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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Royal Chitwan NP to Haridwar

INDIA | Wednesday, 19 December 2007 | Views [2175] | Comments [1]

Fri 14th Dec - I fancied a break from temples and the noise of the city, and so booked myself onto a 2 night/3 day package trip to Royal Chitwan National park leaving this morning. Will be staying at the 'Maruni Sanctuary Lodge' which is inside the park. The park is the oldest in Nepal and is located in the sub-tropical inner terai lowlands of the south. It became a world heritage site in 1984. The tourist bus to Chitwan left from Kantipath at 7am, which is only a 5 minute walk from the Guest House. Once out of the smog and chaos of Kathmandu, the scenery changes and becomes open countryside following the river Rapti south. Although it was a cold start due to the altitude of Kathmandu, the view was superb, with snow-capped mountains in the distance against the craggy hills in the foreground with terraced crops.

There was an option to raft the journey to Chitwan and if I had planned things different, that would have been the way to go, as the Rapti is a succession of good rapids and calm areas with some incredible rope bridges crossing it.

Along the way are plenty of pretty old villages of rustic shacks flanking the road amidst plantations of bananas, coconut palms and fields of various crops including rice paddies. Was surprised to see the emergence of some sign boards advertising foreign beers such as Orangeboom dutch beer, San Miguel, Tuborg, as well as Everest and Nepal Ice beer!

Arrived at the Chitra-sari bus station in Sauraha at noon. Well it's actually a dirt area in the middle of a farm field, where the pick-ups are waiting to ferry passengers to their lodges. Only me going to the Maruni. A really beautiful drive in the back of a pick-up truck to the lodge, through the pretty local village, flanked along the way by fields of mustard/rapeseed in full bright yellow bloom. This would normally be in flower in May in the UK and it's mid-december now! The sun is got quite a kick to it, so will need to change rapidly into hot weather clothing when I arrive.

Quick check-in and in to my thatched lodge, home for the next couple of days. Fantastic spot....chose a good one here! Lunch served straight away with a nice Nepali 3 course lunch and then chill for a bit before activities begin.

Off for a 3 1/2 hour walk through the jungle armed only with a big stick and my trusty guides with their big sticks. As I'm the only traveller here at the moment, I am treated to personal attention and have the manager as my guide plus a local ornithologist for expert birdwatching information. I had read about attacks on people by tigers and leopards and wondered if a stick would be enough! I suppose I could poke its eye out as it tried to devour me! The reality as there aren't many such creatures anymore .... theoretically ... we actually saw tracks on our walk! Could have done with some more insect repellant as there were millions of the little blighters. The walk was really nice and saw a single elephant munching away in the bushes. Amongst many species of birds saw lots of peacocks and a male doing his display ritual to impress the lady peacocks. Some interesting skating frogs made a little diversion as did some bright red dung beetles. Sorry...I'm a wildlife fanatic so get interested in such things! Had to wade across the river a few times which was refreshing.

The sunset was a gorgeous red ball of flame that turned the sky a vibrant orange and the majestic mountains along the skyline illuminated amber. Set against the semi savannah like terrain, it reminded me of my time in Africa.

As darkness was going to set soon and rapidly, we had to head to a suitable place to get back from. Made it to a 'Tharu' village. These are the native people of the area who even have their own language, but sadly the government are succeeding in eroding their traditions and making them conform. Education is sem-compulsory from 6yrs old, so some of the younger people do have a little english which they loved to practice on me. They hardly see any travellers so I am a novelty to them. The reception is lovely but it is very dark now and have difficulty seeing their environment fully. Mainly cosy thatched huts set around the dusty common area...goats running around and little fires blazing away...totally idyllic! The local church had a nice sound coming from it so I went to look what was going on. A group of children sat around a single candle in the dark playing some music and singing, was really lovely. One old guy came out to shake my hand....it was very dark now and his hand was crusted in something that didn't feel pleasant....couldn't wait until I could get somewhere to wash my hands! Another guy wanted me to join him for some 'Roxy', the local potent brew that's guaranteed to blow your socks off apparently. He was drunk as a skunk already, but was so friendly I was going to take him up on his offer but my interpretter/guide advised against it as we had to get back...sounded a great idea to me though. We had no lights and only the moonlight to navigate by, so going was very slow on the way back. Nervous a bit as I had asked why everywhere was so dark. Tonight is one of the two nights each week when there is no electricity. So that means the electric fences will be dead and they are there to keep the animals out! They have had rhino and leopard wondering into the camp on occasions. No worries then!

