Our day started early as we needed to mee our driver at 8 am. After a lovely breakfast, we gathered our things and went down to the lobby.
I saw a young gentleman who had arrived, but he didn’t seem to be looking for us, so I sat and waited with Dan. Finally, at about 8:15 a woman from the hotel came up to us and asked us if we were from room 501. Why yes we said. Indeed the young man was waiting for us!
We got into the small car (Dan’s red backpack and my smaller black one had to go into the front seat…no guide, so lots of space) and we were off! The traffic and haze in Kathmandu was crazy. Dan had read this morning that COPD accounts for 10% of the deaths in Nepal – and not that many people smoke!!! I’m afraid the blatant disregard for air quality will have that number increasing significantly in the next couple of decades! No wonder at the number of people wearing face masks as they walk or ride around the city!
Dan and I couldn’t help but notice the stark contrasts between here and Bhutan. There would have been some gorgeous scenery going through the passes as we descended to the border territory of Chitwan, located next the India. Unfortunately the level of smog and haze put a ghostly cast to everything.
Traffic was crazy as we were leaving at rush hour. The way all vehicles weave through traffic never ceases to amaze me. From the northern centre of Kathmandu to Chitwan, we saw no traffic lights. There were probably 5-10 police officers directing traffic through major intersections, but no electronic support from lights…the traffic moved in spite of this!
I asked our driver if I could lower my window – I though maybe the child locks were on, but no, he rear window buttons did not work. We drove for a while with the front windows partially open, but the smell and the metallic taste of the smog was too much for me, so I asked that he close the windows and put on the AC. He did so, and we got a winters blast from the front of the car! When I asked if he could turn the temp up a bit, he replied that the temperature controls don’t work! Oh well, first world problem. I had my jacket and would make due with the cleaner cold air.
We wound around the mountain roads as we first ascended from the Kathmandu valley, and then up and down the mountain sides on our way to the southwest. It was a two lane highway ( of sorts) and cars and bikes were passing slower trucks whether on a curve or a short straight away. I must say that we are getting used to the driving here… a little scary; and Nepal does not have the same speed restrictions that Bhutan has! All we can say is that we miss Mr Penjor and the sizeable Toyota we had that sparkled every time we got into it!
Enroute, we had a flat tire. It was about a half hour away from the lodge. Dan went out to help and saw that the spare tire was almost perfectly bald! I just prayed we would get to our accommodations free of any other incident!
At last we arrived at the Jungle Villa Resort. We were given a very warm welcome, but I’m afraid I was ready for the washroom before I could be very civil! Once I came back I was greeted with a hot towel and a cold drink. All lovely after our drive. We were invited to go to the dining room after we got settled for lunch. After lunch we were to meet up with our guide and enjoy an elephant safari. (Much easier to spot animal when they are approached by an elephant rather than a jeep!
We went to the elephant stand, along with 5 other people. There were 2 elephants there, ready for passengers. 4 would go on the first and 3 on the second. Dan and I and Jules and Kenny got the first elephant, and we were off! We started out and crossed the small river in front of the resort. It was amazing how the drivers could control the elephants simply by soft kicks of their bare feet behind their ears.
Each elephant took a different path to try and search out a Rhino in the long grass ( this stuff can grow as high as 8 meters). We managed to see some beautiful birds as we went along. At one point our driver decided to get off the elephant…she stayed steady as he checked for tracks and then she lifted him with his foot standing on the end of her trunk, until he could sit back into position.
He took a different path heading in the same general direction and soon we saw a one horned Indian Rhinoceros! (Only 3,000 left in the world!) What a beauty she was. Our driver was able to gently steer our elephant so each person had a good look. It was wonderful!
We then steered into the jungle itself and discovered some more animals; spotted deer including two young males and some pea hens and peacocks.
As we steered back towards the river we spotted a hog deer as well as a kingfisher, and a brown headed heron or “magic” bird. (Looks brown while standing and turns white with a brown head while in flight! We also saw the same crocodile sunning himself on the sandbar as we had seen when we started out.
We had a little excitement as the elephant in back of us started to “speak”. All of a sudden our elephant turned and trumpeted and headed straight back to her buddy. The two elephants then crossed the river together. It even appeared that they were holding their trunks together as they walked.
We soon got off the elephants and headed over to the bar for Happy Hour which gave us a chance to trade some pictures with Jules and Kenny.
After Happy Hour we headed back to our room for a short rest and then over to the cultural area for a look at some local Tharu women performing a number of cultural dances. The last one, they even had me up dancing!
At the end of the dance we went to the dining hall for a lovely BBQ dinner. I must say, with a sample of 2 meals here, the food is delicious! Feeling full, we headed back to our room to prepare for a full day of jungle treks, canoe rides, elephant lessons ( this resort owns their own elephants) and a jeep safari. It’ll be a busy day, so I’ll sign off for now! Until tomorrow!