Chitwan

I was really hoping for a lie in today, but it just didn’t happen. My room is next to some elephants.

At 5am they were trumpeting. Then at 6am I had to be up.

We left at 6.30am ready for a jeep safari.

We are in the Terai region, flat grasslands. Not what you would expect to be right next to the high altitude Himalayas! But along the Indian border is the Chitwan National Park.

This World Heritage site protects over 932 sq km of forests, marshland and grassland, and is home to 120 Bengal tigers, around 500 one-horned rhino and 450 species of bird, amongst other animals. It was a short drive to the banks of the Rapti river. The national park is on the other side of this river.

To cross, we had to go in a long, narrow canoe. Once over, we were allocated our safari jeeps. We had barely been going 5 minutes through the forested area when we stopped and right there, sleeping on the ground was a rhino! It was barely 5 meters away.

The one-horned rhino is the largest of the three Asian rhino species. That was cool! A little bit further on and another two rhinos! A mother and a baby. The baby was barely visible above the long grass.

We headed out of the forested area and into a large plain. The grass was almost as high as me, there were peacocks sitting in trees and some with their full feather display on show. And just around the next corner, a rhino right on the road!!

As soon as we came round, he ran away quite quickly. But all the scales of his skin were visible, it was so close! After driving for about half an hour we climbed up into a tall lookout tower for some breakfast. Just some fruit.

But from here, couple more rhinos!! So many of them around!

We carried on driving around, a wild boar ran across the road infront of us – they are quite rare apparently! And then a group of bison. Every now and then we stopped for some deer – spotted deer and another smaller species too.

Macaques were running around the trees. There were lots of babies around. We went past a small lake, dotted around the edge were several herons and floating on the water, crocodiles. Here they have a weird species of crocodile – gharial. They have a normal looking crocodile body, but their snout is very long and thin with small teeth lining the edges. They sit with their mouths open hoping to catch the passing fish.

We stopped off at a gharial breeding centre in the park. They had lots of different sizes, mostly under 10 years old, so these were upto about 1m long. But they also had a couple which were about 30 years old and were almost 3m long. They did seem to be in fairly small enclosures, but perhaps they don’t move about much. They were all quite sedentary, just waiting for food to pass by.

On the way back, we spotted more rhinos, peacocks etc. A total of 8 rhinos!!

Sadly no tigers, but I really wasn’t expecting to see one. They are rare, our guide had seen one only 3 times this year, with one seen just 4 days previously.

We arrived back into town around 11.30am. We had the option of wandering around the town and having lunch, but we were all just so tired we headed back to the hotel. Food always takes so long here. Even if you place an order several hours previously you always end up waiting at least an hour. I ordered some vegetable momos and chapati for lunch. And it took about an hour and a half to arrive.

It came with some tomato pickle, so I made some momo wraps! They were pretty good. And then, just could not stay awake any longer, so went to sleep for several hours.

We were woken by a loud thunderstorm around 4pm, but had no issue sleeping through most of it.

Dinner was planned for 7.30pm (yes, my day seems to revolve around meal times) but we had knocking on our door at 6.45pm saying dinner was now instead. I was basically still asleep.

We didn’t get a dinner choice tonight. It was just a dal bhat ordered for us. I had a vegetarian but didn’t have a chance to request no dairy, so ended up with loads of paneer curry. The tray had vegetable curry (really delicious), the paneer (which I can’t eat), lentil soup (yum) some raw carrots and cucumber (yum), tomato salsa stuff (yum), cooked greens (ok, but a bit salty), popadom and tonnes of rice. I really wasn’t hungry, I was still half asleep, but I ate some of it. The portion sizes here are so huge!!

After dinner, we went to watch a cultural show. There were drummers and dancers, fire breathing and then participatory dancing (was not feeling up to that, so managed to stay on the side!) And then a good part of the day – bed time!! Still so exhausted. On top of feeling sick, my legs are still so sore – steps are so difficult.

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