Royal Chitwan National Park

Trip Start Oct 22, 2007
Trip End Dec 12, 2007

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tiger! Tiger! Burning Bright   In the forest of the Night        
William Blake

An ethereal mist hung thick over the jungle canopy, dawn's awakening light lazily permeating through the fog and the tree branches. The female elephant that I sat upon moved slowly through the jungle, a steady lurch forward jerk backward motion with each methodical step she took. Suddenly, an excited shout came from behind us. Another elephant driver had spotted someone important. Our (our includes myself and three young Israeli girls) elephant driver nugged at the elephant's ears with his bare feet, shouted a brief command in his native Tharu tongue, turning the elephant in the direction of the excitement. A definite viewing advantage can be gained from the top of an elephant for spotting rhinos,or even a Bengal tiger, in the thick vegetation.
As hoped, we did find a rhino, and soon later, another, both a bit startled yet still undisturbed by the elephants, and, our presence.
Lumbering further, we meet a baby deer sitting quietly below our elephant's feet. Perhaps responding to her own motherly instincts, our elephant raised her trunk, trumpeting loudly for the baby deer to search for its mom. The baby deer quickly obeyed.
Pushing the dew-moistened tree branches aside as we blazed a path through the jungle, we came to a clearing where some deer and a wild boar were grazing. Our presence didn't bother them however suddenly, their heads jerked up, they let out a shout, and all quickly vanished into the jungle. Could a hungry tiger be lurking in the trees behind us?
We never would know, yet I knew he was there. I could feel his breath.

And such is life at the Royal Chitwan Naional Park, back to a distant land, a time of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book with lil Mogli.
Chitwan, a sensuous, exotic landscape, is located in southern Nepal, a low plains agricultural region known as the Terai. The people and the terrain is more a reflection of India yet without the mess of modern India. Oh its messy alright in the villages and neighboring city here in Nepal but only a fraction of the debri and chaos of India, which is physically just south of the Chitwan border.
The inhabitants of the Terai are the Tharu people. Their houses are still constructed of basic wood frames and plastered with a mixture of clay and cow dung. I admit, it's an enterprising recycling usage of the immense supply of holy cow dung, however, can you imagine the aroma inside the hut on a hot afternoon! 

Many of the daily tasks, including the process of harvesting the rice, are still performed much the way they were done centuries ago. Not far west of here is the village of Lumbini, where one Siddhartha Buddha was born under a large tree some 2600 years ago. It feels like not much has changed in this region since that time. Elephants are still ridden down the village streets.

Besides the ventures into the park, the most exciting event of the day here in Sauraha, the village across the park river, is grabbing a lounge chair by the river and watch the sun settle over the jungle before you, and the gleaming white Himalayas in the distance. That's Nepal !
It's an international viewing audience as well; Indian families, Israelis, Japanese, a Polish tour group, Germans, Swedes, Brits, etc., etc., ...and me, splurging on a bottle of San Miguel beer with free popcorn.

Jokingly, as I settled in to a sunny spot on the hotel grounds, my hiking guide, who works for the hotel said my quest for sunshine on my body was similiar to the crocodile (who also live nearby). I thought, that's true, and we do share similiar grins as well.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the tiger waits for me.................

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