Nepal Adventure – Royal Chitwan National Park

Royal Chitwan National Park is situated in the southern low lying area of Nepal along the Rapti River and the border with India. The area was formerly a hunting reserve for the Rana Prime Ministers and their guests. In 1963 the area south of the Rapti River was designated a rhinoceros sanctuary. In 1970 the late Majesty King Mahendra approved the creation of Royal Chitwan National Park. In 1984 the area was designated a World Heritage Site.

As we drove from the mountainous area at the take out point of our rafting trip toward Bharatpur the land became very flat and the vegetation even more lush. Similar to the area around the Seti, many of the homes had thatched roofs and there were banana trees everywhere. The temperature and the humidity both increased significantly.

Something else we noticed were the large numbers of men and women riding bicycles. We had not noticed this an any of the other areas we had visited. Krishna told us a young woman cannot get married unless she has learned to ride a bicycle! Many calmly peddled their bicycles along a busy road while carrying their parasol to protect them from the sun. It was quite a picture! So as you can image now along with trucks, buses, scooters, and animals we now have to watch for bicycle riders along the road. Honestly, this was hair raising. Once again, everyone toots their horn and the slowest moving vehicle eventually yields, or drives off the road!

We checked into our rooms at the Safari Narayani Hotel. The hotel was rustic, but adequate. Power was not always available in the afternoons, which meant the ceiling fan did not work and we were forced to head for the veranda of hotel along the river for relief from the heat. Hot water was only available for a few hours every day. We really felt like we were in the jungle!

Chitwan National park oxcart ride imageAfter a buffet lunch at the hotel, we moved on to our first adventure. An oxcart ride to a Tharu village. Yes, I know, yet another slow moving vehicle sharing the road! We only had one slightly scary meeting with a truck in which we had to move to the side of the small dirt road. We visited a small museum and our naturalist, Tulsi, gave us a history of the Tharu people. The Tharu people have been living in the area for generations and have a natural immunity to malaria, which is no longer endemic in the area. These people have been studied for their natural immunity, which maybe due at least in part to their diet which includes a lot of hot chiles. Their houses have thatched roofs and the walls are a combination of mud, clay and cow dung. Houses are adorned outside with white handprints and the homes are well kept inside and out. Chitwan Tharu Village imageTulsi showed us the methane generation process used in the village to convert cow dung to methane gas that is used for cooking. This has really important health implications, as cooking by fire in the houses causes all kinds of lung problems. Using methane gas reduces these health issues.

Chitwan Elephant and Naturalist imageWe returned to the hotel by oxcart and were treated to an elephant briefing by Tulsi. We went to the elephant stable and met an elephant close up! She was magnificent. All of the elephants used in the park are female (males are unmanageable –insert obvious joke here) and were brought in from India. Tulsi told us all about their physiology and habits. It was fascinating. We are going on an elephant trek early tomorrow morning, so this is an introduction to our transportation!

Chitwan Safari Narayani Hotel imageAfter a bit of time for relaxation and a cold beer, we enjoyed a buffet dinner on the veranda of the hotel. We noticed little baggies of water hung all along the edge of the veranda. It was explained to us that it deters mosquitoes. Apparently they see themselves and skedaddle!

After dinner, women from the Tharu village performed their dance rituals for us. They were all dressed in their distinctive black and white dress and danced in long lines. The dance was accompanied be a few men playing their musical instruments. During the various dances, the women clapped their hands, clicked long sticks with each other or clapped with long tambourine like instruments.Tharu Women Dancers image Of course there was the obligatory inclusion of tourists in the dance line. It was great fun, and I’m sure a source of amusement to the Tharu women.

The following morning our wake-up call came at 5am. It was a knock on the door as there were no telephones in our room. After tea and cookies we proceeded to our Elephant Safari. The morning was misty and it was still cool. We arrived at the boarding station, which consisted of a platform built high enough for the elephants to back under. The elephant handlers cued the elephants to turn around and back slowly under the structure. (The only thing missing was the steady beep,beep, beep a large vehicle makes when backing up!) In the meantime, we climbed the platform and prepared to step onto the seats strapped to the back of the elephant. It was quite an operation.
Chitwan Elephant Loading Ramp image
We set off along the Rapti River and spotted a Rhino coming down to get a drink. We watched it as it came out of the jungle, got a drink and then disappeared back into the jungle. We proceeded through the elephant grass and into the jungle. Our naturalist, Tulsi who stood on the back of the elephant, hanging on to the back of the seat, identified plants and had a keen eye to help us spot deer, jungle fowl and ultimately the Rhinos.

