The mosquitoes in Chitwan are a pain, but worse is the humidity. Heat we can cope with, but humidity is awful. It means that you are constantly coated in sweat, your clothes end up drenched and aside from the fact you feel grubby you itch like mad. The sweat stings your eyes and you attract dust. I have probably got more annoyed with it than the kids, but it has been difficult having to deal with it. We have not experienced anything like this since being in Borneo back in 2009.
The day started with a walk into the village, elephants passed us on the track along the 15 minute walk. They are used in everyday life here for carrying people/goods/working in the fields and it is actually bizarre accepting that it is perfectly normal for such a huge mammal to simply stroll past as you walk along.
At 10.30am some of the elephants bathe in the river at the edge of the village and so after breakfast we headed there to watch. There was about 6 elephants being scrubbed down and one of the guys called me over. He gestured that Charlie and Abi get in and help bath the elephant. I was a little dubious since such a huge animal could have devastating effects if it were to even accidentally stand on either of them. I expressed my concern and the guy was trying to get across to me they would be fine, he would look after them. In fact I could get in too if I wished. Not wanting to leave all our stuff on the side of a river I refused but let the kids. The elephant extended its trunk and Charlie walked over it and climbed on its back. Abi was a bit suspicious and I think wanted to see what was planned before she got involved. As excited as she was, clearly she has more of a head for safety. Charlie was smiling in a way that is rare. It was almost as though he was experiencing a happiness unrivalled and he was thrilled and excited as the elephant took water up its trunk and then flicked it across its back covering Charlie in the process. Abi took only seconds to realise she wanted in on the action and before long they were both straddling this huge creature whilst having such a unique morning shower. Their laughter filled the river bank and attracted other travellers keen to get in on the action and before long the area was awash with Westerners all looking for this once in a lifetime opportunity.
As we walked back to the lodge both kids were unified and comments such as “this is the best day of my life” “I can’t believe we just did that” were repeated all the way back. It was great to see such happiness amongst them and I wondered if this could be topped. Particularly when Charlie said with a smile that lit up his eyes “I will remember this day for the rest of my life”
Elephant Safari’s are the reason most people come to Chitwan and after a bit of negotiation, for 900NPR each (£7.80) you can get a space on the back of an elephant. Charlie was the same price, Abi was free and I also needed a park permit which was 500NPR, both kids were free (Under 10’s) The total cost for the three of us was 2300NPR which is about twenty quid. A jeep came and picked us up and then took us up to the elephants. From there you wait on a platform and climb onto the elephant. They seat four people but we were fortunate that we had ours to ourselves. It is not the kid’s first time on an Elephant, they had been on one this morning and also on one in Thailand last year. But it was my first time. What surprised me the most was how delicate the animal was, how it moved so majestically and how intelligent it was. We walked first into the thick jungle, a few trees to the face later and we were looking at Deer, Monkeys, Boar and massive lizard type Iguana things. The wild animals were completely un-phased and I am told this is because they fear Jeeps, but not Elephants. As we crossed a river we trundled across plains and saw Buffalo in watering holes, we also saw Crocodiles chilling out across the banks of the river. Unfortunately we didn’t see a Tiger, which was a shame but as we were carried across the plains on the back of such a beautiful and graceful animal it didn’t matter. We were living the dream and having the time of our lives. After a few hours we walked back to the place we started and got back into the jeep to take us back to the lodge. I absolutely echo Charlie earlier in the day in that it was a day that I too would remember for the rest of my life.
Now, I grew up in a working class family and we had very little. Over the years many working class families have stuck to their roots while many have evolved into ‘ten bob millionaires’ it basically means that thanks to various catalogues and budget airlines these people can live a life that they can’t afford to and from the outside looking in these people look like they actually have something. Some are Chav’s and want an ASBO for Christmas and a stay in a hotel in Manchester courtesy of Mr Jeremy Kyle ltd. Others earn a good living and break free the chains of the lower class and head upwards. But one thing that unites every single person born into a working class family, regardless of how they may have branched out is the simple fact of life that whenever things are good someone will come along and ruin it. It is an undeniable fact of life and research by myself has proven it true.
So – Come the evening a nice meal on the banks of the river watching the sun set over the Terai plains with a cold beer was beckoning. There are three ATM’s in Chitwan and two were out of order – So I went to the third one and tried to withdraw 3000NPR which is about £28. I saw the familiar ‘thanks for your custom’ and no cash came out. I couldn’t believe that I had been scammed by this again. That means I have now wasted 15,000NPR in two separate ATM scams. That is £140 quid and because I am with the world’s most useless bank – NatWest and they need a signature for an ATM dispute it is money I won’t see again until September, if at all. Common sense would say the bank could email me the form, I would print it, sign it and then fax it – No, not NatWest. The worst thing was I had no cash, and there was now not a single ATM for at least an hour’s drive. I coppered up and realised we had enough for a packet of crisps and bottle of water. I told the kids I was sorry but it was just one of those things. No restaurant here takes card as payment and so as we retreated to our lodge I was a bit miffed. I spoke to the manager and he came up with an idea – He would charge me 3000NPR for something, I would pay via card and he would give me the cash. It worked and so I am pleased to say that as I write this I am sat on the banks of the river, watching the sun set over the Terai Plains. I just have to add, and this is genuine, just as I wrote that last sentence the lights and fan went off, the whole village has lost power; Like I said, doesn’t matter how much you branch from your roots there is always someone/something looking to piss on your bonfire.