We took the Greenline bus to Chitwan. This is mainly because nowadays if you book on the tourist bus you don't necessarily get a seat as they overbook (welcome to Nepal!), but the Greenline is a certainty if you've booked. Also a bit more legroom. Not a lot, but enough to make a difference on a 7+ hour bus journey.
On arriving at our hotel, Tiger Camp, run by the effervescent Nick, a friend of Rabi's, we were told our itinerary for the next couple of days, which started with what was supposed to have been a half hour walk. 2 hours later we were back at the hotel having seen loads of very pretty, red insects, some elephants in the compound and a couple of crocs in the river, a bit hot and tired and ready for food.
|Can you see the baby ele?|
|Is it tea time yet?|
|Coming back from a day's work|
Next morning, an early start. We were ready for a canoe down the river at the back of 7 and were joined by a couple of Chinese girls, a Chinese couple, a Dutch girl and a Hungarian guy. We'd been told by Nick the night before to wear dark or jungle coloured clothing (nothing red, pink or white) - this is because rhino are short-sighted and will tend to charge at bright things they can detect. We were also told to talk quietly and make sure we all walked close together on our 3 hour planned trek. Apart from our Chinese compatriots chattering constantly, one Chinese girl wore a pink top and the Chinese guy smoked a pipe. This was just in the canoe. By the time it came to the trek they'd all started talking so loudly that any rhino that saw a pink top moving around in the jungle would most probably have been either put off by the noise or by the smell of smoke. Oh yes and I don't think the Chinese quite get the meaning of keeping close together!
|A whole lot of tourists starting their jungle trek|
|Ele going to work|
Suffice it to say we didn't spot many animals - a couple of monkeys, a deer or two dashing through the undergrowth, a frog and some rather lovely black bees, but the actual walk was good.
|Beautiful black bee|
What we did see in abundance was leeches, which absolutely loved me. I've never actually seen one up close and although the ones that were trying to latch on to my waterproof trousers were fascinating to watch, in some ways I wish I hadn't seen the two latched on under my arms... I think it's what you'd call an 'interesting experience' and apart from assuring you there was no girlie screaming or any waving of hands, I'll leave it at that. At the end of our trek I also found one had infiltrated through my sock and had a good go at my ankle. My sock was drenched in blood... great!
After a sock change and a quick shower we watched the elephant bathing. We didn't fancy it ourselves as it felt a bit too 'circusy' and the place was surrounded by Chinese tourists.
|Elephants getting ready for the tourists|
|Doing what they do|
After lunch it was time for an elephant safari. Luckily the four Chinese were put together and so the four of us Europeans enjoyed our safari in relative peace and without pipe smoke. We saw wild boar, herds of deer and loads of monkeys, but not a single tiger or rhino. Still, it was a fun afternoon.
|A pause in the chat to have their photo taken|
|Can you spot the croc?|
|Sunset at Chitwan|
Back at Tiger Camp and as us four Europeans were sipping our drinks, our guide, Utsah, came and told us he'd been told a rhino had been spotted fairly near. So we headed a short distance down the track by the river, and there, not more than 30 yards from where we were staying was an adult male rhino. I could hardly believe it was so close. We'd been on a 3 hour trek, an hour and a half elephant ride through miles of jungle and not a peek, yet here one was, next door, so to speak. We all agreed to get up at 5.30 and see if he was still there.
|Rhino in the dark in the undergrowth|
|Here he is!|
|If you look carefully you might just spot the baby|
Back for breakfast at 6.45 and then a quick pack as Rabi had sent someone to pick us up in a car and drive us to Lumbini that morning.
On reflection I'm really pleased I made the trip to Chitwan, but I don't think it's a place I'd come back to. It all seemed a bit too touristy for me.
Tomorrow is Part 5: on to Lumbini