Elephants, Canoes, Moonshine, and Culture...
We woke up in Chitwan, which means "heart of the jungle" and we were excited for the fun day of jungle adventure we had ahead of us!
We planned an elephant ride, canoeing, and a village tour and we couldn't wait to get started! We walked out of our bungalow and got our first glimpse of our resort.
Last night we had arrived at dusk and couldn't see much and it was much different in the day light. It was a cute resort with gardens encircling all the bungalows and a rocky path weaving in between them. The sea foam green duplex bungalows each had their own patio with two wooden reclining chairs out front to lounge in.
We walked along the pathways, past a straw-covered cabana and into the restaurant for breakfast. After our omelet and toast, it was time for our elephant excursion!
A jungle tour atop of an elephant was something I was very psyched to do and I skipped down the road in eager anticipation.
I walked up to our massive jungle limousine and introduced myself. I patted her trunk and thanked her for lending her services. Her name was Pinky Cali and she would be our tour bus for the next two hours.
I had to walk up a small wooden stairway to mount her and slide myself into the wooden box secured on her back. It took me a while to get situated but I finally found a comfortable nook and we headed off.
We walked along the road as if we belonged there. No one even turned a head when we lumbered by and as I saw several other elephants sauntering down the road, absent of passengers, I quickly realized that this is just another part of their everyday life. In Chitwan, elephants are just as much a part of the road traffic as motorbikes, horses, and water buffalo.
We walked along the main road, past rice fields and bathing buffalo until we turned off the beaten path, into the jungle.
We were hoping to catch a glimpse of the infamous one horned rhino that have often been spotted roaming in the area, but we had no luck.
We had to settle for a few peacocks, a toucan, and a deer.
It was fun venturing through the jungle on a path we would have never been able to see but the ride was less than comfortable. The wooden box we sat in had no padding and with each turbulent footstep we were jostled around, banging our dangling limbs on the wooden safety bars.
They had not advised us to wear sneakers, a suggestion that would have been greatly appreciated, so we were sporting flip flops and shorts. This is not appropriate attire for an elephant ride through the jungle. With my legs flailing about, I decides to take off my flip flops for fear of losing them. As our legs hung over the side of the trotting Titan, the jungle fauna scraped against our bare limbs as we maneuvered through the growth. Every tree we came in contact with seemed to have an entire community of bugs living on them, which consequently spilled onto our laps as we made our way through the plants. I don't fancy bugs and I'm mildly arachnophobic so I was not too thrilled with the creepy crawlies. I pulled my legs into an Indian style position and tried to block out the bugs by enjoying the jungle around me.
After about an hour of seeing the same 'ol trees, i was getting bored.
I watched Pinky Cali stuff bushes into her mouth after plucking the shrubs with her trunk. She chew them loudly and swing her trunk from side to side. Sometimes she'd grab a chunk of tree off a branch and just throw it on the ground for fun. I think she was as bored as we were.
We turned out of the jungle and stopped to give Pinky Cali a drink of water before heading back. As our guide pumped water out of the well, she would wrap her trunk around the spout and suck in water like a vacuum. After her trunk was full shed fold it up into her mouth and shoot it in like her own personal fire hose. It was fun to watch.
We said our goodbyes to Pinky Cali and walked back to the resort. We enjoyed a nice lunch and a power nap before it was time for our canoe trip.
Thank god we slept through the hottest part of the day because when we left to go canoeing at three pm, it was still sweltering!
We walked out to the reception area and met up with Asok, the man who would be our canoe guide.
We walked down to the river, tiptoed into a canoe and sat on a tiny wooden seat (that was actually a lot more comfortable than it looked).
As Asok taught us about the river and it's Inhabitants, another man rowed silently behind us.
I never heard him speak the whole boat trip but I did manage to squeeze a small smile out of him (only once).
The river was calm and serene.
There was a small breeze and the sun ducked behind some clouds just for our comfort.
The water was clear and beautiful and the forest surrounding us made for a peaceful scene. I snapped my camera in awe at the gorgeous greenery.
Enormous trees to tiny bushes, fields of short grass you could see far out into the horizon on one side and dense jungle on the other.
Jagged trees that look like they were painted with a trembling hand shot up into the sky marking the border of jungle terrain.
