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Posts Tagged ‘Chitwan’

Chitwan round 2

The rest of my Chitwan weekend was really just centred around elephants. I’m being honest here – yes, I saw one-horned rhino’s, deer, wild monkeys, crocodiles, snakes, and lots of interesting birds but the elephants were a big hit with me – no, a huge hit.

Check out the bite to the ear. Ouch!

The guide collected rhino pee for about 10 minutes right before this second rhino encounter. Apparently its sold as a – what else – aphrodisiac in China for a fair amount of cash…

Ok, I got the rhino picture out of the way, now I can focus on the elephants. The girl that we took for our safari was great. She only had one moment of stubbornness and I didn’t blame her at all. There appeared to be some sort of delicious plant that she bee-lined into thick bush for and it turned out to be full of prickles. But she devoured it with excitement, so the flavour must have been good?

She was checking out my camera!

After a safari through the jungle on elephant back, I headed straight for the river on Raja’s motorbike to get on another elephant. But this time, in the water! I know this is super touristy and maybe for some, not all that exciting, but I loved every moment of it. I’m not sure there is anything else on earth that can make you so child-like giddy.

Bathing playfully in a river with a gentle beast is not only wildly entertaining, but so refreshing! So much for not swimming in any body of water here (sorry, Doc).

Getting ready for another soaker. I actually learned the command to make them spray!

I even climbed onto the elephant’s back by the trunk (the way the trainers do). It was surprisingly easy since the trunk is so strong (over 40,000 muscles).

All fun stuff aside, these elephants get treated quite well. They share a close bond with their trainers and have restrictions on how many hours per day they can work. The training methods can look harsh (sticks and these hook things) but I read that WWF has funded projects in the area to develop more psychological methods of training.  Obviously, they would lead a very different life in the wild, but at least they are working towards ensuring the domesticated elephants have a pleasant life.

And hey, they looked pretty happy to me when they were rolling around in the water, being rubbed down by eager people.

Next up was a canoe down the river (in crocodile infested water, not my personal favorite).

And…Raja…..

Raja: “Listen Jamie. Do you hear barking?”

Me: “Yes. Is that a dog?”

Raja: “No. It’s Deer. Do you know what we call this type of Deer?”

Me: “Barking Deer?”

Raja:”Canadians are really smart.”

After the river float (and ten crocodile sightings) we wandered in the jungle for over two hours. We really didn’t see all that much. I didn’t mind though, since I’m bad at climbing trees and apparently that’s what you do if you see a rhino. It was peaceful to walk around, just the two of us. We passed a few large groups and I felt pretty lucky with my situation.

And it all ended with a great night in the hotel restaurant – me, the hotel manager, and a bunch of staff sipping on Everests and talking about the future plans for the resort (five stars are coming right up for this place – pool, horse stables, river-side additions). Followed by an early morning bird watching session (really, again, just more wandering around). Great weekend.

Let’s end this on a high note – not just another elephant picture, but a babytwinelephant!

Just way too cute.

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Time for Chitwan stories! In the spirit of real blogging (aka not novels but somewhat shortish excerpts), I’m going to break this into two posts. Sorry that this is nearly a week after I returned home. It’s my last week of work with Prerana and I’ve been busy with the creation of a fundraising guidelines manual. That and I’ve been having delicious, late dinners with co-workers, travellers etc. which leaves me too exhausted to blog in the evening!

dinner with Matt and Shusa

You all know what sort of state I was in when I arrived, so we won’t relive those painful moments.

After getting some rest I ventured out for a ‘cultural’ walk with my guide for the weekend, Raja. The Terai district of Nepal is unbelievably different from the Kathmandu valley – it’s dry, rural, and hot hot hot! Not that Kath isn’t hot, but this heat was dry and much more intense (37-43 C in the afternoon). So even at 4:00 pm I got my sweat on just from walking out the front door of my hotel room.

out of my hotel room and into fresh, beautiful gardens!

We wandered around a traditional Tharu village  for over an hour.

Fact: Tharu’s are the only people who have survived in the Terai district for millennia. Since the region they inhabit was malaria-infested (until the WHO came in with DDT and solved that problem), no other ethnic groups survived the terrain. They’ve built up a genetic resistance to malaria and have had minimal problems with the disease that would ruthlessly wipe out thousands of other groups.

This was a quaint photo-op I stumbled upon… 

The village was interesting but also disheartening. These people continue to live so primitively, while we westerners seem to have access to everything at our fingertips. I admire the simplicity of their lives and the emphasis on family, but life seemed just all-around hard for everyone. They live in humble thatched huts made from mud and lattice – with limited access to running water and electricity.

And women were working so hard, cutting jungle grass, sifting flour, weaving sun hats, herding water buffalo, collecting wheat. You name it, they were constantly busy doing it.

Men appeared to be sitting around quite a bit…honestly! Either that or they were digging trenches to keep the rhino’s away from the village and crops. There were cows, buffalo, chickens, dogs, and goats running around everywhere. And loads of children were sleeping outside of the huts, on only thin-weaved mats.

I’ll tell you one thing, Nepali kids are freakin’ adorable. They just have that ‘something’ in the soul of their eyes. It’s vulnerable and soo honest.  

I discovered this little babe, relaxing in his crib…

During the hot walk, I was still struggling with my stomach, but didn’t really want to admit it. It reared its ugly head anyways when I had to pull over into some bushes. Sigh.

