Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Chitwan NP - October 2012

How long does it take to drive 90 km (60 miles)? By bus approximately six hours we are told at the Katmandu office of Hotel Park Side. Round ticket would cost little less than $10.00. We accept the offer. Just two hours earlier rep from another agency told us that all buses were full due to national holiday and the only way to get to Sauhara was to hire a private driver for $170.00.

The next morning we set out for the bus station. According to the directions it’s merely 15 minutes walk along the main road. I don’t remember seeing a bus station in that direction, neither does Dave but our hotels staff reassures us that we won’t miss it.
And it indeed would be hard to miss. The buses line both sides of the road. They are long lines without any indication when each bus leaves or where is it going. The on site helper keeps busy seeing people into the correct one. Thankful for his service, we follow him  to a bus nearby where the driver checks our tickets and leads us to appointed seats. The bus is old but seats seem quite comfortable. Air Conditioning is provided by a fan mounted on each window. No other luxuries.

The bus fills quickly. Some people are even placed on a bench in the drivers cabin. We conclude the uncomfortably looking wood bench with no personal space must be for those who could not afford full price tickets.

A whistle sets the buses in motion. They take off at once and float down the street heading out of Kathmandu. Before we bid farewell to the city, we make a stop at a gas station. Long line of busses means a long wait. Local kids run among the busses trying to sell water and snacks to the bored passengers.

In about half hour we are in motion once again. The road is in poor condition and gets worse once we are past Kathmandu’s city limits. It snakes, too narrowly and too close to a treacherous cliff, down a steep valley.

The lowlands are words apart from the cold inhospitable mountain regions Nepal is also home to. Agriculture thrives here. Slopes of the valley shine green, every space is utilized for crops of various kinds. Large banana trees line the road.

The air is hot and humid, weighted with dust of our crumbling surroundings. The road, a highway running between two major cities, is in worse shape than many forest roads in US. As we cover the distance we are searching for a single building that would not be in desperate need of repair. Our search yields no results. The luckier people own a shabby, unfinished house, for the poor home is often nothing more than a straw roof supported by 4 sticks.

Sauhara, the entrance to Chitwan NP is in better shape. It’s a tourist village and with tourists come money. We are picked up at the bus stop by a rep from our hotel and in a terrain vehicle transported to the premises where we will spend the following 3 days. Parksite Hotel. The rooms are spacious and clean. Stuff friendly as far as we can tell. Awaiting our first adventure, we strike a friendly conversation with a couple from Holland with whom we share the next 3 days. There is also a family from Canada, husband and wife with their 2 children, who relocated to Kathmandu for a year so that the husband can help local hospital. Hearing about the little victories they celebrated along their now 3-month journey gives us an unique look on the challenges life in third world countries like Nepal can rise.

Chitwan NP is known for it’s healthy population of hippo’s, deer, crocodiles, and monkeys, sightings of tigers and sloth bears were also reported. We spend the following three days trying to catch our own sight of these animals, in canoe, jeep, and on foot. Fall when the grass is tall and strong, is not the ideal time for a visit, and excursions deep into the jungle are not permitted for safety, however we are still lucky to see several hippos, deer, family of monkeys, a crocodile, and a wild boar. The opportunity to visit elephant breeding center and pet baby elephants is another highlight of this trip.

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