CHITWAN NATIONAL PARK

April 12, 2012

 

Hello Adventures,

Wow does time fly! (And then it comes to a standstill when I fly.) I am home now and sad I didn’t finish my journal in Nepal. Other travelers I met kept wanting to go to dinner or out for beer. I thought I’d be alone. Oh well.

After trekking in the Everest region, Joanne and I returned to the buzz in Kathmandu. The Lonely Planet describes it as a “constant throng of humanity.”

A day or two later, Joanne and I flew to Chitwan in southern Nepal for a night. The landing of the small plane at the airport seemed especially bumpy so I looked out the window. The runway in Baratpur was much like a soccer field with a concrete building at one end. After getting out of the plane, I noticed streaks of mud and dirty splashes across the front nose and wing. We must have sailed through a swampy bog. At least by this time we were safe on the field. It was so hot and sticky there, it was hard to breathe.

When we arrived, we learned we couldn’t take a jeep safari through the jungle. The elephant grass was too high and only the big hotels could afford to cut it. Instead, we decided to take an elephant safari organized by the national park service.

At the National Park Headquarters, I spotted a large and beautifully perfect spider web sparkling through the trees in the sunlight. As I focused my telephoto lens upon the fine structure, a giant and black spider came into view! He stood proudly on his web. From toe to toe he was easily six inches in diameter.

Joanne looked worried as we climbed a set of stairs to board the elephant’s back nearly fifteen feet off the ground. “Is there any chance of falling off?” she asked. Though we would soon be entering rhino and tiger infested grasses, I assured her it was safe. However, once we were on the beast, sharing the small space with a young couple from New Zealand, it was a case of hanging on for life. I didn’t remember the elephant being so hurky-jerky. Yet soon we were used to the rhythm. I wondered about my corner of the elephant saddle. It squeaked.

A few moments later the four of us and driver atop the elephant were quietly approaching two wild rhino moving slowly through the tall grass below. The elephant paused on command (the drivers’ toe in position at the back of the elephant’s ear) so we could take a picture. After that we saw several deer, a few monkeys, some spider webs, and many large red bugs.

The woman from New Zealand noticed the tourist on the elephant ahead of us. The man’s eyes were closed — sound asleep! Some tourists just can’t control themselves. I wondered what other vacation highlights he had missed.

That night there was a fearsome storm. The wind blew as we sat for dinner by candlelight on the terrace at an outdoor restaurant. One gust of wind blew out all the candles, and every light in the small town went out too. It must have been a power line. Most of the restaurant cleared out but not the hardy travelers like Joanne and I and about six others. We huddled together at one table, constantly re-lighting candles and holding things down while trying to chat over the flapping awning and sprinkling rain.

Miraculously our dinners were served piping hot a few minutes later in the windy darkness.

Sincerely,
Heather O’Neal
Of Global Interest Adventure Travel

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