Day Two in Chitwan
11.03.2009 - 11.03.2009 25 °C
Consoled from our inital frustrations the spectacular animal sightings yesterday have me grinning, Cheshire Cat Style, even in my sleep. Dilli-The-Dunce still raises irritation within us when he appears, always at meal times, starting conversations when we have a mouthful of noodles, but we cope with laughter. He is off on another walk in the wild with new guests ("good luck!") while we partake in the first activity of Day Two - An Elephant Sarfari in the 'Jungle'.
Large, spiral staircases leading to no-where hang mysterially in fields and courtards and we discover their purpose as our rotund, 13 foot, 4 tonne transport reversed his rear next to the top. Wobbling onto the wooden saddle it feels foolish to perch on such a huge mammal. Did he flinch when Andy got on I wonder? The name of our gallant steed is Bilbo, he's a 45 year old Indian Elephant (hathi) with slight flatulance. As we go to collect two more guests from a nearby resort I marvel at his height, his rough, leathery skin, his bumpy, bristly head and his floppy, spotty ears. Such a character! By contrast our driver is very petite, who must match Bilbo's age, and sits behind his huge lugs directing him with nudges and repetitious calls. He carefully lifts the low lieing elecriticity cables with his stick before they nearly strangle us. I am slightly disturbed by the metal, sharp-hooked tool he carries, is it intended for discipline when Bilbo buckaroos?, or for restraining the grumpy rhinos?, or just to 'pursuade' us to give a good tip? Gladly, it goes unused and the more favourable bamboo stick is waved to get Bilbo going, or a quick tap on his head to make him turn.
Two German women in white trousers join us on the wooden frame and Bilbo saunters into the 'buffer zone' - which is a secluded area just outside the actual park that we are told contains the same jungle life. From this tall vantage point it is so much easier to sopt the creatures before they scamper off; the shy spotted deer sticks around longer and even the elusive langur monkeys made an appearance.
Most visitors to Chitwan take this safari ride and because there are no wild elephants I wasn't surprised to see other tame elephants with tourists on their back - although, I was dissapointed the rustling I heard was not a crouching tiger. Without these other on-lookers however, we may not have got the jungle gossip..."Rhino Ahoy!". Top speed by trunk-travel must barely be 5mph and due to the dense forest vegitation there are no quick manoeuvers, but Bilbo took us to a small clearing just in time to see the most precious scene.. a mother and baby rhino, eating leaves together. They both seemed placid and undisturbed by our presence, even though we were in spitting distance. I would have thought Mummy Rhino would have been protective and aggresive but she just stood there, munching away, she even had a wee - as you do when people are gawping at you. When she finished off they went, marching into the shrubs, military style. Ohhh! I wanted to watch them all day!
Activity Two was a bike ride to the 12,000 Lakes in a conservation area and to our great delight Dilli would escort us there, hurrah! ? When our rickety cycles arrived, with non-adjusting seats, we laughed like hyenas as our knees came up to our ears at every peddle. Joviality was prerequisite today because everyone was celebrating Holi Festival, which meant all ages were out throwing bright, coloured power and squirting water at passers by. As we cycled through the villages and into the farmland we were not spared from the sabotage and Andy got stopped and smothered in bright pink powder - his favourite colour!
We escaped the onslaught as we rode into the parkland and we started a pleasant trail by the waterside...which didn't last long with Dilli around... Once again he abruptly turned and told us to hush, dismount and walk back quickly. Assuming it was a farce we rolled our eyes in jest, not another sprint for our lives?! But, no, he was right.. wading waist deep in the middle of the river was another Rhino; Rolf, filtering through the algae. We climbed a nearby tree to get a better look and most importantly to stay safe - we must have looked so silly splashed with various colours hiding in a tree. A Spanish guy who we met on the way into Chitwan was also riding past completly covered in red stuff, so we waved him down to come see. Wow! Thats's SIX rhinos in 2 days, How lucky are we!!
I got pelted with blue on the long ride back, so I looked reminiscent of my dressing-up days as a smurf. Even back at the lodge the waiters were waiting to ply us with red! Exhausted from the ride, covered in rainbow colours and beaming from our rhino encounters we slept like logs.