Chitwan – Day 2
09.04.2012 - 09.04.2012 30 °C
A misty humid early morning saw us on the banks of the local river overlooking a rather narrow dugout canoe. With some encouragement from our guide we gingerly stepped onto the craft and sat down on the removable wooden stools provided. There was no time to change our minds as we were quickly cast off and out into the rapid current (the waters having been boosted by the previous evening’s torrential rain). At first there wasn’t much to see, it was more a question of getting used to the craft. Our steersman at the back obviously knew the river well as he guided us through the faster glides quite effortlessly. After a while the banks had more vegetation and we started to see birds of all shapes and sizes. Kingfishers, bee catchers, herons, egrets, storks and even a noisy peacock poked his head up to watch us drift by. My favourite however had to be the osprey sitting calmly on a branch over the river flow surveying his domain.
Time past extremely quickly and the next thing we knew we were tying up on the jungle bank where a path came down to meet the water. It had seemed like 20 minutes in the boat but in reality it was more like an hour and a half. The birdlife was fantastic but I was still a little disappointed we hadn’t seen any crocodiles.
OK on to the next activity, the jungle walk. We started slowly along the river bank following our guide and not really knowing what to expect. Chitwan is a mix of environments, some quite dense jungle with a lot of open scrubland and even open plains. Our guide told us to freeze and pointed at an area of vegetation in the river where a ‘mugger’ crocodile was lying in wait for its next victim. We saw several more crocodiles in the next hour including the weird looking ‘Gharial’ which only eats fish.
We were hoping to see the endangered one horned rhino which are native to the park but despite our best efforts for the next couple of hours we only saw a few dear, lots of weird looking insects and a lot of rhino droppings!
Maybe on the Elephant safari?
The omens didn’t look good, we hopped on a mini bus that took us to Elephant Safari ‘grand central’. There were elephants and tourists everywhere, hardly what you would call an intimate experience. It was like a ride at Disneyland with an elephant coming along 4 people going up some steps, getting in the square box on top and starting off, then the next, then the next and so on. We dutifully got on to our elephant (we didn’t find out his name) and followed on the procession. If you haven’t been on an elephant before it’s a bit of an experience. When the front leg comes up you are thrown backwards and then when it comes down you are thrown forwards, so for the first ten minutes it was a case of holding on for grim life until we got used to the motion. We crossed a river, went through a wooded area on a well-worn track and then crossed the river again, all in line astern of the elephant in front. Eventually we came a wide clearing where there was a troop of monkeys sitting on the grass watching the elephants parade past as though the experience was exclusively for them and not us. At the other side of the clearing the trees were thicker and one by one the elephants disappeared into different parts of the undergrowth. From an elephant processions it suddenly changed, we could see glimpses of other elephants but now the movement was much more individual as the ‘Mahouts’ tried to seek out any wildlife in the area. Communication was by mobile telephone and it was clear when there was something close by as the Mahouts shouted to each other to relay any messages on. We were initially rewarded with a whole series of deer which seemed totally unafraid of these masses of elephants converging on them. The shouts between Mahoots got more and more urgent and we emerged by a water hole with two rhinos seemingly oblivious to the commotion having a peaceful bath in the midst of the turmoil.
This is what we had hoped to see and we were amazed how the rhinos could be so unfazed when surrounded by elephants with noisy humans on their backs. Further on we saw a mother and calf grazing contently while we took picture after picture. Another half an hour a few more deer and we were back to where we started. All in all what started out as a Disney ride did live up to its safari billing.
In the evening we witnessed another storm this time with thunder and lightning as I have never seen it before. It continued into the night but I was so tired that even the claps of thunder overheard didn’t prevent me from falling into a deep deep sleep.