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Everest with Mountain Madness

Pre-functioning in the Chitwan National Park Nepal

Kay­la Fenske starts out our sec­ond Ever­est Base Camp Trek by vis­it­ing with some rhi­nos, ele­phants, and whole bunch of oth­er crit­ters in Chit­wan Nation­al Park.

Nepal Chitwan National Park

All pho­tos Kay­la Fenske

I am cur­rent­ly writ­ing this as we relax in our rooms lis­ten­ing to a thun­der­ous hail storm on our thatched roof of the Tharu Lodge in Chit­wan Nation­al Park. We are thank­ful that our gra­cious hosts knew how to gauge the weath­er and got us back to our rooms ten min­utes before the sky opened up. What an excit­ing way to start off our adven­ture in Nepal with three days in the jun­gle, where the weath­er and ani­mal sight­ings are unpre­dictable and entertaining!

We arrived in Kath­man­du on Mon­day night and were intro­duced to the bustling city with a seat-grip­ping ride on the left side of the street, dodg­ing cows, pedes­tri­ans, bus­es, and bik­ers. We were warm­ly wel­comed at the Yak and Yeti hotel with cool glass­es of juice. Our com­fort­able hotel room was a wel­come refuge after a long trip.

After one night’s rest and a deli­cious buf­fet break­fast the next morn­ing, we head­ed back to the air­port to board a 40 – 50 seat pud­dle jumper for our 17 minute flight to Bharat­pur. Short­est flight I’ve ever been on and they still had time for in-flight service!

Our host from the Tharu Lodge greet­ed us at the air­port and we were joined by a British ex-pat and his two young Nepali friends from the Gorkha region that he is treat­ing to an adven­tur­ous jun­gle week­end and trek in remote areas. After a warm wel­come with lemon­ade, pound cake and cold wash rags, we gath­ered out­side in the gar­den under a large man­go tree for a deli­cious lunch and good company.

This after­noon, we walked to the edge of the prop­er­ty, to find ele­phants and their dri­vers greet­ing us at a raised plat­form. We climbed into the sad­dles and were off for a boun­cy ride through the jun­gle. My mom’s ele­phant lagged behind us due to the fact that he was trained, and seem­ing­ly con­cerned, with pick­ing up any trash he came across on the main path at the jun­gle bound­ary and hand­ing it to his dri­ver with his trunk. Despite the occa­sion­al head-on detours into the bush for a tree-sized snack, our ele­phant led us through the thick bush in search of tigers and oth­er crea­tures. Although we weren’t lucky enough to spot a tiger, we saw a pea­cock, mon­keys, eagle, 4 rhi­nos (includ­ing a baby) and munt­jac deer that barked warn­ing of a near­by preda­tor. All the while, the har­mo­nious orches­tra of dis­tant thun­der accom­pa­nied our jun­gle walk. Once the thun­der grew clos­er, our guides made the exec­u­tive deci­sion to turn for home. And boy are we glad they did! Our dusty court­yard out­side our rooms is now a rush­ing riv­er fill­ing with hazel­nut sized hail­stones. Need­less to say, our ter­race din­ner has been moved indoors.

Nepal Chitwan National Park

Din­ner was the tra­di­tion­al dal bhat, with cooked veg­eta­bles and a slice of cake. After sched­ul­ing our activ­i­ties for the next day, we retired to our rooms under the heavy rains and thun­der. It lulled us to sleep until in the morn­ing it was replaced by hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent bird calls, (this park has 547 of the ~800 species of birds in Nepal).

We awoke at 6am and left before break­fast for a 2 hour ele­phant ride in the ear­ly morn­ing jun­gle mist. Local peo­ple were already hard at work chop­ping up the trunks of fall­en trees from the night before. As we entered the Chit­wan buffer zone, spot­ted deer, a large group of macaque mon­keys, a male rhi­no (rare for the morn­ings!) and a pea­cock high in the tree gave us much enter­tain­ment. Our friend­ly guide, Sam­bu, direct­ed our dri­ver deep into the bush off of the trail to get bet­ter ani­mal view­ing. We were very grate­ful for his knowledge!

We returned to the lodge for a hearty break­fast of home­made puff rice and mues­li gra­nola, home­made yogurt, fruit and toast. We will rest for an hour before we head off to wash the ele­phants in the near­by river!

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