Chitwan National Park, Nepal

After our well-deserved break in Pokhara, we needed a new adventure. We decided to visit Chitwan National Park, a national reserve located close to the Indian border. Early in the morning, we walked to the bus station in Pokhara. Having already bought our ticket the day before from the hotel, we tried to find the right bus. There are many buses in the station, many of them without clear indicator of the company but fortunately, locals working there are very helpful. Many people were selling warm pastries and souvenirs. As we were a little early, we put AA’s bag on the top of the bus and waited for the bus to fill up. It left on time at 7:30 for a five-hour long ride. We stopped somewhere in the middle for a thirty-minute break.

Pokhara Bus Station
Breakfast break

When we arrived in Sauraha, one of the villages located right on the border of the protected area, many hotel owners were waiting for the bus, offering a ten Rupies ride to their hotel. We don’t like to be pressured into choosing a hotel so we walked for about 1.5 kilometers to the main street, where we stopped for lunch before starting our hotel research. We visited a few but the prices were a little too high for our liking. We were going to change our mind about the pricing when one of the owners we had met at the bus station drove by with his small red pick-up. We took him on his offer to show us the room and if we didn’t like it he would drive us back to the center. The hotel was located on a side street, with very quiet surrounding. The 400 Rupies room was nice enough, roomy and included a hot shower, so we decided to stay.
The hotel offers a “sightseeing” tour everyday around 4pm. We followed our “guide” to a place where they keep some of the elephants. We saw a baby elephant, about 5 months old and her mom, 40 years old. There was also a big old male about 60 years old. They are unfortunately chained down to prevent them from running away. It is sad to see them restrained, but as they grow up in captivity, they are not used to caring for themselves anymore. They are mostly used for safaris in the jungle, carying tourists on their backs twice a day. We saw one owner clearly abusing his elephant, but for the most part, owners seemed to treat their elephants fairly. Never as good as if they were in the wild, but better than we had expected. 
Government owned elephants
Mom and baby
Sunset over the Rapti River

The next morning, we woke up at 5:30, had breakfast and met with our guide for our walking safari. We walked to the ‘sunset viewpoint’ area, where our guide had to buy our permit. The formalities took a while and we started our trip only at 8am. Any groups of more than two going for a walking safari in the jungle needs two guides, one in front and one in the back. We sat in a long canoe with another couple, the four guides and the boat driver. We spent 45 minutes on the water, seeing many birds on our way. It was very foggy and it added a little mystery. When we stopped our boat tour, we stepped out and viewed our first big animal, a rhino! It was in the very tall grass so quite hard to spot, but we stayed for a while and it finally moved a little bit while eating, before laying down with a “hmmph” of content. 
Sunrise in the fog
Canoe ride on the Rapti River

We walked in the jungle with both our guides, armed with bamboo sticks. We saw some spotted deers and a crocodile. We took many breaks during the day as it was very hot and the animals don’t move much during the day. About an hour after following tiger prints (and smelling a fresh pee marking) we took another break. We walked some more and spotted many birds including peacocks, countless butterflies, many deers (spotted and smaller ones too), monkeys, 3 crocodiles (Gharial and Mugger crocodile), another rhino and some wild chickens. We crossed the river back to the village at 5pm. We said thank you to the guides and went for a well-deserved shower after walking all day in the sun. 
Our guide looking for wildlife 
Deers on the side of the Rapti River

Our second day in Chitwan was spent mostly enjoying the warm weather from our balcony. On our third day, we went for a second safari, this time leaving for a 2 day/1 night tour. We woke up early again and met our guides in town this time. They had already arranged the park entrance permits so we sat in the long wooden boat and started our second expedition on the Rapti River. We saw many birds on our way despite of the thick fog. Our guide was very good, pointing all the different type of birds and the many crocodiles. After about 3 hours of boating, with a small stretching break in the middle, we arrived to the next village. It felt good to be back on dry land after spending the first part of our expedition on small wooden benches which are very hard on the back and bottom.

Our second guide on the long boat ride
Mugger Crocodile
Gharial Crocodile

We followed the guide through the very long grass keeping an eye open for wildlife and hoping for a tiger or a leopard. Unfortunately we didn’t see them. When we arrived closer to a long lake, a rhino got out of the bushes right behind us. We looked at it for a few minutes while it was wondering if we were a treat or not. We walked to a tall watchtower to have lunch. The rhino decided it was bath time and went in the water just in front of the tower. We watched it for about an hour while having our lunch. It really seemed to enjoy its bath, but at one point it needed to go to the toilet, so he walked out of the water, peed for what seemed like forever, and went right back in the lake. Later on, another group caught up with us and the rhino must have thought it wasn’t quiet enough anymore because it went back in the forest.
We walked more in the jungle, seeing spotted deers and monkeys. We did a huge circle and came back later to the watch tower. We spotted a couple of wild boars on the other side of the river along with many crocodiles. We were almost at the watch tower when a entire family of wild boars with seven or eight babies ran around us to get cover. They ran very fast and surprised us quite a bit! We walked toward the river, catching up with a big group of tourists. They were walking really slow and talking so we weren’t expecting to see any more wildlife when suddenly the group stopped. Their guide had spotted a big mommy rhino with a baby. She wasn’t too happy and looked like she was going to charge the group to protect her baby. The guide used his bamboo stick to make lots of noise and the rhinos ran away. We made our way back to the river where we took a small boat across to the village outside of the park.
Our guides brought us to a small lodge by the river where we took a cold shower. We were entertained by the 13 year old kid singing many songs in five different languages. We were all very impressed by what he had learned from the previous visitors. 

Time for a bath
Even trees have parasite
Wild Boars

The next morning we woke up a 5:45, went for breakfast and started our second day in the jungle, this time in the buffer zone. We walked through the jungle, seeing many termite towers. We saw some deers and monkeys again. We even got a piggy-back ride from our guide in order to cross a small river as the water level was high. Fortunately they were no crocs in this river, according to our barefoot guide. We stopped at a few water holes looking for new animal prints. We also went by another watch tower where some people had heard a tiger, but unfortunately it didn’t want to see us, or a least be seen by us. We made our waz back into civilization, walking by the elephant breeding center.

Termite Nest
Twisted tree
Sunrise in the jungle

After enjoying the nature of Chitwan National Park, it was time to take a bus back to Kathmandu. We had bought the tickets through our hotel and were very impressed when we saw the bus. It was great, a real coach, with comfy seats and room for our legs. The bus ride was long, following the same road we were on before. It had many sharp turns, a lot of traffic and many close calls. We stopped for a snack break, then for lunch and finally to let people out in the surroundings of Kathmandu. We walked to Thamel district, found a place to sleep and went to the hotel we previously stayed at to get our bags back. We came back to the room to have a look at the stuff we had left behind. We had forgotten how busy and noisy Kathmandu is and we were not quite ready for it. It was time to get out of Nepal and experience a new country!

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