Elephant fest

Sauraha Travel Blog

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Christmas day and had a lie in before walking down to the river for bath time.  One of the tourist attractions is to help the handlers wash the elephants in the river which takes place at 11 daily.  Arrived to find the elephants already in the river and 1 very happy looking drenched Ozzy standing on the waterside.   

Spoke to a handler and I was quickly sitting bare back on an elephant as it waded in to the river.  The helping to wash the elephant completely untrue as it proceeded through various ways of getting me soaked.  With the handler stood next to us in the water, he instructed our Nelly to suck up water through his trunk before spouting it straight over his head on to me.  After several goes, on instruction Nelly gave me the equivalent of a bucking bronco ride as he shook his whole body.

  I lasted about 6 swings before I was ejected in to the river below.  Nelly very obliging in kneeling to let me clamber back on only for the trick to be repeated a couple more times.  Finally, I was instructed to stand on his back.  Knowing what was coming, I didn't last long before I was back in the water.  Great laugh and all for a voluntary tip of $2. Carried back up to the river bank to applause from the Korean/Japanese masses who had just arrived en masse to watch the spectacle.  Stuck around to watch the real elephant washing as the drivers scrubbed ears with stones and fully dunked their elephants in the deeper water to rid any parasites. Fun watching the elephants under water with the occasional lift of a trunk to get some air.

Wandered back up to the hostal dripping wet and had a lazy afternoon reading in my shorts and t-shirt in the hostal gardens.  This is the way to spend a Christmas Day !!

At 3, it was my 2nd elephant experience of the day.  An elephant trek in to the National Park.  Our hotel having its own elephant stand to get on to the back, 4 of us sat in a carrier on the elephants back with a driver sitting on its shoulders.  We trudged off in surprising comfort, although occassional jolts took us unawares.  Having walked from our hostal we walked passed the main elephant ride rank and suddenly we were in the middle of a procession.  Not sure how much wildlife we would see with a stampede of elephants.

  However once within the park boundaries, there are hundreds of different elephant paths and our elephant was quickly on its own. We soon spotted our first deer.  Really shocked at how placid the deer were and the rumour that the wildlife react to smell more than sight obviously true as we sat about 5 metres away from deer with them looking straight at us, but didn't move an inch.  Walked out of the trees to find 2 rhinos drinking from a watering hole without any obscured view.  Fantastic to get a good view of them and again completely unbothered by our presence as our elephant did a full circuit around them to within a few metres.  Great sight.

Our trek lasted another hour where we saw plenty more deer and loads of monkeys jumping through the trees.

  Only scare was when our elephant didn't sound its reverse warnings.  Rapidly lifting my legs in to the carrier, I escaped with a grazed arm after it got jammed between the tree and our bamboo cage.  It could have been a lot worse.  Our driver played a joke on us as he jumped off the elephant for a call of nature.  The 4 of us were left on an unattended elephant as it wandered off towards a tree.  Thankfully it just wanted to scratch its head. With the sun setting through the trees, another nice little walk back to our hostal to end another very worthwhile trip.

Christmas night and a few of us went down to KCs for happy hour.  Sat round an open fire adding our own wood beside a Christmas tree that that blasted out Jingle Bells out repetetively.

  Ended up talking a whole host of westerners back to our hostal for a BBQ.  Our manager had bought a stack of half chickens and we arrived with perfect timing for them to be ready. Finished the night off with a bit of a boogie in the restaurant.  Very happy with my choice of venue and activities for Christmas - it worked out well.

Boxing Day and had decided to stick around Chitwan for an extra day as it marked the start of the annual 3 day festival in Chitwan.  Not quite South American carnival but an impressive parade consisting of all the local villages marched through the street in colourful traditional outfits.  Our stick dancers from Tharu were in the middle just after the elephant parade.

  Everyone not involved in the parade followed quickly after towards an open area outside the village where it had been set up for some sports events. Two main areas comprising of a running track and a football pitch.  

Our group took its seats beside the running track amongst a mass of locals.  About 30 elephants lined up at the end of the running track waiting patiently whilst everyone waited for the end of the parade to pass the main stage.  Eventually, most of the elephants moved off and 6 lined up for the 1st race.  Each elephant carrying a driver and a passenger.  The passenger carrying a flag of who it represented.  The 1st race contained a UK, a German, a Nepalese and 3 local company participants (tourists can pay $35 to be involved in the race and carry their countries flag).

Without warning, the race started.  The German elephant missed the start as well as 5 trundled off down the lane leaving Germany looking in the wrong direction.   The elephants looked quite happy and charged down without any smacking with the wielded bamboo sticks.  The tricky bit was the turn at 150 metres having to stay in lane before heading back down the same lane.  Fun to watch, but not all that competitive.  Watched a few heats with the winner of each going to a winners enclosure to compete again later in the festival.

After 3 races, there was a charge from the race track to the footy pitch.  With Boxing day being a big day for footy, I didn't miss out as 2 teams of 4 elephants, each with a driver came out on to the pitch.  Using a regular footy on a half size pitch (but extra large goals) I was gobsmacked at how good the elephants were showing control of the ball by stopping it with their trunks before booting it.  Sadly square head comes to mind when kicking as the ball generally went forwards or sideways.  A couple of nice cross field passes in to space.  A lot more scrums like a 5 year olds game as all 8 elephants chasing after the ball.  The goalies the best players though as a sweeping glance of the trunk cleared the lines convincingly. The game finished 1-0 to whites.  There were a couple of water buffalo races afterwards but they didn't live up to the elephants. 

KCs for another Catfish steak before an early night ready to move on.  Sauraha and Chitwan NP has been great.

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photo by: sandra_s021