I’m feeling pretty fresh despite the fact my blood currently constitutes 51% Rakshi.

The Royal Chitwan National Park (RCNP), formerly a renowned Big Game hunting reserve was finally established as a conservation protected area in 1973 (I think?) and covers an area of approx 930 square kilometres. It is the oldest national park - of which there are several - in Nepal and comprises the wealthiest bio-diversity of flora and fauna in the country including many rare and endangered wildlife species. Some of which I am privileged to see in my time there. It is most famous for the population of single-horned Indian Rhinocerous… practically the last community of its species in the world. We also are lucky to see the Great Black Stalk (largest bird in the park) and the very rare Forest Eagle Owl (which Laxman only spots about twice a year).

Deer in Chitwan forest.
Scarce fish-eating, long-snouted Gharial crocodiles also mingle here with their more fearsome meat-chomping cousins. Bengal tigers reside here too!

First activity of the day is an elephant top safari trek into the park. It’s four people to an elephant (Rebecca, her father Michael, Yeesh & I) and my initial fears of how someone as diminutive as I gets his leg over a all that tonnage of elephant are dispelled by the presence of large wooden staircase platforms up to the level of the elephant’s back. Today we will be riding Corina. We set off, a small procession of pachiderms and people lurching and lolloping into the deep green flora flood of the Park.

We are very fortunate indeed on our 90 minute or so safari with regards the wildlife that we are privileged to witness in the wild.

Mother & baby.
Elephant back trekking is a far surer way to hopefully get to meet some of ‘the locals’ as, entirely used to, and at ease with the presence of elephants, the animals do not often take it upon themselves to dash off in fear. Straight from the off we are super lucky to come across a pair of rhinos standing, eating some of the foliage. Absolutely beautiful. There’s something quite emotional almost about seeing such a relatively rare and unusual creature for the first time. And entirely within their natural environment. Sad to say, with the rhinos by no means being a guaranteed sight on these safaris (far from it I’m told) they are soon surrounded by a traffic jam of elephants and camera-fiddling tourists. Already a clear example of how irritatingly we tend to impose ourselves on nature for our own pleasure sometimes… but hey, it’s what I signed up for.
Stevie & Corina
On this point also I have to state that during my time at Chitwan, whilst it is evident that the elephants for the most part are reverently, and well cared for, I could not help but wince every time one of the elephant drivers would crack down repeatedly and hard upon the elephants’ crowns to ‘encourage’ them to move faster, or maybe change direction. This wasn’t often thankfully. And I know an elephant’s hide and skull together form a layer as hard as adamantium… but still. I dunno.

We are lucky today to frequently come across several types of forest deer. Females, and males with the elegant antlers. Two more rhinos are soon spotted. This time a mother and child, hunkered down and resting on the jungle floor. An early morning doze. I can’t get over how cute such ostensibly hard-ass, and ugly creatures that these are can come across with their tiny black marble-sized eyes (rhinos are practically blind and operate predominantly by the use of smell) and there flopping, flapping ears.

I’m sure they’re not half so cute when they become two tons of muscle and iron-clad hide charging at you in the jungle! A nepali guide was apparently quite seriously wounded and hospitalised by one just 2 days ago. Deaths are rare but by no means unheard of.

We cross some ditches and waterways, mesmerised by the richness of the natural surroundings all the way… not too put out by the fact that our ribs are being slowly ground to dust by the lurching, battering they’re getting on the wooden platform we sit with, legs wrapped around struts to ensure no falling to the jungle floor. You have to constantly bat branches and twigs out of your way. I don’t want to lose my glasses to a stray bit of tree. We bumble along the banks of the river. Other tourists float atop of it in canoes.

Lying… maybe dozing?… maybe silently sizing you up for dinner? … on the silty islets that rest in the middle of the rivers concourse are large crocodiles. There are several species within the park… all of which have teeth!

Later having dismounted from Corina I stroll back to Eden Jungle. Time for some lunch. Preparations are in full swing for another party for the 75 female anthropology students and their teachers tonight. They’ve requested some traditional fare for food tonight so at some expense two goats have been purchased to be roasted over an open fire and Laxman and Sunni are in the middle of the grim task of executio… sorry, food preparation. This involves my first experience of seeing a live animal’s head lopped right off!! “Yuk!” Laxman and friend straining at ropes to keep the poor goat in place, Sunni raises his traditional, curved Nepali kukhuri sword far above his head… and it’s goat on the menu tonight ladies and gentleman.