We crossed our fingers that we'd tango with a crocodile but, once again, we had no luck. We did see a huge buck scampering through the forest that I barely got a picture of.
We saw some local goats munching on tall reeds of grass and we were lucky to see a rare Nepalese stork before it flew off into oblivion.
As we cruised around the river bend, I spotted a conspicuous gray mass amongst tall green blades of grass.
As we got closer I saw the wild elephant shoveling hoards of grass into it mouth and clicked away.
As we continued on our way we came upon several more elephants enjoying their freedom on the river banks. My camera never got a break.
Asok pulled our canoe up onto the muddy river bank and told us to hop out. It was time for our village tour. I looked around and saw nothing but a field of grass taller than I was. We would have to do some walking.
Once again I was unprepared. I didn't know the canoe trip included a jungle trek and i was sporting flip flops. I had left my machete at home and was only armed with a smile as I trudged through the muddy ground. Luckily there was a water pump waiting for me and I wiped off the sludge from my feet and calves.
As we walked up to the village, we walked past a group of domesticated elephants. As I walked closer I realized that they had chains around their ankles and were secured to large wooden posts.
The chain was short and only had a two foot reign so they could do nothing but stand idly. This made me regret ever agreeing to an elephant ride in the first place. I'm no PETA member, but I don't like to see animals treated like this. In my fantasy land I had imagined the elephants were kept in a pen, free to roam and interact in a small area which i can understand. The reality was different and this chain gang was something I was not cool with. No more elephant rides for me.
As we walked through the small village, Asok explained their lifestyle. He told us that the villages are mainly comprised of multiple families who own small businesses that are passed down through generations. The village is very community oriented and everyone helps one another. A completely different philosophy from the 'every man for himself' ideology of America.
We strolled along and Asok offered to introduce us to their local alcohol. I'm not one to turn down opportunities to try new things so I was happy to agree. We ventured into the back side of a small convenient store and sat underneath a bamboo hut. He brought us some glasses and a water bottle filled with rice wine moonshine.
It wasn't great but it did the trick and after two water bottles, I had a nice little buzz.
We sat under our straw cabana for a while and learned all about our guide Asok. He told us that he was originally from a rural hill town and moved to Chitwan to become a tour guide. He knew no English before he started working with tourists and after nine years of being a tour guide he is fluent and is very well-spoken. He told us that life in Nepal is hard because it is tradition for the women not to work. He has a wife and a 15 month old baby boy to support and works hard to provide for them. We talked about politics and he told us that Nepali people really like Americans because the U.S. gives a lot of aid to Nepal. He told us about the upcoming elections in Nepal and that he was eager to see some change.
We stumbled back to the resort, feeling the effects of the moonshine, and sat down for dinner. Our tasty dinner was a massive egg roll that stretched across the entire plate sided with salad and French fries. It was scrumptious!
After dinner we had a small window to get cleaned up before we were carted off to our next excursion, a traditional Nepalese dance performance. We were herded into a large auditorium where we watched large groups of dancers work their stuff for the crowd.
Their trademark entertainment is the Tharu Stick Dance, a mock battle in which participants parry each others sticks with graceful, split-second timing. The original purpose of the dance was to, simply make a lot of racket to keep the wild animals away at night. It was a phenomenal show that reminded me of the Stomp show Ive seen before, only with more physical contact. They flung the sticks around without a care and I couldn't figure out how they didn't smack themselves in the head.
It was a great end to a great day!
- SIDENOTE: The show I was working on at AMS Pictures in Dallas TX, entitled "Ma's Roadhouse", premieres on September 15th at 9pm! http://www.trutv.com/shows/mas-roadhouse/index.html
From Executive Producer Andy Streitfeld and AMS Pictures, comes Ma's Roadhouse a new reality show on TrueTV!
Rick Fairless is the owner of Strokers Dallas, a Texas motorcycle shop, tattoo parlor and biker bar. His greatest asset is his 71-year-old mother, who's also his best, but most outspoken, employee. Can Rick keep his business afloat? And can Ma keep her hands off the bartender?
I wish I could be there to watch it with all the hardworking people at AMS but at least, by then, I will be back in the states and watching intently from my TV at home You guys rock!