Got back in time for dinner by candlelight. Would have been great other than being on my own...boohoo :-(

The chef was brilliant and the nepalese meal was fantastic. Served on 8 dishes plus poppadums, included such flavours as curried bananas and the best dahl I have had in a long while. Followed by rice pudding topped with sultanas and coconut with spices. The whole meal organically grown. I had to complement the chef for a wonderful feast.

Electricity appeared near to 8pm, so must be lucky as it wasn't expected back until tomorrow.

It has been another long day and shattered. Up at 6am tomorrow morning, so another tiring day ahead.

Sat 15th Dec - Wake-up call at 6am as off into the jungle again. 8 course breakfast - couldn't face it as too much so left most of it. Short jeep ride into the village to the canoe docking area. It is really cold this morning and the Rapti river is very eeire, with mist rising off the surface. The water is unusually warm, in the 20's. Many people are off down the river, so the 8 person teak dugouts are busy. The atmosphere is surreal as the mist drifts around as water evaporates off the surface and various images come into/ out of view through it. During the 1 1/2hr canoe trip saw many bird species (3 types of kingfisher, Shelducks, wagtails). The highlight was a 'Gharial', which is a type of crocodile with a long pointed snout. Its mouth is packed with mis-shapen teeth that it uses to catch fish. Dropped off down river and then headed back through the jungle on foot. Wasn't long before we started to see tiger and rhine footprints that looked reasonably fresh. There was only me and two guides...the personal service is superb here....but scary considering they only had sticks again! We didn't see anything so it turned out ok. Even though the safety side of things was a bit nerving, I was still disappointed in not seeing much. Only saw Rhesus Macaque monkeys and some birds, all of which are common.

Walked to an elephant breeding centre, which is also home to an old 'single-horned' rhino. About 40yrs old, it has seen a vicious battle which has left a big gash on its underside. The elephants are used for breeding and then trained for work use, but not returned to the wild, which I think is sad.

A short boat ride to cross the river then a jeep to the elephant bathing area by the river. For an hour each day they are ritually bathed and if you want, you can get to bathe with them. I wasn't happy with how much prodding the guy was giving the poor animal to make it do things. I am sure it was OK as they need a bath anyway, but was happy to just watch. Decided to walk back to the lodge via the old tharu villages. The lifestyle here is idyllic. Beautiful sunshine, golden fields, people chillin in the sunshine. Old women cutting up Turmeric tubers to dry in the sunshine before grinding into powder.... Young girls weaving the matting for carpoys, which are a kind of raised bed or resting platform. Various grasses and raffias are used. Went into one family's hut to look around. Really cosy with sleeping areas for everyone, kitchen, storage areas. The lady of the house gave me a large cup of Roxy, the local potent brew I mentioned. Whoosh...very nice! Straight to my head, and it's only 11am'ish. Smells nice and tastes pleasant too. Chalk that one up as a favourite.

Back to the lodge for yet another humungous lunch that I couldn't finish and time to chill ahead of going on a jungle safari on elephant back mid-afternoon.

The safari was great fun. About 5 elephants (aka Hathi locally) to start with, each carrying 4 passengers in the hoodoo, with the Mahout sitting behind the elephant's head. After about 15 minutes we passed someone who tipped us off that there was a leopard in the area, so we set off to track it down, crashing through forest at quite a rate, which was a fair challenge for us to not get demolished by low flying branches in the process! Wasn't long before we found it and from nowhere 10 elephants seem to be in on the chase with the leopard running from bush to bush. Most elephants were hyped up and trumpetting as loud as they could and bashing their trunks on the ground, creating a loud echoing thwack. I think this confuses the poor leopard which doesn't know which direction to run in. Cornered it.... A real beauty. The markings were gorgeous and to see one on an elephant safari was a real highlight. Well worth coming to Chitwan just for that. A tiger would be nice, but almost impossible to track as there are so few in such a large area. The leopard managed to escape after a while and so we left it alone to go and recover from its ordeal. Quite an adrenalin rush that was.

The elephant took a while to calm down too as it kept on its low rumbling sound as we sauntered along. Further on Into the jungle and another treat....the 'marsh mugger'. This is a short and stocky version of a crocodile. Given the name mugger by the british after the croc was seen dragging villagers off to their death into the waters. Also saw a sambar, which is a kind of deer and a few of the rare single-horned rhinos ( aka Gaida), lazing in the sunshine, one with a baby. There were only 372 found in the last census and only 2000 believed to exist in the whole world. Numbers are reducing due to poaching. A great safari in all.

