Chitwan Safari

Pippa Wilson on 09 November 2019
Following my trek to Everest Base Camp I had a quick repack of my luggage and then set off for the 5 hour journey to the Chitwan National Park.

The roads were crazy, as were the drivers. I have never heard so much horn tooting but all seemingly in good nature.

We arrived at the Machan Country Villas and I was introduced to my guide, Chhanu, and was provided with a well needed refreshing welcome drink. It was very hot and humid. I dined alone in the dining room, thinking that it was that I was late and so had missed lunchtime however I soon discovered that I was the only guest staying there which, in some ways, was rather lovely – a team of staff catering to my every need, but also a little lonely – it would have been nice to meet people and chat to someone over meals. After lunch I was shown to my cabin which was named ‘Hornbill’. My guide, Chhanu was an expert ornithologist and kept his bird guide book on him at all times. I noticed there was a torch on my bedside table so I guess power can be intermittent. Chhanu asked if I’d like to take a walk so I grabbed my water bottle and we set off into the local village where his family live and showed me where they cook and where they eat. Two small fires inside clay domes provide the base for a pan with rice and a huge pile of rice in the corner is their staple diet. It was very dark and this was the middle of the day. I can’t imagine cooking in this kitchen with bad light. They do have some electric but really just enough to power a light bulb Each family has a cow tied up outside which they get milk from.

We walked down to the river hoping to see some animals, maybe elephants, taking on water. It was a beautiful sunset down at the river, the view and the colours changing every few seconds. Chhanu was continuously pointing out birds and scouting the banks for animals and birds.

Walking along the beach for a while we were able to see deer prints, rhino prints and elephant prints. Went back to my cabin and had a quick shower before supper. I washed my t shirt as I showered as it was the only colour t shirt I could wear on the safari. Rhinos in particular do not like bright colours and red in particular makes them angry so my new khaki trousers I had bought in Thamel and my green t shirt were perfect. Chhanu also did a slide show presentation to show the wildlife they have here. Dal Baat for tea and a couple of beers before I headed to my cabin for the night. Day2 Up at 6 and had breakfast at half past six. Tea, muesli with fruit and yoghurt, fried egg with hash brown, sausage and tomato. Chhanu and I then went for a bike ride but stopped for a cuddle with their captive elephant on the way out. She is nearly 50 and has three children; two girls and one boy. She was quite happy to allow me to stroke her and talk to her – I think it was the first time I have actually touched and elephant. We picked up a couple of bikes from the resort entrance and started our ride through the neighbouring village.

We met some ladies carrying baskets on their heads in the traditional manner. They let me try. Chhanu was trying to video my efforts but think he must have forgotten to press record probably just as well as it was a pretty disastrous attempt. The women in the next field were harvesting the rice and asked me if I’d like a go. They were so neat and made it look so easy. Their scythes looked very sharp so I declined the offer. I also saw lots of buffalo. They are a queer animal. Very strangle looking, almost like their ears are in upside down. One female was very inquisitive and listen to every word I spoke.

We rode for around 25km and much of it was on very bumpy tracks. When we arrived back at Machan it was an hour before lunch so I had a dip in the pool as it was very very hot and sticky. I spent a long time just floating in there, pool to myself, and resort to myself!

After lunch I put on my long trousers and khaki coloured clothes and met Chhanu and we walked down the drive where we met our jeep safari guide and driver. The safari was amazing. We picked up our park ticket which was basically our licence to visit and I saw it was made out in my name. So there was myself, Chhanu and another guide plus our driver. As soon as we had entered the jungle Chhanu slapped the bars of the jeep and we stopped. He pointed up into the trees and there was a monkey jumping from branch to branch. It was closely followed by another. They soon scarpered and just as we were about to move on he pointed into the bushes where I could see a splash of red. A barking deer, not at all phased by our presence. We could see the back of a lone rhino in the grass It was quite a way off but was moving in the right direction.

We spent some time watching the giant armadillo like creatures plod through the mud and munching on huge tufts of grass, holding the grass in their mouth and then twisting their heads to rip the grass from the stem. We were so close we could hear them munching. The baby, I was reliably informed, would have been about two years old. They were so majestical yet somewhat comical looking with their plated armour. Further into the jungle we stopped right blow a toucan perched on a branch. He was brightly coloured with his black and white feather and his superb yellow bill. After seeing a couple more rhinos at the water edge we also spotted a pair of wild boar. We made our way down to the waters edge where two men and a boat waited. I was handed a life jacket and assisted onto the boat. By the waters edge Chhanu spotted some relatively fresh tiger prints, only a few hours old.

The river was quiet with occasional rapid sections. Almost immediately we spotted an alligator basking in the sun. As we approached it scuttled odd into the water. He was hard to spot, so well camouflaged in the mud on the banking. The sun was starting to set and all we could hear was bird song, crickets and lapping water. It was beautiful. As we floated down the river, Chhanu pointed out egrets, cormorants, a peacock, love birds, kingfishers and many others, each time showing me the page in his book so I could see what the bird looked like close up. Eventually we reached the boys on the bank and left the river, thanking our two drivers.

The next morning after breakfast my driver arrived to take me back to Kathmandu. A short but magical trip.

Full blog and diary of my adventures can be found here