The bus left Hotel Yeti at 9am headed towards Chitwan national park.
The new bus was pretty good as it had opening windows and good suspension, plus the roads here in Nepal are a lot better than India's. It was a good journey with a few drops of rain and a road headed up into the hills instead of the dead flat of India.
However the air-con broke down after a while and so we pulled over in the forest to fix it. Whilst the drivers were working on it, Awal and Matt started to throw rocks and stones at an old toilet by the road side. After a few minutes they were joined by me, Kenneth and Michele throwing stones across the road in between the traffic. Soon the toilet was pretty much destroyed and even more so when awal walked over the road and dropped a rock on it!!
As we drove through Nepal we saw loads of swings – Some small in doorways and other made up of 4 large bamboo sticks bent over and a log tied at the join. Some of these are 35 to 30 feet high and the kids get loads of height on them.
It was back onto the bus and we arrived at our new hotel just about lunchtime. It is called Maruni sanctuary lodge and is a series of cabins and rooms on the edge of the jungle. Lana, Kenneth and Michele had to go into the park lodge half a mile away due to there being no more room here, but we were all happy with our new home.
After a good lunch we headed off to look around a local traditional village where we saw 95 year old ladies still working, chased chickens, looked around a traditional house and saw how buffalo shit can be used to make gas to cook on.
After that it was off to the elephant sanctuary to meet the elephants we are going to bath with tomorrow and also feed a 3 month baby elephant, which was a lot of fun. Some of the group were upset to see the elephants tied up, but we are assured it is for their own protection and to stop them destroying the world!!!
Then another ride in the back of the safari truck we headed to the river where we were to watch the sunset – As we arrived at the river we passed more elephants, this time the males and they got a bit angry at us – one tried to get me with his trunk, but was tied down and couldn’t reach. ]
When we reached the river we sat open mouthed at 2 rhinos who were 15 feet away from us bathing in the cool river after a hot day. We sat and relaxed watching them for a while before riding back to the lodge on the back of the Jeep again. Me and Vicky were on the back and had a good laugh pushing each other, until I ended up wrapped around her by the time we finished!
It was now 6pm, so I grabbed a beer as did Mills and we sat outside in the humid heat drinking beer and chatting before a cultural evening of traditional dance by the locals. This consisted of a group of them dancing around with sticks getting faster as they went hitting the sticks together. It was quite spectacular and even more so when they started the fire dance. In the end the audience was invited up to join in and a few of us did – Becky, Lisa, Lana and the American lads all enjoyed themselves but came back sweating more than ever.
It was dinner after that followed by an evening of sitting around chatting. I spent a while chilling on one of the outdoor bed again, before joining in a group with Bev,Lisa, Lana, Kenneth and Michele who were chatting with Karen. Karen is the first new arrival on the bus and got here today. She seems nice and has fitted in really quickly with the group. Some people drifted off to their beds and Lana, Kenneth and Michele headed back to their separate accommodation, so I joined in with the lads and Becky, Laura and Frankie who were chatting and singing in a circle. The lads were teasing Frankie about Leopards living in Nepal and ended up making up a daft song about it. It was quite funny to hear and afterwards I still didn’t know if there are actually any Leopards in Nepal or not, but it was really good to spend a little time with the family again as it seems ages since I have done so. About 10pm I headed off to bed myself, but went upstairs to see if my hand-washing was dry. It wasn’t, but upstairs was Karen, Bev, Jaime, Mills, Donna and Lisa, who were all sat chatting and having a quiet drink. Not one to be unsociable I then joined in with them and had a good chat about the bus, the bus nicknames the good and bad points of the trip and whether I would make a better tour leader than Lana!! It was all good fun and made a nice way to finish the evening. So it was off to bed and up the next morning at 6.30.
We were due to leave at 7.30 after breakfast and head off on a boat trip along the river followed by a trek through the jungle and finally a swim and a bath with the elephants.
Day 2 Nepal/Chitwan
So we got up as expected and after a good breakfast we headed off to the river a few hundred yards away to take the boat trip. Suri, our local expert and guide started to wind everyone up about crocodiles in the water, but nobody believed him. Anyway after a gentle float for 15 minutes or so we were about 8 feet from one bank of the river when a fooking crocodile jumped out of the water and snapped at the boat. I kid you not! I swear by Eric Cantona, it was about 3-4 metres away at the most and we had disturbed it by getting too close. Everyone on our boat shit themselves and a 2nd boat behind us saw it all happen. We quickly moved away and caught up with the other 2 boats who thought we were taking the piss, but I can assure you – there are real crocodiles in Nepal.