In the evening off to a Tharu cultural performance. This is like their equivalent of the british morris dancers. Guys (no women perform dances here) dressed in white, waving and clashing sticks to a drum beat. A number of dances were performed starting with the stick dance. One was the peacock dance...the peacock was introduced here to reduce the number of snakes that used to trouble the villages. They are no longer a problem as peacocks are everywhere. One of the more risque dances was the lady-boy dance. A guy wearing make-up and dressed in a brightly coloured outfit swirling around. To finish off the show, a form of conga on stage for the audience, me included to join in. A bit of fun jumping around without much of a clue who to follow. It's been a long day, but a really enjoyable one.

Back up north tomorrow to kathmandu for the night ahead of catching a flight to Delhi.

Sun 16th Dec - Back on the Saibaba bus north to Kathmandu. Luckily I have a seat on the side with the view as I did on the way down. Trouble is I had a guy next to me with an annoying kid sat on his knee who sucked his teeth the whole journey. Wanted to kill him!

Just is I noticed on the way down to Chitwan, the nepalese are very industrious folk, especially the women. Saw many of them braking rocks with a hammer to make into aggregate. Hard work and something I would have expected the guys to be doing...where were they....probably with their feet up somewhere? The women carry all sorts of stuff in baskets with a long strap that goes across the top of their head. Saw many guys filling these with large amounts of stones from the river bank. The woman would then have to struggle up incredibly steep slopes to where they would then have to break them up. The guy of course would then take a dip in the river to cool himself off after the hard work of filling the basket! This just wouldn't be allowed in the west. To be fair to the guys, some of them were working in garages and doing building jobs.

Arrived back in Kathmandu to the smog I had so missed...not! So many people wear masks across their mouth here that it is a bad state that needs to have something done urgently. The problem is that nobody in charge seems to care. Maybe they do, but there is no evidence of doing anything about it.

Had decided today to squeeze some time in Haridwar, north of Delhi between getting back to Delhi and shooting off south to Sri Lanka, so luckily I managed to get the trains booked on-line. Without an account this would be so much more difficult to do spontaneously.

Had a nice meal in G's terrace retsaurant with a great live band playing international favourites to an appreciative audience. As mentioned before, Thamel is a great base to explore from and isn't as bad for smog as some areas as mainly motorbikes and cycle-rickshaws, although the traffic for such narrow roads is too much.

Mon 17th Dec - Last day in Nepal. Off to Tribhuvan airport through the noisy congested streets by taxi. Got to the airport in plenty of of time to find my flight had been delayed, so had to spend a few hours in the check-in hall. It's a small world; I bumped into the polish biker from the UK that I had met in Amritsar as well as a spanish girl I keep bumping into. To leave Nepal by air you have to pay a departure tax of 1,356 NRP if going to one of the SAARC countries (includes India, sri lanka, maldives) or 1,695NRP to any other country. Costs nothing if you leave by land. Issued with four stamps to make up the total, two of which are taken off you when you check-in. Eventually, after a long wit and a really slow moving check-in, I got through to departures. Continual body searches and baggage checks. On one, the guard asked to check inside my wallet, and wanted to 'cnfiscate' all of my Indian money saying it was illegal! Not a chance, they are so corrupt here. Another wanted to keep something out of my daybag. It's a struggle to fight with them but you have to be firm. At the visa stamp desk, the guy wondered off with an enormous queue, and left everyone standing there. I went and got the manager and complained, so he came over and stamped my passport personally!

Spoke to a couple of other travellers in the waiting hall who had given money to the guards - the fools!

Nepal is a rip-off placem; $30 to get in, $22 to get out, 13% tax, extortionate prices in the shops (compared to india), and you get mugged at the airport!

Boarded Jet Airwas flight 9W 261 to Delhi amidst more chaos as there were two exit doors and a board in front of one saying 'Now boarding' for our flight, but had to go through another unmarked door with no explanation. Lots of confused people around, but got there. The plane was one of the latest aboeing 737-800/900 types with really nice facilities such as personal LCD monitors to watch movies or listen to music via a touch screen menu. My system is in a mess today, so spending lots of the time on the toilet - something wlse to remember Nepal by! What a time to pick.

Arrived at Indira Ghandi International airport in Delhi and got a pre-paid taxi for 270 INR to the Sarai Rohilla railway station. I had booked onto the 4041 Mussorie express train to Haridwar leaving at 9:05pm that originates from this station. It was waiting on the platform when I got there, so only had to wait a short while before they opened the doors to allow boarding. Couldn't get into 3AC class s fully booked, so had to make do with Sleeper class, but it only cost 157 rupees, so a bargain. The train left bang on time.

