Yesterday we explored Guar and relaxed. Today we depart for our next stop. Chitwan park with elephants. All will be revealed. The last drive was through serious mountains. Today we are traversing a river delta. Seriously flat. A great deal of rice production and other agriculture. Goats chickens water buffalo cows chickens and more goats of course. The road is on top of an elevated berm to keep it above the flooded rice fields. And in the first hour I must have seen a hundred smoke stacks standing all by themselves in the fields. As they are surrounded by brick piles I figure they are brick kilns. Fired by? There is not much wood here. But there is a bit of rice straw. Natural gas? Dunno. Maybe the wood has been consumed….
Later on we enter the forest. And the smokestacks go away. Coincidence? After awhile we stop for a bathroom break. I walk into the forest. Sadly it is paved with trash. I notice where I stand I’m surrounded by hundreds of something. Unopened condom packages. We had no idea we stopped in the Condom Forest. You can’t make this stuff up.
I don’t think there is any management of trash in Nepal. People seem to burn it in their yards and in the street. Institutions seem to hire removal services but then it is burned or dumped in random places like the forest. Too bad about that.
Our hotel in Guar was the best in town, but Hotel Parkland in Sauraha outside Chitwan park is a huge step up. The tours they put together for us were excellent. Great to relax after 5 hours on the bus.
We get up early and head for the elephant station. The conductor loads 4 of us on each elephant and we head off into the forest of Chitwan park. The floor of which is not paved with trash or anything else.
Notice that the park ticket office is up high. So you can buy tix without getting off your elephant. We are hunting beasts. And discover deer eagles peacocks and… leeches. Seeing these from the back of an elephant is unique. But she’s moving. Makes a poor platform for photography, unless blur is a feature. The leeches got attached to the elephants trunk. She complained and the driver chased them off. After we are deposited back at the station we feed bananas to our mount. Seemed to be happy about that. But the leeches the elephant got on her truck left a mark. We fed her extra bananas. Ouch.
One of our team got leeched as well. She noticed something on her chest dinner and removed it.
The leech is that small dark slug looking thing on the plate by the res spot. Spooky. No ill effects beyond the obvious however.
The next morning the tour is canoeing down the river. Crocodiles and peacocks and kingfishers. No leeches. I love canoeing.
There are about 80 elephants living in Sauraha to serve the tourists. They work until age 60 then they retire and they are allowed to live in the park. We visited some of their stables. Interestingly these beasts are nearly odorless. Dogs smell like dogs. Horses smell like horses. And elephants don’t smell much at all. Which is good. As big as they are, if they had an odor it would be huge.
At the end of the morning we went to the river for an elephant shower. The elephant stands in the river, you sit on their back and they hose you with their trunk. A very interesting experience. All the while the river flows by laden with large loaves of elephant dung. I would not recommend this on your first day in Nepal. But after you’ve been here for awhile it starts to feel normal. (Photo credit Michele Bayle)
After lunch we take a walking tour down to a different river. Our guide spots a large black rhino. We watch him wade his 4000 lb self into the river and lay down in a pool. He’s blowing bubbles out his nose and out the other end too. That’s what makes me think it’s a male…
We see lots if birds too. Guide Bishnu is awesome. Really good eye for finding critters and he knows a lot about them.
Time to return to Kathmandu. We depart after breakfast. We will be climbing more than 4000 feet today to reach Kathmandu. As the road starts to climb the road gets Bad. Really Bad.
You can see rhe road chisled into the slope on the right side of the gorge. We pass a spot where a bus went over the side into the river just a few hours ago. They are still trying to hoist it out of the river. 31 people died. Our driver tells us they lose 2000 people a year on this road. The road we took as we departed Kathmandu had crazy switchbacks and was exciting, interesting and not without risk either. There was that rice truck that failed to negotiate a turn. Folks were busy salvaging the bags of rice as we went by. But that road’s condition was ok. Paved and stuff. The road taking us back to Kathmandu today is short on pavement. This makes for a seriously dusty road. The surrounding foliage and landscape is way grey. The road snakes up a serious river gorge. Lots of road construction. Traffic heavy with many many trucks and buses and motorcycles. A few cars. There are baskets that carry people across the river. Sometimes there are footbridges too. The first one here is pretty obvious. The second more subtle, look closely… (Photo credit Nancy Patterson)
There were even two regular bridges. The other side of the gorge is mostly too steep to build anything like a road. That’s why the baskets and footbridges. On our side the road surface is really lumpy and all dirt. At one point traffic was stopped completely for a half hour as the workers went at the project with heavy equipment. Removing lots of rock debris that was piling up in their workspace. But still it was certainly an interesting and exciting ride. All 8 hours of it. Some day all this bus riding is gonna end!
At our Kathmandu hotel we settle a bit, then off to get pizza. And Lo! They had a Denver IPA on the menu. I have not seen an IPA worthy of the name since I left Seattle in March! And the pizza was also worthy. On the walk to the pizza place I bought a tire tube for my bicycle.
Maybe Fiji had one but I could not find it and I tried. Great finish for a great day.
This morning we head off in the bus to see the Monkey Temple. It has another name that is harder to spell and remember but… Oh well. There are probably two hundred monkeys living on the hill.
There was some damage from the 2015 earthquake. Some structures completely leveled. Some damaged such that they were still standing but you wondered how. Very significant Buddhist site. Our tour guide told us a lot about Nepal politics as well as the archeological sites. Very interesting. And sadly dysfunctional. It’s going around.
We next visited a mideval era town. Lots of temples and palace structures. Many destroyed by that earthquake. Some barely damaged. Some severely again. Why don’t they fall over??? “Wall looks weak over here Bob! Bunch of cracks. Bring me some 2×6 boards and left hope for the best…”
We get a nap after lunch. Then the hotel owner treats us to dinner at a restaurant he owns. Pretty cool. Nepalese food and dancing. Also music. Kathmandu traffic was bad. It took 45 minutes to get to the restaurant and 5 minutes to get back to the hotel later in the evening. You get the idea.