The second Rhino was enjoying a mud bath when we spotted it. The Rhino was an amazing site in wild. You can see he is very old as his horn has been worn down to nothing. We spent several minutes just watching it watch us! Chitwan Rhino imageThe whole experience was amazing, the sights, sounds and smells of the jungle were so unique. Watching the elephant make her way through the jungle was so interesting. She was very deliberate in the placement of her feet and knew exactly where she could fit and where she could not. The handler guided her in general, but she made the final decision if the area was too tight for her to move through.

After de-elephanting, we headed back to the Hotel for breakfast. We enjoyed the coolness of the morning at our usual table on the veranda and enjoyed the view of the Rapti River. Although we were not fortunate enough to see a Tiger, they have been spotted along the River from the veranda of the Hotel.

Chitwan Elephant Nancy imageAfter breakfast we walked down to the River to watch the elephants get their morning baths. What a sight. We had the opportunity to sit on their backs and participate in the bathing, or just enjoy from the riverbank. We also had the opportunity to take photos with the elephants up close. What an experience. Their skin is so thick and prickly with hairs, yet their trunks are so sensitive. Amazing creatures.Chitwan Elephant Kathy image

After lunch we took a canoe ride down river to a crocodile breeding center within the Park. We walked some distance through the jungle to the breeding center. The area was quite damp, and the area was infested with leaches. We could see them in the grass on either side of the trail and on bushes. I found one on the outside of my pants, trying to get a hold. Ick!

After viewing the crocodile (actually Gharial) breeding area, we walked through the Park to Rapti River bridge which we crossed to board our bus which took us back to the hotel. Along the way we encountered a male elephant, a working female elephant with her calf, termite mounds and puddles full of tiny frogs. The diversity was amazing. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. The walk across the Rapti River Bridge provided beautiful pictures of the calm river in the afternoon. The bridge was busy with bus traffic, motorcycles and many people walking home from a days work in the park.

After some free time and dinner, we were treated to a slide show about Royal Chitwan Park, which was narrated by Tulsi, our naturalist. We all headed off to bed early after a long and enjoyable day.

Our final morning at Chitwan, we went for a birdwatching walk with Tulsi early. We spotted at least 15 or 20 species with his guidance. An amazing variety of beautifully colored birds.

Lady making bowl imageWe packed up our luggage and headed out of Chitwan for Bharatpur and our flight back to Kathmandu. On the way we visited a local farmer’s market. The variety of produce and spices was amazing. We also saw a woman making bowls from the leaves of the Sal tree which are used for religious ceremonies. These bowls last for many years when cared for properly.

Nepali Dress imageWe returned to the Gokarna Forest Resort, where we had started out visit to Nepal. We had a little spare time to do some last minute shopping and relaxing before we headed off to our farewell dinner. Before going to dinner we were all dressed in traditional Nepali outfits. It was quite a process. Several of the staff of the Resort helped us into our saris, expertly placing safety pins in strategic areas. We had a good giggle before we were all dressed. The men’s clothing was just as much fun.

We enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Baithak Restaurant, with many Nepali ethnic dances performed for us during our meal. The site of our meal was the top story of the former Royal horse stable. There were paintings of Nepali Royalty on the walls. It was a very formal affair. We were all dressed appropriately.

The next morning we prepared to leave Kathmandu. We packed up, said our goodbyes and headed to the airport. Krishna gave us some last minute instructions to navigate the airport by ourselves, as he could not go into the airport with us. Our parting with Krishna was very emotional. He had been our constant companion over the prior two weeks, and we all hated to part from him. After hugs and goodbyes, we ventured into the airport and back home.

Krishna imageOur trip to Nepal was one we will always treasure. We have so many memories of the places and especially the people we met. We witnessed an amazing pride and enthusiasm of Nepalis for their culture and country. They are proud of their young democracy, even though it may not be perfect. We will always remember Krishna, CB, Shantaman, Hari and Tulsi. Most of all, we have to thank Krishna for his patience, enthusiasm, knowledge and sense of humor. He made our trip to Nepal perfect!

Danyabad and Namaste!


Links to the other Nepal articles:
Almost to Nepal
Namaste from Nepal
Nepal Wine Trekking
Seti River Rafting
Royal Chitwan National Park