Raja immediately asked me, “poops?” I laughed and said, “no, pukes.”  He could see the pain on my face and promptly wandered into the forest for a few minutes.

I waited, since he didn’t tell me to follow.

He came back with an odd-looking leafy plant and shoved it in my face. “Eat it, Jamie. I swear you’ll feel not only better, but good in less than 20 minutes.”

I weighed my options – nothing could really make me sicker at this point and he didn’t seem interested in kidnapping me into the jungle…I ate the plant. It really didn’t have any flavour and the texture was similar to spinach.

Away we went. And away my stomach problems went too. He’s a smart man, that Raja.

I told Raja to take a picture, since this was the first time I was able to walk fully upright in a loong time. People who have seen me hung over know exactly what I'm talking about!

After the village wander, we plunked down beside the Rapti river and watched the sunset over the jungle – just the two of us and a couple of water buffalos grazing. Raja told me stories of Bengal Tiger and One-Horned Rhino encounters, while he pointed out the different species of birds flying around. It was spectacular.

I got a little nervous when the buffalo came too close.

Raja: “Forget them. They don’t care about us. They are hungry for grass.”

Me: “I think that one is giving me the evil eyes. Are they supposed to stamp their foot like that?”

Raja casually turns around, clearly only to humour my fears.

Raja:” Yes. Yes you are right. That one doesn’t like you. Get up. NOW.”

Me: “Expletives” and a serious mad dash to get over the nearby fence.

Throughout the entire weekend this same situation happened another three times! Raja suspected it might be my blue eyes that pissed em off. We’ll never know for sure, but I do know how to spot the ‘evil-eyed buffalo’ out of the crowd!

He's tied to a fence. I'm safe.

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I’m having trouble concentrating right this moment. I’m supposed to be writing a section on how Prerana’s supporting women with disabilities. They run an amazing rehabilitation centre in a rural district, so it’s pretty straight forward and they do outstanding work. BUT, I can’t get the damn thing outta my head and onto the page. Instead I’m writing here.

It might have something to do with the fact that I’m wrapped up all comfy in a new purple n gold pashmina – soo pretty and cozy. And I’m staring out at sun-lit rooftop gardens, adorned with prayer flags, resident birds, and new poinsettias and orchids.

Rooftop life.

AND, I’m listening to the Thicker than water soundtrack for the umpteenth time in my life…equation for daydreamin’ right there.   

Yes – umpteenth is a word. Google even told me how to spell it properly. So there!

I’m also pretty stoked for my upcoming weekend – a solo adventure to Chitwan Jungle. I’m doing a tour-package with a hotel, so I’m sure I’ll meet fellow travellers along the way and during our elephant safari, ‘nature’ walk, and canoe ride.

Yep, it’s going to be a good Easter weekend for moi.

Speaking of elephants, I bought Peyton (my niece) the cutest handmade elephant from my all-time favorite Kathmandu store – Mahaguthi.

So cute huh? And it's a fair trade product.

I’m hoping it becomes her new top toy, since my fav snuggly was also an elephant, aptly named Squishy (he was well, squishy! I wasn’t the most creative three-year old). I still have him tucked away, ready to see the light again when I have a lil one of my own.

Since I’m clearly not being productive, I think I’ll head for lunch. Oh! Speaking of food, I haven’t really written too much about the cuisine here.

So this peanut butter really is tasty, all natural, and made through a great program in Nepal. But wow! the wording on the side wouldn't fly in Canada. Chalk it up to 'cultural differences', I suppose...

So this peanut butter is super tasty, all-natural, and made through a cool program in Nepal. But wow! the wording on the side wouldn't fly back home. Chalk it up to 'cultural difference' I suppose...

I will say that I’m loving these little treats called Momo’s. Mmmm, Momo’s. They are a Nepali take on gyzo’s and you can have veg, chicken, or well, I’m not sure what it is – goat maybe? I clearly stick to the veg or chicken. The spicy tomato-curry sauce they come with is to die for – they make the perfect 2 pm snack, since Nepali’s don’t generally have a big lunch. Actually, my co-workers giggle away when they can hear my stomach rumbling around noon!

But other than Momo’s, I’ve been having a lot of fresh curries, chow-mein, steamed veggies/rice and westernish food (pastas, wraps, pizzas, etc.). Last night I was craving junk so I ordered ‘Kathmandu fries’. It was my worst meal nightmare come true. K, not as bad as the ‘chicken soup’ in Nicaragua that actually came out as a massive fish (head n all) in a bowl of salty water, but it wasn’t good. These fries had been doused in cilantro. I’m talkin, I pretty much ordered a side of fries with heaps of the green junk. GROSS! Needless to say I didn’t eat dinner last night.

Anyways, food is cheap here. Like, real cheap. An average meal costs me a whopping $2-3 CAD dollars. That’s including a drink! I think it’s a little more pricy in Thamel – where I’m heading tonight for an Israeli-style meal, but restaurant bills hardly ever top five bucks.  

I’m missing fresh veg though. I’ve only braved one encounter with raw vegetables in the form of a fresh salad. And I’m proud to say I made it through the next day without visiting the toilet a million times.

Actually, I know you’re all wondering – I haven’t had any stomach issues since I got here! Apparently I’m the first Nepal volunteer in a looong time to say that. Knock on wood that Delhi Belly doesn’t get me!

Happy Easter all!

fyi – contrary to what my header text said, I’m in South Asia, not Central. I knew this, but I clearly wrote my profile text in a  pre-trip excitement daze and didn’t catch my mistake till now. Oops.

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