The lead up to my first Nepali holiday peaked with a fourth place in the Friday afternoon teachers musical chairs competition. This was no mean feat with some of the male teachers treating it as importantly as the World Cup, about to begin in Germany.
On Sunday morning I got up at 5:45am, packed my gear and jumped on a bus to go to the Royal Chitwan National Park.
We stopped at Fishling on the way down to jump on a raft. We spent three pleasant hours drifting over the occasional class 2/3 rapid, staring at the green, mountainous scenery on either side of the river.
We finished in a small hut further down the highway, where we could get changed and enjoy a sweet Nepali tea.
After that we travelled down to Chitwan on the top of a bus. Completely illegal and incredibly dangerous, it was far more preferable than the inside of the bus. Mainly because it was 35 degrees, the bus had no air conditioning and several people had brought their chickens on the journey.
Arriving at Royal Chitwan National Park in the afternoon it started to rain, thankfully cooling the place down a little. We headed off to the cultural exhibition, which was a group of Tharu dancers. The Tharu people are an ethnic group indigenous to the Terai in southern Nepal and northern India, recognised as an official nationality in Nepal and a scheduled tribe in India. For those of you at my dance studio – I got up and danced with them during the last dance.
The next day, my birthday, we were up early to go for a safari – through the jungle on the back of an elephant. A rewarding experience, even if we didn’t get to see one of the elusive rhinos.
When we returned, we helped ‘bathe’ the elephant, which included sitting on it’s back whilst it played and cleaned itself. This shot was taken just after the elephant decided to help ‘bathe’ us.
After lunch we took a canoe (although really just a hollowed out log) down the river and then went for a walk through the jungle. Clearly the best moment of the walk was when the guide, after we failed to spot any animals on the walk, made us all crouch down in anticipation of a glorious sight. I had images of tigers, elephants and rhinos rolling through my head, only to be greeted by a brood of so-called ‘wild’ chickens.
After dinner, we sat around with the Nepalese tour guides to watch Australia beat Japan 3-1 in the World Cup, go Australia! And after finding out that my beloved Melbourne Demons have been going well in their Australian Rules Football (AFL) competition I realised that, all in all, it was a fairly good birthday and one that I’ll never forget.
On our last day, we went to the elephant breeding centre to see some baby elephants who were so cute at only 30 days old. After that, we got on a bus for the 5-6 hours back to Kathmandu. For the record, this time we travelled in style, and inside, on a comfortable tourist bus.
The Chitwan National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site covering an area of 932 square kilometers. It was the first national park in Nepal and is home to 68 mammal species including sloth bears, leopards, Indian rhinoceros and the king of the Jungle: Bengal tigers. It’s famous for its rhino population, which is on the increase after years of hunting by Nepal’s ruling class. It’s best seen in late January to March, when the locals slash the phanta grass and visibility is increased.