Chitwan NP, Nepal
How long does it take to drive 90 km (60 miles)? By bus approximately six hours we are told at the Katmandu office of Hotel Park Side. Round ticket would cost little less than $10.00. We accept the offer. Just two hours earlier rep from another agency told us that all buses were full due to national holiday and the only way to get to Sauhara was to hire a private driver for $170.00.
A whistle sets the buses in motion. They take off at once and float down the street heading out of Kathmandu. Before we bid farewell to the city, we make a stop at a gas station. Long line of busses means a long wait. Local kids run among the busses trying to sell water and snacks to the bored passengers.
The lowlands are words apart from the cold inhospitable mountain regions Nepal is also home to. Agriculture thrives here. Slopes of the valley shine green, every space is utilized for crops of various kinds. Large banana trees line the road.
The air is hot and humid, weighted with dust of our crumbling surroundings. The road, a highway running between two major cities, is in worse shape than many forest roads in US. As we cover the distance we are searching for a single building that would not be in desperate need of repair. Our search yields no results. The luckier people own a shabby, unfinished house, for the poor home is often nothing more than a straw roof supported by 4 sticks.
Sauhara, the entrance to Chitwan NP is in better shape. It’s a tourist village and with tourists come money. We are picked up at the bus stop by a rep from our hotel and in a terrain vehicle transported to the premises where we will spend the following 3 days. Parksite Hotel. The rooms are spacious and clean. Stuff friendly as far as we can tell. Awaiting our first adventure, we strike a friendly conversation with a couple from Holland with whom we share the next 3 days. There is also a family from Canada, husband and wife with their 2 children, who relocated to Kathmandu for a year so that the husband can help local hospital. Hearing about the little victories they celebrated along their now 3-month journey gives us an unique look on the challenges life in third world countries like Nepal can rise.
Chitwan NP is known for it’s healthy population of hippo’s, deer, crocodiles, and monkeys, sightings of tigers and sloth bears were also reported. We spend the following three days trying to catch our own sight of these animals, in canoe, jeep, and on foot. Fall when the grass is tall and strong, is not the ideal time for a visit, and excursions deep into the jungle are not permitted for safety, however we are still lucky to see several hippos, deer, family of monkeys, a crocodile, and a wild boar. The opportunity to visit elephant breeding center and pet baby elephants is another highlight of this trip.