Day three in Nepal and we left Kathmandu by Tata Scorpion – destination Sauraha in Chitwan National Park, around 170km away heading South-West. We took the Prithvi Highway which is the main road leading to India. It’s therefore full of buses and giant colourful Tata trucks racing against time to reach their destination. The road winds around and down the mountains and later on plateau’s out shortly before we turn into the park.
Even though this is a main road it’s in a rough condition. Vehicles swing into oncoming traffic either to overtake or to avoid huge potholes. Overtaking on blind corners is very popular, even with our driver who has over 20 years taxi experience. I’m sure that everyone released a little bit of poo into their knickers. Sometimes keeping your eyes closed was the only option!
The view is spectacular. We follow the Trishuli River the entire way and as we get further and further away from Kathmandu it gets wider, deeper and more turquoise.
There are multiple brickworks and mines dotted along the route with little hand pulled cable carts bridging the river to the greenery on the other side.
As we travel we see several bus and truck accidents. The worst we saw was a bus that had come off the road and rolled down the steep river embankment. Locals were in the middle of winching it back up to the road and they told us that 2 people had died and 29 were injured.
We eventually reached Sauraha and picked a lodge to stay in. The temperature was mild at an elevation of less than 1000m and reached around the mid twenties in the afternoon. We spent the evening chilling out on deck chairs overlooking the river with the hope of seeing one of the Parks’ reported 105 black rhinos, to no avail. For dinner the lodge porters prepped a campfire for us and brought out barbecued goat and chicken skewers. We may have sampled a few Nepali beers too…..
Day 2 in Chitwan NP and we had booked a very touristy jungle safari. Unfortunately Jerome was pretty ill with a bad stomach so we both stayed back whilst his brother mum and sister in law continued. They came back with stories about crocodiles, monkeys, barking deer, spotted deer, sloth bears, rhino, peacocks and an array of birds. They didn’t see any tigers though. We were surprised that there were so many different animals in Nepal.
The tour guide offered Jerome and I an elephant ride crossing the river and into the jungle that afternoon which we accepted. Jerome had ridden an elephant in Thailand but I hadn’t before so was pretty keen.
There were four people to each basket on the elephant and the guide sat on the elephants head and ‘steered’ it by pushing his bare feet onto each ear. (Looking back those elephants weren’t treated well and I felt really bad for taking the ride). The ride itself was pretty good and gave us an excellent view of the jungle. We saw the obligatory monkeys, peacocks and deer and negotiated a water crossing.
Back to the lodge and one of the porters pointed out a very rare yellow butterfly perched on a window. I have to admit, I found that to be the most interesting thing I’d seem all day!
Chitwan NP is a protected park but pockets of it are incredibly touristy. It’s great if you want a hotel with hot water, laundry services, heaps of shops and restaurants. But if you prefer a more untouched place then this is not the place for you.
We spent our last evening there chilling by the river in deck chairs with a camp fire again. You can’t knock that! For me, that was the highlight of Chitwan. Although touristy we were out of season and it was quiet and relaxed.