Dinner is about to be prepared people, Sunni raises his traditional kkukuri blade :O
Two young nepali girls from families in the area seem to enjoy this far too much. I guess they’re used to it? The little’un can’t stop herself from excitably taking my digital camera and at several points in the day rushes around taking thousands of completely hilarious “point click - point click - point click” abstract photos. Khatiya, only 5 or so. Some of her finer efforts have been included in this blog.

Next I stroll back down to the rivers edge where the many elephants of the park are brought to bathe in the river waters. They seem to enjoy this part of the day very much. Elephants really, truly can smile and seem to laugh. It’s quite fascinating watching them splash, swim and roll about in the waters. Their trunks merrily flailing about whilst their owners try to scrub them down with rocks, a form of elephant massage and exfoliation.

Govinda, Stevie & Kathiya.
Tourists can also get into the river and give this a go if they wish. Also clambering onto the back of elephants to be blasted with trunk water or rocked back into the river is partaken in by some.

In the afternoon, Laxman and I go for a drift down the river, courtesy of an old Tharu boatman, in one of the old long canoes. Laxman’s eyes, with years and years of training miraculously pick out species of bird at almost every turn of the head to show and explain to me. We also get to see a good many crocodiles resting up on the riverbanks. Some of these guys are big and as Laxman’s keen to point out “man eaters”. The canoe eventually pulls up on the far riverbank… and here we are. Time for the real deal. A trek on foot into the bowels of the Chitwan jungle.

"Boo! I'm watchin' you!"
I can’t deny I’m slightly nervous about this one. Rhinos are danger enough, but leopards and a over 100 tigers also reside within the confines of the Park. The latter are rarely seen although Laxman sighted one with some Australians just days ago. He gives me my ‘safety talk’. If we come across a rhino, if it is heading away from us… no problem. If it’s heading in our direction there’s a good chance it will charge! We must turn and run and try to find a tree to clamber up as quickly as possible. I am not a good tree climber! My guide book also added that running in a zig-zag line helps and that you should throw off clothing to dissipate the scent trail. This sounds complicated... And comedic to my minds eye. How am I gonna remember all this when push comes to shove comes to charge?! If we come across a tiger in any way shape or form, again running is the order of the day and scrambling to at least 9 feet up a tree asap (tiger’s can’t climb verticals) is required.
Laxman, Chitwan Guide Supremo :)
You’re probably screwed anyway I feel is the prognosis for greeting a tiger. I think I’d just about give up. Escaping tigers and rhinos sounds like hard work! So whilst part of me - for the experience - wants to come across some of Chitwan’s most renowned inhabitants in situ, frankly I will be more than happy to stick with the birds and the trees, and the large termite mounds that punctuate our progress.

At one point, strung high up in the jungle canopy Laxman points out a rather foreboding looking sight. The shredded, dripping carcass of a deer dangles from the branches up above our heads. A fleshy, drying cobweb of furry animal hide, bone and hoof. A leopard kill. It looks like something right outta Arnie’s Eighties movie ‘Predator‘. A corpse suspended, stripped high up in the forest roof.

Mother and twins : elephant gestation time is nearly 2 years!!! Reasons to be thankful you're human ladies ;)
I check my breast to see there’s not a small triangle of red target lights drifting across my torso. Quite unnerving. Laxman points out the claw gauges in the bark of the tree where the leopard climbed up with its meal.

It’s been a long busy day. Heading out of the confines of the forest (thankfully without having sat down to tea with Mr Rhino or Mrs Tiger!) we enter the Chitwan elephant breeding sanctuary. A long L-shape of large elephant pens where they are looked after from birth, raised and trained in the ways of being elephants comfortable with a life of jungle trekking and all the interpersonal, human-pleasing skills that requires. Only 2 days ago or so a set of identical twins have been born to a mother elephant. This is extreeeeemely rare apparently and this is only the second known twins set to have been born in captivity in the world.

Biinhu and friend atop the bus (before they're ordered down)
The other apparently some while ago in India. They are very, very cute indeed. Their little trunks wriggling around whilst they weave between mummy’s gargantuan legs. Smokey fires of elephant dung (there’s a lot of it produced… it’s the only way to keep the sh*t-mountains at bay) through up a white mist into the late evening light. The elephants are silhouetted in the smokes as the sunlight attempts to cut through to the ground.

