After a six hour roof-rack drive (on the top of a bus with the luggage – it’s the only way to travel) we arrived in Pokhara this morning. The past four days have been spent at Hotel Parkside at the Royal Chitwan National Park after a final farewell to the other VSNers (the orphange folks Sam works with including a slap up pizza meal at Roadhouse in Kathmandu).
A total change of scene from Thamel, Chitwan is safari land and several degrees hotter. Tropical rainforest, elephants, rhinos, bengal tigers etc etc
We (Jen, Sam and myself) met up with Kiwis: Kiri, Dave and Sharon for the six hour bus journey through the mountains. The schedule was pretty jam-packed for a four day trip and in the afternoon we immediately went off on a tour of the local village and elephant patrol houses. After substantial amounts of food in the thatched resteraunt platform of the hotel were jeeped to a ‘cultural evening’ put on by the locals. Despite my initial reservations about these types of events it was very impressive and the compere certainly made the “presentation of the presentation” very presentable.
The next day was an early rise for an early morning dugout canoe trip down river and a jungle safari on foot. Unfortunately we didn’t spot much apart from small or stationary things like bugs and beehives, but it gave us an opportunity to dazzle the guides with a mid-safari human pyramid display.
After more food (and of course, with seconds) we all got onboard elephants for a higher and more unstable safari where we finally managed to spot some larger wildlife including our first rhino. We got back just in time to order some cocktails and watch the sun go down over the river.
The next morning was a slightly later start, but we made our way over to the elephant breeding centre and spent an hour or so trying to feed cookies to the baby elephants. We were then jeeped over the river to sit on the bank for a couple of hours until the highlight of the four days for me, elephant washing and bathing. These huge animals are incredibley gentle and are more than happy to wash you too. Really good fun. In the evening we took a jeep safari to the 20,000 lakes for sunset where we saw deer, rhinos and macack monkeys, but alas no tigers or leopards.
Despite not being lucky enough to spot one of the rarer animnals, the whole time was really entertaining and the staff at Parkside were particularly good making the whole thing very relaxing and smooth and we (very) attentive.
We’ve now arrived in Pokhara, another popular destination and starting point for trekking in the Annapurnas. The views are spectacular. We also ran into a few more VSN guys who spotted Sam, Jen and myself on the front page of a nepali language paper this morning, bathing the elephants in Chitwan. Apparently the story is to do with tourism being on the up. We have already demanded a reduced celebrity rate at the hotel and are trying to sell signed copies.