Monday, 21 October 2013

Chitwan – The Real Nepal Experience

So, the time for wandering around the city has come to an end. It’s now time to head down south to Chitwan National Park, where our host family live and where we will be teaching. We will be heading back to Kathmandu in a months time, spending between 1 and 2 weeks seeing the rest of the city and the surrounds.

An overturned truck on the road from Kathmandu to Chitwan.

One of the many butterflies in our garden.
Harry and our host Bhim having a Nepali tea.
Our bus trip there was interesting. We had to get up and be on the bus by 6:45am, which was hard enough, and then we actually sat in the cab of the bus, right next to the driver. There were 4 of us, Marta, Harry, Ania and myself, as well as the driver, and also a man and his son. It was cool to start off with, but after about 6.5 hours, fun wasn’t the word. If you have ever been to Asia, you will know what the drivers are like – Vietnam is particularly bad. Our driver was good – he avoided every bump and slowed down for ditches and stray dogs and chickens – but he didn’t think twice about driving on the other side of the road (here they are supposed to drive on the left), constant beeping, and insane over-taking. On the road south, it was very mountainous, with windy roads, small bridges and a lot of traffic and pedestrians. We saw many overturned vehicles; some vans and buses with their front-end smashed in, and even saw a recent accident where someone had gone off a cliff. We were on the wall side there – not looking forward to the trip back where we will be on the cliff side…

We have met our host family, and have been living with them for 3 days now. The food is wonderful, but as it is pretty much the same everyday, I will be craving bacon and eggs very soon I’m sure (and maybe a burger or pizza!!!). The staple is rice, 2 kinds of vegetables, and a spicy plate (today it was spicy cucumber - YUM!!) and some dhal to mix with your rice. It goes down a treat with a beer, but beer here is not cheap due to the high government taxes.

2 baby elephants playing.
The first day here, after we got off the bus, we washed up, changed, and headed straight out for a walk. We live a 5 minute walk to the river, and if you follow the river, in another 10 minutes you are in the jungle. The river has plenty of crocs, but I haven’t seen any yet – but I am sure no one sees them until they get attacked, so maybe that’s a good thing! We passed a small village of about 10 families, all living in dried mud huts, and all the children came out to see us and to talk to us. They were so happy to walk with us, talk to us, and just speak English – they were dirty but happy children. They may appear poor these families, but they have what they need by growing it or making it themselves, and they have a real community spirit, so they are happy. Simple is good. Many people in the Western World just don’t know how lucky they are, and they have far too many ‘things’ and don’t realise you don’t need much to be happy.

The male rhino just before he started chasing us.

A spider in our garden.
One of our new housemates.
Day 2 was into the jungle. We cycled in, and after 15 minutes on the bikes we were in the heart of it – and had to stop for a soft drink as we were sweating buckets! There was an abundance of wildlife – birds, monkeys and insects were everywhere. We had high hopes of seeing Rhinos, and just as we were cycling back, where got our wish! Our host, Bhim, stopped us on our bikes, and pointed to patch of trees about 200m away and said, “rhino.” Sure enough there they were – a female and a big male. We clicked away, and watched them, but before long realised that there weren’t just standing there, but the girl rhino was giving the boy rhino a piggy-back ride. I don’t think they were too happy about us taking photos of them in this position, so they come up onto the road to scare us away. Some other tourists came up to that part of the road just as the rhinos came up – the tourists dropped their bikes and ran for their lives. I laughed at first, as the male rhino growled at them, sounding like a chainsaw almost, pushing their bikes over, but then he turned in our direction. If was nearly a life or death situation – I quickly scrambled up a tree after Harry, half hoping that they would come close so I could take photos, and also half hoping that they wouldn’t come over and knock down the not-so-strong tree we sought refuge in.

The young elephant (middle) is being trained to take tourists around the National Park.
Elephant coming in from the jungle for the night
A man fishing in the traditional style
Today was a little more relaxed, as we went to visit the elephant nursery. Here they have lots of elephants, and breed them to use in the National Park for work and for tourists. We saw a few baby elephants, running around and playing with their brothers and sisters, and always ‘smiling.’ I love how happy elephants seem to smile! We couldn’t get close enough to pat the babies (I just have to pat everything), but we got quite close, and just enjoyed seeing these amazing 5-tonne creatures. If you know elephants, you will know that Asian elephants are slightly different to African elephants. African elephants cannot be trained and used like Asian elephants; Asians also have smaller ears than their cousins, and well as having only 1 ‘lip’ on their trunk compared to two.

The river and the jungle, just down the road from our house.
We start teaching in a day. I am a little nervous, as the classes will be very big, no paper or resources, and of course very, very hot. I enjoy teaching kids, and just need to get back into the swing of it – it has been a little while since I have taught!

The children here are so beautiful and happy.
 We have had a great few days here. We have done plenty of walking and seeing things, including wild animals in the jungle. Our village is so quiet and beautiful. People are extremely friendly and happy. We can see the snow-capped Himalayas on the walk to town – what else do you need I ask you.

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