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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

Welcome to the Jungle

NEPAL | Saturday, 14 April 2007 | Views [3135]

We kicked off the morning with a dugout canoe ride along the river that runs the boarder of the park. The canoe was like those we've seen throughout Asia and Papua New Guinea - a tree trunk carved into a thin, semi-stable canoe. Ours, however, had movable little seats that could fit the boatload of Nepali tourists we were with this morning. They were a very nice group of people- an extended family celebrating the Nepali (Buddhist) New Year with their teenagers... they were thoroughly enjoying their family time together on this rare holiday getaway from home... their chatting in the boat was at a level that if there were any animals to be seen, they certainly would hear us far before we approached. An hour later we had made it without tipping the canoe, which was somewhat of a miracle with 10 people moving about in their seats. We made it to the banks of the reserve, where we proceeded to go on our "jungle trek" only to be blocked by a couple of large rhinos. The instructions we were given by our fearless guide: "If you see animals, you should first take off your clothes if they are colored, and throw them in the bush, so the animals don't come after you. For all animals except tigers, either run up a tree, run in a zig zag pattern, or hide in the bush. For tigers, be still, then we make a big noise as a group to scare him away!" WOW! Do we feel safe and well prepared or what? I particularly get concerned about scaling a tree naked. The guide doesn't want us walking past the grazing rhinos that are feeding less than 100 M in between us, our canoe and the elephant breeding ground that we are trying to walk to. There was a woman from another tour group dressed in bright orange snapping pictures of the rhinos like a crazed tourist. We decided to let her be the bait while we all shuffled around through the bush on the far side of the Rhinos. Finally the guide told everyone to be quiet. That didn't stop the teenage girls from chatting on their cell phones. How someone gets a cell signal in the middle of the Nepal jungle - when I have had enough trouble getting a solid signal all the time in San Diego, is also a surprise to me. All 10 of us snuck to the side of the beasts, with big dry fallen leaves crackling loudly under the weight of each step we take. I wonder if the beasts will look up and see 10 tasty dinner treats. Later we realized they are vegetarians, however, weighing a couple of tons each, they could easily trample us. We make it safely past them, into the elephant breeding ground; a project that I personally found disturbing. All these big elephants all chained up by the foot under a palapala style stall, mothers with their babies who freely roam the grounds. These animals, while fed well and looked after, were all bred to be tour guides or military vehicles in the jungle. None were bred to set free back into the park. We learned that the mothers carry their pregnancy for 22 months. We were given a short spiel by our tour guide and watched the group of Asian tourists crowd and pose with the baby elephants. All way too staged and commercial. We finally left and an hour or so later, headed out on our Elephant Safari... which after seeing the breeding ground, not sure we were thrilled to support the cause. It was quite a zoo- no pun intended. Similar to the camel rides in Jasilmer, India, there were hoards of tourists, all ready with their set package deal, to ride the elephants to spot jungle wildlife. We climbed up the wooden loading platform, and we were directed to board an already occupied elephant. The practice here is to pack as many tourists up top as can fit without busting apart the howdah (wooden people carriers on top of the elephant). The tourists cling to the thin wooden rails of the howdah, praying to a god that the rickety contraption doesn't collapse and spill out all the passengers only to be trampled by the heard carrying tourists in bumper-to-bumper fashion behind them. We were facing backwards and got the pleasure of inhaling strong fumes every so often when our elephant passed a ton of gas. We watched as others fiddled with their cameras, clinging to the wood railing of the howdah. We watched several elephants as they were in boarding position, open up the flood gates of their 20 gallon bladder and let it flow like a waterfall, drenching any bit of earth in it's path. Their dung piles also rivaled any that we've seen to date in India. Our elephant heads out of the gate, sauntering heavily side-to-side, heaving the people carrier we're riding in from edge to edge- we're hanging on for dear life. We step off-course into some jungle trees to spot a wild board. We're pretty high up in the trees and getting knocked around by tree limbs and covered with spiders and all kinds of big, interesting bugs that live high in the tree canopy. We saw rhinos eating, bathing and peacocks strutting along the river and up high in tree branches. Crocodiles in the river are cruising along for a late afternoon swim. And the best part, crossing rivers with the elephant. Our driver who had been perched up on top of the elephants neck, directing her by pressing his bare feet into the back of her ears, slides down the elephants trunk into the water. Immediately he starts splashing the underbelly of our elephant so she doesn't feel the need to fill her trunk with water and cool off her top - which would involve dousing us all with several gallons of water. The driver behind us follow suit, and we watch his elephant drop it's 20 gallon bladder like a monsoon into the river. This next move, pay close attention: the driver reaches into the same area of the water where the elephant has just peed, and gulps a big drink of it, and then bathes himself in it. That certainly had to have been the highlight of our elephant ride. Our day drew to an end, and we were ready to get out of packaged tour land and onto our trek into the mountains.

Tags: The Great Outdoors

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