It is here at the sanctuary that we come across the vast armada of female students staying at the Eden Jungle and Chitwan. We hitch a ride back with them in their several busses and get ready for the spectacle of fire-roasted goat and the troupe of traditional Tharu stick-dancers that come to the Resort to dazzle us with their unusual, stick-thumping dance.

Friend, Laxman (cup of lethal Rakshi wine) and Steve [photo by 5 year old Kathiya]
We are all encouraged to join in. Laxman and I have stopped en route and had some Rakshi dispensed for us into glasses from a recycled petrol can… this strikes me as somewhat appropriate. Predictably I just can’t stomach it tonight but Laxman slowly drinks himself into a coma whilst I’m encouraged (read, forced) to get up and dance with all the girls as the sole foreigner in town and much fun and roast goat is had by all!

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Elephant safari, Royal Chitwan Nat…
Elephant safari, Royal Chitwan Na…
Deer in Chitwan forest.
Deer in Chitwan forest.
Mother & baby.
Mother & baby.
Stevie & Corina
Stevie & Corina
Dinner is about to be prepared peo…
Dinner is about to be prepared pe…
Govinda, Stevie & Kathiya.
Govinda, Stevie & Kathiya.
Boo!  Im watchin you!
"Boo! I'm watchin' you!"
Laxman, Chitwan Guide Supremo :)
Laxman, Chitwan Guide Supremo :)
Mother and twins : elephant gestat…
Mother and twins : elephant gesta…
Biinhu and friend atop the bus (be…
Biinhu and friend atop the bus (b…
Friend, Laxman (cup of lethal Raks…
Friend, Laxman (cup of lethal Rak…
Rhinos! :)
Rhinos! :)
The famous single-horned or white…
The famous single-horned or 'whit…
Poor rhino (centre of pic) accoste…
Poor rhino (centre of pic) accost…
Mother and baby.  NOT to be distur…
Mother and baby. NOT to be distu…
River scene, Royal Chitwan Nationa…
River scene, Royal Chitwan Nation…
The gang, (L-R) Mike, Yaish, drive…
The gang, (L-R) Mike, Yaish, driv…
Stevie atop elephant.
Stevie atop elephant.
Rebecca & I atop Corina.
Rebecca & I atop Corina.
Elephant bath time! :)
Elephant bath time! :)
Public transport, Sauraha style :)
Public transport, Sauraha style :)
Having a good hard scrub.
Having a good hard scrub.
Kathiya & friend.
Kathiya & friend.
Shaving the goats head, everything…
Shaving the goats head, everythin…
Abstract portrait of her friend [p…
Abstract portrait of her friend […
Lozic & bike after having dropped …
Lozic & bike after having dropped…
Laxman puts his back into it!
Laxman puts his back into it!
Stevie & boatman
Stevie & boatman
Yelp!
"Yelp!"
3 different species of croc in one…
3 different species of croc in on…
Termite mound.
Termite mound.
Yikes!  The tattered remains of …
"Yikes!" The tattered remains of…
The Posing Gals : Kathiya & friend.
The Posing Gals : Kathiya & friend.
Laxman, bird watching.
Laxman, bird watching.
Stevie thinking I cant see a f**…
Stevie thinking "I can't see a f*…
Twin baby elephants (only 35 days …
Twin baby elephants (only 35 days…
The elephant breeding centre
The elephant breeding centre
Laxman attacked by an over enthu…
Laxman 'attacked' by an over enth…
Some of the girls from the P.K.Cam…
Some of the girls from the P.K.Ca…
Stevie and Kathiyas stolen hat [p…
Stevie and Kathiya's stolen hat […
Laxman, a portrait [photo by 5 yea…
Laxman, a portrait [photo by 5 ye…
Stevie and pops [photo by 5 year…
Stevie and "pops" [photo by 5 yea…
Kathiya, the super-enthusiastic gu…
Kathiya, the super-enthusiastic g…
The Blair Witch self-portrait [p…
The 'Blair Witch' self-portrait […
Laxman and Kathiya.
Laxman and Kathiya.
Stevie and pops (again)  [photo …
Stevie and "pops" (again) [photo…
Portrait of mom [photo by 5 year…
Portrait of "mom" [photo by 5 yea…
Portrait of grandma [photo by 5 …
Portrait of "grandma" [photo by 5…
Traditional Tharu tribal stick-da…
Traditional Tharu tribal 'stick-d…
Traditional Tharu tribal stick-da…
Traditional Tharu tribal 'stick-d…
Traditional Tharu tribal stick-da…
Traditional Tharu tribal 'stick-d…
Sauraha
photo by: sandra_s021