02 to 04 May 2009
On Saturday morning, I headed to Chitwan National Park to check out some of the lodges we use and compare the experiences they offer. I can’t believe the time here has gone so quickly and I haven’t had the opportunity to do this and a couple of other things I want to do yet. As per my usual experiences at Kathmandu airport, I was expecting a long wait in a very dull departure lounge. I arrived there and was checked in for my fight by 9.30am and miracle of miracles, my flight was called at 10.15 (for a 10.20 departure). Yes – that is enough time to get a fight up in the air on schedule. For a domestic flight in Kathmandu there’s no lengthy process getting to and on the aircraft; when the flight number is shouted out, all the 12 to 15 passengers rush forward, are quickly frisked through security, boarded on a bus which the luggage cart is then attached to, and whizzed across the tarmac to the plane which is then boarded and loaded in around two minutes whilst the propellers are warming up. It doesn’t take long to board 12 passengers and as soon as everyone is on, the plane is halfway down the runway and then up in the air – whilst the pre-recorded safety announcement is still being played! 15 minutes later we have touched down at Bharatpur airport – yes 15 minutes! As I said on Facebook, this must have been one of the shortest flights I have ever done! But that wasn’t the end of the journey and from there it’s an hour’s drive to the park, where I switched to a jeep for the last 15 minutes. I had 2 nights in the park at 2 different lodges, at the first one I met up with 2 other single women travelling on their own (on holiday, not on a recce) which was nice company.
On the first afternoon, I went out on safari on elephant back. On this side of the park, I had been told that there’s not much wildlife to be seen – “not much” means “not likely to spot rhino and would be a minor miracle to spot a tiger”. Knowing this, I wasn’t expecting to see much at all so was just out for the ride! And therefore I wasn’t disappointed! We did see the 4 different kinds of deer that are in the park and lots of bright and colour birds. The woman I was with was very happy with what she saw which shows it’s partly down to expectations and partly down to previous experience. Sometimes I wonder if I am far too blasé about what I am seeing and doing …… “oh another spotted deer…” whereas if you’ve not seen them in the wild before it’s pretty impressive for many.
In the early hours of the following morning, around 4am, it started blowing up a right hooey, with trees whipping around and lightning flashes that like someone turning a light bulb on and off in the room. Which it couldn’t have been as there’s absolutely no electricity in the rooms. Then the rain came and started lashing in sideways through the window that I had left open because it was so hot. PS Mum, I think you’re right about headaches and thunderstorms as I got another really bad one the previous evening! So at 5.30am when I was due to get up for my jeep safari I didn’t bother as I knew it wouldn’t be happening. Not that I could sleep though! By 8am the rain subsided and by 9 o’clock the sun was out and it was a beautiful clear day. The storm was needed to clear the air and water the plants – it was the first time it has rained in this part of Nepal for 8 months!
That morning I transferred to the other side of the park to another (posher) lodge! I did another elephant safari that afternoon and a boat and jeep safari the following morning and as well as aforementioned deer and birds also saw rhino, monkeys (also 10 a penny) and Marsh Mugger and Garial crocodiles. So yes, in the case of Chitwan, west is better than east for a variety of wildlife. Tiger? Not this time – there is a girl working there on her gap year and she has seen 6 in 4 months, so you have to be lucky.
I also went to an “elephant briefing” where you meet the elephants at their lodgings and learn about them – we went to one in February when we were in Chitwan on holiday so I should be getting quite an expert on them by now! After the briefing I walked down to the river for a mother and baby to have their bath and had a little paddle with them – I was a bit nervous about getting too close in case she rolled over or decided to spurt water over me! So that was my adventure in Chitwan National Park – I flew back to Kathmandu on Monday morning with the super-quick flight meaning I was at my desk in time to start my working day (which is at 1pm here).