I woke up before the sun showed up right on my windowpane. My body had regained the energy after that long flight yesterday and my enthusiasm for the day’s activity had never kept my back plastered on the bed. I was ready to kick off the day with a long drive to meet the elephants and other endangered animals at Chitwan National Park. But certainly, we did not leave Apsara Boutique hotel in Kathmandu with empty stomachs. A bountiful continental breakfast was served. And right after some photos taken with our complimentary shirts from Nepal Adventure team, we pulled out to our destination.
While last night was just silhouettes of Kathmandu Valley, this day was clear, detailed picture of the capital city of Nepal. The wet roadways yesterday evening have now turned dusty and the traffic began to accumulate on the highway. In spite of that, our expert driver has found a way out avoiding the long queue of cars through a different route.
A heavy fog turned up when we reached Prithvi highway obscuring the road and the surroundings, though it just disappeared in a short time. For about three hours we had a series of bends and curves outlining the margin of one mountain to the other while following the contour of the Trishuli River. Despite the bunch of trucks in some areas, our aggressive driver was able to get away with it. But it was not the end yet of our ride rather the start of a more exciting journey.
Upon turning left to Narangyahat-Mugling Highway, my eyes were just fixed on the road with my hand anchored on the grab handles of the car. It was another 2 hours of bumpy ride, but more pronounced this time. It was only few days ago when the monsoon rain brought floods and landslides that affected badly the southern part of the country, including Chitwan. Thus the shabby roadways undergoing reconstruction have turned muddy and slippery – dangerous. The driver was cautious avoiding deep potholes and openings on the surface of the road where we could possibly get stuck; while at times he accelerates on blind curves that made my heart skip a beat.
My anxiety began to cease when we went past the risky highway and totally gone when we reached our accommodation – the Hotel Seven Star. The resort is situated in the town of Sauraha, only few steps from Chitwan National Park making it very suitable for tourists who wants to explore the jungle and learn about the way of life of the indigenous Tharu people. The ambience of the hotel made me forget that stressful drive. It has a relaxing atmosphere created by the different shades of green planted on pathways and the beautiful garden in front of my hotel room.
I dozed off as my back touches the bed but rolled up quickly when the clock ticked at 4 in the afternoon. We had a scheduled encounter with the elephants. The park warden at the same time our tour guide escorted us towards the nearest elephant breeding center. Here, he introduced the elephants, shared their stories, explained their nature and daily routine, and mentioned what they do to protect and help them multiply.
While we are heading towards the riverside to watch the sunset by the Rapti River, the guide spotted some footprints of one-horned rhino that I am expecting to see on the next day’s elephant safari. And as we came near the riverfront, I was disheartened by what I saw. The flood that hit the area about a week ago totally damaged and wiped out the whole stretch including the restaurants along the river. The guide said, “It is completely a different place now – far from what it used to be.” Yet, it was good that they already started rehabilitating the place.
We stood there until the sun finally sets. Despite the ruins, it was still wonderful watching the flowing stream of water and the lush forest on the other side of it while waiting for the moon to take over the horizon.
CHITWAN PARK ACTIVITIES
We are up early in the morning to dig into the woods and spot wildlife through the elephant safari. For one and a half hour, we were seated on top of an elephant’s back while meandering deep into the forest. High on the trees were monkeys hanging and jumping from one branch to the other. Down on the shrubs were deers hiding and running away as they see the giant elephant coming. As we passed by the grasslands, we have seen few kinds of birds in search for food. However, as we approached to the end of our elephant ride, I wasn’t lucky enough to see up-close even a single one-horned rhino roaming around. It could either be because of the recent floods that might change their routine, or their nocturnality that made them asleep during the day. But whatever it is, the elephant safari was an exciting experience though I disliked and bothered with the elephant rider’s sharp metal rod hitting the elephant’s head for disobedience.
For an hour we cruise along the Rapti river on board the town’s traditional wooden canoes. As we moved downstream, we came across twice on different locations, a crocodile camouflaging by the riverbanks. They were basking under the heat of the sun motionless with their snouts wide open as if ready to catch their prey. Despite the sun on my face, the ride was calming with the sight of lush vegetation by the river and the birds chirping and dancing on the branches of the trees.
ELEPHANT BREEDING CENTER
As soon as we get off the boat, we had a short hike towards the main elephant breeding center, different from where the park warden brought us yesterday. The set-up was almost the same like yesterday but a bit bigger and charges a fee before entry. It houses more elephants which were introduced to us again one after another. Our guide taught us interesting information about elephants and how these animals carry on their everyday routine.