Elephants on Parade

So, I’m sitting in my hotel room in Kathmandu, I’ve been in Nepal for over a week, I haven’t blogged in 6 days and as usual I’m not keeping a diary.  I’m remembering the big things obviously, I have photos and besides, for my first few days in Nepal the big things are pretty damn big, but I keep forgetting the little things until several weeks later when the relevant post is already published.  For example I could have written about feeling too rough to go out on the first night in Jaipur and staying in the hotel room watching Paranormal Activity 2 instead, which for some reason has all the scary bits cut out in India, so I was essentially watching an hour and a half of security footage.  Or I could have talked about going into a dodgy pharmacy in Delhi to top up my malaria pills (I did swiftly go out and find a better one) and being offered Valium.  I’m not quite naive enough to think that Westerners don’t buy that in India, but I did at least think that we would have to do the asking, not go in for something completely unrelated and be asked ‘so maybe you want to relax also?’ while a packet of pills is slyly pushed across the counter.  Anyhoo, to sum up, I apologise if I forget something which is slightly amusing to me but not remotely important, then confuse you all by writing about it weeks later (P.S. Also found out in the posh hotel in Agra – it was posh so our drinks had decorations – that I can tie a knot in a cherry stem with my tongue.  Someone asked if anyone could and I didn’t know so I tried and it turns out yes.  Though given the faces I pulled in doing it I struggle to see how it is considered in any way sexy)

Nepal is my last country with the Madventure group, so this was the last border crossing I got walked through before I have to start figuring out how to do it on my own – the crossing was fairly painless (for me at least, Glynn and Luke had issues as they’re dual nationalities and the border guards kept trying to stamp the wrong passport), but very late at night so we were wiped out by the time we got to the first hotel.  Probably a good thing, I don’t think it had much going for it.  Nepal as a country has decided that it wants to be even more awkward than Iran and India, so we had to wind our watches forward an extra 15 minutes this time.  I’ve also realised now that the Nepal itinerary has gone up that I’ve already had my last camping day back in Amritsar.  I can honestly say I’m thrilled about this, but I would have made a bit more ceremony about taking the tent down if I’d known.  Maybe with kerosene and matches.

Everyone on the group keeps saying how much nicer Nepal is than India.  I feel its a bit of an unfair comparison since we went to crowded, touristy cities in India, but our first stop in Nepal is a national park.  Still, I’m not going to dispute that it’s lovely here.  We’ve been in Royal Chitwan National Park for 2 days to avail ourselves of all the wild beastie spotting activites.

Our first morning we got up early to have a boat ride down the river spotting crocodiles – in a tiny little dugout canoe which is probably way too close to the water to offer any protection if the crocs did decide they were peckish.  There are two kinds on this river – skinny little gharials that only eat fish and mugger crocodiles which according to our guide eat ‘anything –  fish, birds, mammals, tourists…’  I’m fairly sure we only saw the latter. Luckily they were pretty sleepy.

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After the boat ride we took a walk through the jungle and then came back via the elephant breeding centre.  We were a pretty big, noisy group so we didn’t see very much on the walk, some spotted deer (chitals) running away from us and a really awesome spiky blue and yellow spider which I failed to get a photo of.  I tried googling it for you but perhaps it’s a good thing I didn’t find it.  I’m sure some people don’t want to see spiders on my blog.  I’m not sure how I feel about the breeding centre – all the girls were chained up when we visited.  Apparently that’s only early in the morning and late in the evening though and they’re allowed to roam free all afternoon but you can never be sure. Still, the babies were happily scampering about so maybe it’s ok.  It’s only females and babies at the centre – all the babies are fathered by a wild elephant who lingers around the surrounding forest waiting for his moment to have his way with the ladies.  The staff have nicknamed him Ronaldo.

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Later in the afternoon was more successful – we went off for elephant rides through the jungle, and since the elephant smell masks the human smell it’s much easier to get up close to the animals without scaring them off.  We saw lots of wild boar, more deer (a different kind this time – sambar I think), and 2 rhinos, one of which had a baby with her!

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Second day I was supposed to go on a village tour, but I think I got overexcited at my baby spotting yesterday because I was very easily persuaded to share a bottle of vodka at dinner, so I wussed out.  My roommates Edel and Kirsty went, and the verdict was ‘it was cool, we saw an old woman with a massive knife’.  I think that’s good.

I did get a great morning wake up before the hangover kicked in though – we all went down to the river to ‘bathe’ the elephants.  I think this is somewhat missold.  It’s definitely a bathing the tourists experience rather than the other way round – we spent far more time getting splashed or falling off the elephant than actually washing her.

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Back to city life in Pokhara next, we’ve loved all the elephants here. But possibly not as much as whoever decided it was a good idea to paint this mural:

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