Tue 18th Dec - Got to Haridwar at 6am after a disturbed night mainly spent on the toilet - I hope this stops soon as I cannot stray from near a loo for long. I hadn't booked any accommodation here as figured out that I would find something on arrival. The usual gaggle of rickshaw drivers and touts at the station wanting to take me somewhere, but refused as I wanted to walk into town along the railway road to see what caught my eye, nothing did and checked out a couple of places, but ended up in a not so nice place as was not feeling too good, so needed a bathroom and a bed. Stayed at the 'Mahaalakshmi' hotel for 400 rupees near to the cable car bridge. A bit rough and can hear the trains passing so got my earplugs out, but will find something better in daylight for tomorrow night.

The noise from early in the morning was deafening...how was I to know there was going to be a parade today, running down the main road. In normal syle for India, everything is loud. Tried to sleep in but gave up, so went to investigate. Elephants and horses covered in ornamentation; Floats of various descriptions blurting out load music, or with a singer lamenting some religious theme. The streets were crowded and it took some time to get through, but great fun. Worled my way down to the 'Hari-ki-Pairi' ghat (means The Footstep of god). This is the main and most famous ghat and is where Vishnu is said to have dropped some heavenly nectar and left a footprint behind. The Ganges is flowing really fast here, much faster than I have seen it elsewhere. Pilgrims are doing there ablutions and prayer rituals to wash away their sins. Sellers pack the alleyways of the area selling amongst other things 'Prasad', which is the plate of food used to offer to the gods as part of the ritual.

Crossing the river at the Bhimgoda Jhula, there is a great viewpoint from where to observe the whole ghats activity. The site is marked by an enormous statue of lord shiva in gold.

Starting to feel a little bit better than erlier today, but still not eating. At least this is a good way to lose a bit of weight from some of the recent excesses! Some of my clothes starting to wear out after over 7 months on the road, so some shopping required. Fresh pair of jeans and off to the cable car upto the 'Mansa Devi' temple. The alley to the cable ropeway runs down beside the hotel and is similarly flanked by loads of sellers offering prasad and jewellery. As with other popular places i've been, loads of monkeys around, so food being a target, have to be careful if you carry anything edible. Return trip on the cableway costs 48 rupees and is really pretty. The steep climb traverses large areas of flower gardens and gives a great view of the Ganges and Haridwar. The temple itself is enclosed so you cannot get outside to see much of it, only the inside. The sun is shining now and time for a coffee break and watch the cablecars go by. Not long before some of the staff come over for a chat as all indians do. So friendly. One other thing I will say, that I have noticed here in Haridwar, is that it is the first busy place I have seen where they take some pride in the cleanliness of the streets. There are people brushing up as well as rubbish bins on the streets. Haven't seen that elsewhere. Went for A walk around the backstreets and stopped into a Haveli for a lok around, very calming, and then off to watch the Ganges go by from the far banks.  Someone has turned the speed of this river up...it's like a log flume here. I know it is supposed to wash away your sins, but it could wash away more than that if not careful!

After a spot of internet I bumped into a nice girl Sophie from Germany and we went for a walk to watch the 'Aarti Puja' at the Hari-ki-pairi ghat. Starts at 5:40pm and like the one at Varanasi, the pilgrims crowd the banks as the sun sets to float a candle on the Ganges and offer their souls to their gods. Smaller scale than Varanasi but a nice atmosphere. One interesting thing of note is that guys in blue uniforms ask for donations on the way to the steps opposite the ghats, and give an official receipt for it! What point is a receipt? Kids and other folk come through the crowd putting the red tikka mark on your forehead. Also, sellers offer colourful plastic sheets to sit on whilst watching. Nice idea. Met a nice canadian, family so sat together whilst watching. I think they were glad to find other non-indians to talk to as there aren't many of us. Apart from Sophie, I hadn't seen another foreigner all day, in fact, since leaving Nepal. This isn't unusual though, as I have bean many days without seeing another foreigner. It adds to the experience.

After the pooja a simple but nice meal at the 'Chotiwala' restaurant on Subhash ghat. As this is a holy city, only vegetarian food and non-alcoholic drinks are available! So, it's no point carnivores getting upset if they can't find meat!

Back at the hotel wanted to change rooms to get somewhere quieter. It took 5 rooms to get one where most things worked. The level of maintenance in some places is non-existent, and they don't seem to be bothered either.

Wed 19th Dec - One day is enough in Haridwar, so going to Rishikesh for a night. Pick up one of the regular buses from the UP roadways bus stand, which leave every 60 mins and cost 18 rupees for the 30 minute journey.

Tags: Sightseeing

 

Comments

1

It is a nice and refreshing article. I enjoyed going through it.

  Deepak Bista, Australia May 13, 2009 9:34 PM

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