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.
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.
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!