You Gotta Ride An Elephant !

You Gotta Ride An Elephant !

With those words echoing in my ears it was with some trepidation that I found myself heading for Chitwan National Park some 5 hours drive away from Kathmandu. 

The park, 932 square kilometers of preserve, is hemmed in between the Narayani and Rapti rivers, providing a natural barrier. I had done some research and realized that this one of a kind area was teeming with all sorts of natural wildlife. Aside from wild elephants, and yes, tame ones to ride, there are some 100 nocturnal Bengal tigers, Asian rhinos, 526 species of birds, 49 amphibians and reptiles, 4 distinct species of deer, and some 600 different plants that thrive in this park.

Animal in Chitwan National Park

I had not thought much about the park setting and was only mildly curious about reaching our accommodations within the park itself. I had been told we would get to the lodging by boat and a short walk into the park. After a fairly smooth drive we turned off the main highway and traveled several miles along a dirt road which passed by houses and through fields of rice and across shallow streams until we reached the river and the waiting boat.

Bird watching in Chitwan Naitonal Park

It was here that the trip began to really grab my full attention. Since I had been to Disneyland and had traveled on their idea of river safari boats I had, tucked away in the back of my mind, a picture of a modern craft with a striped canvas-roofed awning, a diesel-powered engine and several workers to help with the luggage and so forth. It had been raining and the river was high, wide, and very fast. To my surprise the river craft was a long, wooden craft, propelled by two men with long poles, which sat very low in the water. Of course my reaction was internalized by thinking I can’t get into that thing. In my mind’s eye I could picture ancient drawings of prehistoric men in wooden logs floating down rivers, some to their doom. With these pictures in my mind and wondering how I get across to dry land, I externalized this situation with laughter!

Jungle Safari Crocodile in Chitwan National Park

My traveling companions were laughing also, and as we were helped into this craft with all the luggage and several other people, I knew then that I would never survive this trip! As we were poled out into the river we moved north along the bank and slowly we proceeded out into the main channel where the current propelled the boat in a southerly direction. The oarsmen had traveled in an arc and allowed the current to move us downstream and across to another spot where we were off-loaded with our luggage. The oarsmen took the luggage and following them we moved off into the lush jungle along a path toward the lodge.

The lodge itself was very much like one sees in movies of Africa; thatched roof dwellings, clustered together with a dining area, lecture area, and plenty of covered and screen enclosed areas to just sit and relax. We were greeted by a Guest Relations Officer who informed us of the rules, times for meals, gave us our bungalow keys and let us know the times for the elephant rides, the bird watching group with a guide and other activities from lectures to visiting the elephant pens. It was decided that we would take an elephant ride that afternoon. Now elephants had appeared in my life in circus performances, zoos and of course parades on occasion. There were two elephants, each with their trainer, to transport two groups on the ride that afternoon.

One had to climb up onto a platform and step down onto the back of the animal where four could sit on a rather uncomfortable sort of a saddle. Our elephant, with three of us in tow, plus the trainer started off at a leisurely pace along paths well worn by elephants before. It was not the most comfortable of rides and I wondered about all of those well-to-do rajahs of old riding in houdahs that were supposedly very plush and comfortable!

Jungle Safari One Horned Rhino

I don’t know whether it is my luck, but for some reason the elephant we were on decided it did not want to go exactly where the trainer wanted and we found ourselves pushing through small groves of trees with this animal pushing aside large shrubs and wading through thick grass much to the annoyance of the trainer. This went on for about an hour and at the end of our journey we all were very happy to climb down and stretch our legs. Although we were looking for rhinos and tigers on the elephant ride we saw neither on our safari. Chitwan is a marvelous place to relax and enjoy the many outdoors activities from bird watching to elephant rides and more.

If you get to Nepal it is almost a must to take the opportunity to visit and enjoy the wonders of this marvelous National Park!

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