After all the excitement we continued down river looking out for more wildlife and were surprised to come across 2 rhinos bathing in the river. It was just by the point where we were due to get out and start our jungle trek. So we carefully avoided them and split into smaller groups. Our group couldn’t have been better with me, Lisa, Matt, Awal, Debbie and Vicky and our two local guides. We headed into the jungle as the light rain started to get heavier.
Over the next 2 hours we got completely soaked through. The jungle turned into a mud-bath and I went a bit loco and started to apply mud as cam cream. Our guides stopped us along the way and showed us deer through the foliage and some Rhinos too. But when we saw one Rhino, it turned towards us, looked in our direction and started to run....The guides, quick as a flash made us move around and out of the Rhinos way, but it cant have been more than 50 yards away through the trees.
After that we spotted more wildlife and got even wetter, but nobody minded as we were having a great time. Even when we started to get eaten by leeches it just added to the adventure. Lisa had one, I had 3 or 4 but Matt was really tasty for them and must have had at least 10 of the little bugars sucking his blood.
All too soon we arrived back at the river and were surprised to see the two rhinos still bathing where we had left them a couple of hours earlier.
There was no boats to cross the river, so we waded through the 3 foot deep water, keeping an eye on the two rhinos just 20 metres away in the same river. It was an eerie experience, but just made the day even better. The rest of the Ozbussers had already gone back to the lodge to dry off before lunch but Barry had waited and Suri told us that unfortunately the Elephant bathing had been cancelled because of the heavy rain and the Rhinos who were in the water where we should have done it. We were a bit disappointed on the truck on the way back but happy that we had had a good morning. However when we arrived back there were 2 elephants leaving for the river and our perfect timing meant we could go along and join them!! There was only me and Lisa at first, but Vicky, Debbie, Matt, AwaL and Lana all joined us and took it in turns to climb onto the elephants and get soaked by them using their trunks. It was just ace fun and I have never seen anyone smile so much as Lisa!! We messed about in the river for a while throwing each other in and taking pictures, before it was time for the elephants to go. So we headed back to the lodge to clean up, have lunch and make everyone else jealous with what they had missed!
After lunch and a siesta we headed out again, this time for an elephant safari. I climbed onto the back of the truck again and we drove out towards the jungle.
There were about 30-40 elephants all carrying 4 people, so there was a big crowd hanging around, but our guide was all over it and we were mounted up and off in a few minutes. I shared with Bev, Lisa and Mills and as we headed out into the jungle we were followed closely by an elephant with Awal, Laura, Becky and Frankie aboard.
The safari was ace – we wandered into a clearing after about half an hour where there was a rhino mum and baby. It was amazing to get up so close and at one point we were no more than 8-9 metres away. After that we continued to wander through the jungle and crossed the river a number of times. All the time it was funny to watch the other elephants who all had different personalties – some just wandered slowly while other tried to eat anything that was there. There was one playful beast who just wouldn’t do what she was told and looked like she was having a great time. At one point our elephant driver/pilot got off for a piss and left us 4 on her! We hope she would wander off with us, bus she was well behaved and stayed till he came back.
All too quickly it was over and we got off and waited for transport back to the lodge. Me and Lisa ended up in the best place – stood on the outside of the truck at the back – as we sped back through the villages to home.
After another shower, we all met up for a ride down to the Hotel where Lana and the boys were staying for dinner. I managed to nab a ride on the back of some dudes motorbike as the truck was getting full!! The food at dinner actually had meat from a recently killed buffalo which was good as we haven’t had decent meat since before India. Then after dinner we sat down around a large fire and chatted – till we were disturbed by Puja.
Puja is the friendliest elephant here and lives right behind the hotel. She wandered right up to the group and put out her trunk to be stroked. We got a load of bananas and all fed her, before taking photos and just relaxing. She seemed to love the attention and stayed for quite a while, before her driver took her off to bed. It really was a great way to end to a brilliant day.
It was then a case of waiting for transport back to the lodge and then a quiet drink with Bev, Lisa, Jaime and Mills, before heading off to bed just before midnight.