Chitwan National Park – Day 1
08.04.2012 - 08.04.2012 30 °C
I’ve previously commented on the driving in Nepal, mostly that there seems to be few rules of the road, or at least few that are observed. The only approach that counts is honk your horn and move into a gap before anyone else does, irrespective of whose right of way it is, or even if the gap is big enough to get into. In theory you should drive on the left as in the UK, but again if the gap is on the right hand side then that is a perfectly acceptable alternative. The next problem is the roads, some are extremely uneven with potholes you could hide an elephant in, and unfortunately these are in the majority.
It was with these facts very much in mind that we set off for our five hour drive to Chitwan National Park close to the border with India. A small ‘tourist’ car picked us up from the hotel and we were on our way. The first half hour was the usual Kathmandu chaos as we tried to escape the city’s roads. Gradually the scenery changed to steep sided gorges as we made our way down and out of the Kathmandu valley. The type of traffic changed as well with a dominance of Indian build Tata lorries bringing load on load of produce up to Kathmandu. Somewhat surprisingly we hadn’t seen any accidents in the time we had been in Kathmandu. We quickly put the record straight however and saw three in the first hour, including a bus that had rolled down a bank. The road surface was just as we had feared, it went from smooth to a farmers ploughed field and back again at regular intervals. We began to wonder whether the small tourist car was really up to the job, maybe we should have been given a 4x4 or even a tank!
Slowly the journey continued, sometimes we actually got up to 40 kmph and the time ticked on. After 4 hours and two toilet stops the steep sided river valleys gave way to a much flatter world showing that we were getting closer. Again the style of transport changed with mopeds and pedal cycles appearing from all sides. Boys on bikes, girls on bikes, whole families on bikes, even man with goats on bike. The landscape was continuing to become more rural and exactly five hours from when we set off we arrived at Maruni Sanctuary Lodge our home for the next two days.
After a quick welcome black tea we were given lunch and our itinerary for the afternoon; an ox cart ride to the local village and back. I must admit it wasn’t exactly an ultimate wild experience (apart from the heavens opening and unleashing a torrential downpour) and we were left a bit disappointed asking ourselves whether this was the standard of trips we would get. Before dinner however we were given our programme for the following day; a canoe ride, followed by a trek through the jungle, and finally an elephant safari. We decided to reserve judgement until the morrow.
After dinner we took a night walk around the pond at the back of the lodges which the guide book stated as a good place to see fireflies. We weren’t disappointed this time as we switched our head torches off and watched the dancing lights lighten up the sky. On the way back my head torch picked up a small pinpoint of reflection in the pond and we went closer to investigate thinking it was a frog of something small. On reaching the point, our torches revealed a small crocodile hiding in the shallows waiting for a tasty fish or frog to happen by. It was a good end to a slightly disappointing day, hopefully boding well for tomorrow.