We were genuinely sad to be leaving Pokhara, but due to transport already booked within India we had to start tailing off Nepal and making our way down to the Sub Continent. Nepal was extremely flexible in that we could go where we wanted and for however long we wanted as long as we were in Varanasi in India by 25th July. Given it takes an entire day and possibly longer to get there, realistically we need to be at the frontier by the 24th July.
There are two places I wanted to go to in Nepal before leaving and both just happen to be near the Sunauli border crossing. The first and from where I write this now is Chitwan National Park. The park has UNESCO status and is the best place in Asia to go on safari. Home to Royal Bengali Tigers, Elephants, Rhino’s etc the park is one of the most visited areas of Nepal. It is in a part of Nepal called the Terai range and is essentially the part that borders India at the very south of Nepal.
The day started with a 6.50 rise in order to grab a taxi out to the Tourist Bus Park. It was raining heavy and had been all night, so Pokhara was flooded. The taxi driver must have borrowed someone else’s car as he waded in 2 foot deep water without a care in the world.
Now, if anyone has ever caught a bus in Indonesia you will be sat there thinking you have done the worst bus journeys on the planet – And you would be right. Until you get to Nepal. The buses aren’t really buses at all, rather they are just like mini buses with as many seats as can be squeezed in as possible. Built a hundred years ago and not refurbished since, seats are broken, sat at 70 degree angles and are designated by the Guinness world book of Records as the most uncomfortable seats in the world. Add to that suspension that is broken, roads that have more holes in them that a million golf courses combined, air con that stopped working before Jesus was born, roads that are thousands of feet up with sheer drops and no barriers, and a guy sat behind you who hasn’t had a wash since birth and then consider how you have had to take yoga lessons just to sit in your seat and then realise you are on that bus for seven hours and you might just have some idea what a hellish journey buses are in Nepal. Oh and of course throw in a leak for good measure ensuring you get piss wet through for the entire journey and you can imagine how even the greatest day can end in stress. I genuinely hit my head on the ceiling of the bus a few times as the thing bounced around. I know – I should have put my seatbelt on right? They’ve not been invented here yet, apparently.
Most independent travellers to Chitwan will stay at Sauraha, a sleepy little village beside a river and on the fringes of Asia’s wildlife playground. As the bus pulled into the bus park you can appreciate I was a little bit pissed off. The kids had loved it, being a bouncy ball for seven hours was great fun to them. As we got off the bus we were hounded by touts all trying to get us here or there. We already had a reservation and so when I spotted someone touting for that place I made myself known. He bundled us into the back of a jeep and off we went down the mud tracks, eventually arriving at our lodge. I tried to pay and was told it was free. Things had started to improve.
Obviously it didn’t last and as we walked into the tiny village for some food I soon realised things in Chitwan by Nepali standards were very expensive. As an example we were paying 50NPR per kilo for laundry in Kathmandu, I had to bargain from 200 to 100 here. We were paying around 95NPR for chowmein and suddenly it was almost 300NPR. After a bit of searching we found some cheaper places and so we were happy.
Sauraha is basically a road that runs parallel with the Rapti River, and as we sat in a roof top restaurant a guy called the kids over to the edge. There were crocodiles chilling at the water’s edge waiting for some poor animal to saunter past thinking it was slick.
Gone is the huge Himalayan mountain range as the Terai is a mixture of flat lands and jungle. The plains lead up to mountains about a thousand metres high and so quite a geographical change from Pokhara.
By the time we had eaten it was about 3.30pm, there are no taxis in Sauraha, only horse and cart. We hired one to take us to the Elephant breeding centre about 3km out of town for 300NPR which is about £2.60 for the 30 minute journey there, for him to wait and then the return journey.
Abi took control of the reins as the cart went past bamboo huts with thatched roofs. The roads were busy with goats, chickens and buffalo. Elephants were working the fields and occasionally one would pass us carrying grass. Being overtaken by an Elephant whilst in a horse and cart is very surreal, the kids thrived off it. Eventually we got kicked out at the banks of a river. The guy said he would wait for us and we needed to get a canoe across the river that was raging. I am not joking, the guy with the boat must have been bored one day, chopped a tree down and hollowed it out. That genuinely was what it was. The slightest movement made the boat almost capsize and Abi was petrified. We finally got out and she said “Dad I’m not getting in that again” I asked how she supposed we got back across and she let out a little whimper as she realised that the fact of the matter was that she was doing that again.
The Elephant sanctuary is basically a place for breeding and caring for the elderly or infirm. There are about thirty elephants and many babies, the kids absolutely loved seeing the babies and it was well worth the 50NPR entry fee, kids were free.
We safely crossed the river again and back in the cart as we rode back to town we saw elephants playing football on a field with goal posts and everything. I sniffed my water just to check I wasn’t on something inadvertently.
As the day wound own I realised that we were in the wild west. The mosquito’s here have machine guns and jet engines under their wings. They are the size of B52 Bombers and have a machete strapped around their waist. I have been bitten through my clothes and the little shit laughed as it flew off I swear. We have been taking Anti Malarials (Malarone) as I knew the Terai is a place where Malaria is present. But they don’t stop you getting bit. So it’s out with the DEET, and I’m considering buying a baseball bat to boom them with. Thankfully we have mosquito nets around our beds, we are now also wearing trousers, socks and tops to cover as much exposed skin as we can. In 30 degree heat with a high humidity you can appreciate it is a day of constant sweating, though we’d all rather be slightly uncomfortable than seriously ill.
Since my last two blog posts have been rather touching I thought the best way to end this entry is with a joke Abi just told me and has told me probably a million times, it is perhaps the oldest joke ever: “What do you call a fish with no eyes – Fsh” Charlie and I sat in complete silence stunned that Abi could still find that funny, whilst she looked perplexed that we didn’t.