"Lati ---llalalalala the Elephant"
15.10.2009 - 21.10.2009 30 °C
We left for Chitwan on Friday morning and it took OVER 14 hours to get there! (SHOULD HAVE TAKEN 7!). We got to the bus stop and waited for over an hour for our 'tourist' bus. There were 8 of us in total, 9 including Keshav (our Nepalese teacher/coordinator/brother) and all our bags! Luckily we all got seats...
I bought my first newspaper on the bus - people were coming onto the bus selling things like fruit, water and magazines. So I bought The Kathmandu Post. I asked Keshav how much to pay for the paper and he told me 2 rupees is a good price. When I asked the man for the paper, he says 50 rupees! "No thank you." Then he says "30 rupees". Again "no thank you." The bus is about to leave and suddenly he says "ok, ok. 5 rupees!" This newspaper had about 10 pages in it so I thought that was a reasonable price to pay. I think this was my most successful piece of bartering yet.
The journey to Chitwan was absolutely ridiculous. We were stop - start, stop - start, for the first 2 hours Then our back tyre exploded. Luckily for us, we broke down just by a shop which selling cold drinks and it was so hot outside so we were very grateful for this. Here we were also able to use 'the toilet' and buy some water. Got back on the bus and then half hour later, there were strikes on the road. Another delay, more drama. Apparently someone was killed in a road crash the week before and because no one was arrested for the driving offence, the residents kicked up a storm which resulted in road strikes and the army being called to 'sort them out'. (We had no idea what was happening at the time and we only found out about the reason for the 'strike' from speaking to a Canadian backpacker three days later!)
When we eventually started moving again, we travelled to our first proper pit stop and ate breakfast (at 1.30pm!)
After feeding we got taken to do a place that did White Water rafting. We changed into shorts, put sun cream on and got into our life jackets, and helmets. We waited for almost an hour for the staff to put air in the rafts and then were given our 'safety talk' - most of which we couldn't understand...Then into the boat! I shared a raft with all blokes so we went the fastest! Two boys from Manchester were with us as well - someone asked them if they were Scottish! We had a lot of fun and luckily no one fell out into the water. We had instructions being shouted at us from the back of the raft whenever we came to a fast-part of the river and I got told off for not holding the peddler thing correctly. The scenery was amazing but I have no photos for you as I didn't want to get my camera out in case it fell out of the boat! At some points across the river, we could see local people doing some kind of tight-rope walking to get from one side of the river to the other. I worked so damn hard for 2 hours straight - it was great exercise for us all.
After some lunch, we had to get back on a bus to Chitwan. By this time it was pitch black. Waiting for a bus on the side of a road, with all our bags and NO STREET LIGHTS with cars/buses moving towards us at 60 mph was not great. We were shining our torches at the traffic so they could see us. We waited for 45 minutes before we got a ride from a local in his open-air caged jeep with Keshav hanging on standing at the back with the road beneath his feet. He didn't seem to care but everytime a car came too close to us we were screaming at the driver! We eventually got to our hotel at 9.30pm and all we wanted to do was sleep. But we had to eat dinner instead. After scoffing our food down us, we went to our rooms and didn't come out again until 7am the next morning.
Next day was ELEPHANT BATHING! Yeah!!!!! When we got to the place where they were doing the bathing, we could see about 6 elephants in the river all with people on top of them, laughing and falling off into the river. We were shown the way to 'our elephant' and we climbed on top while it sat down in the water for us. With some help from the guide we were now sitting on an elephant! But we didn't stay up long because as soon as it got up, we fell off crashing straight into the water. We must have tried about 10 times to stay on but it was no good. Wasn't sure if it was our lack of balance or the elephant wanting to throw us off on purpose?! Unfortunately, I wore my sunglasses that day and they were no where to be seen...The elephant was then 'instructed' to lie down and then we started massaging it and putting water onto his back. It seemed to like it and every now and again it would spray water onto us (and itself) using its trunk. Someone else was responsible for taking these photos so there aren't many good ones of me doing this.
We also went to an elephant breeding centre that day which had baby elephants roaming around and even twin boy elephants! Got some great photos of this. It was sad to see that some of the adult elephants were chained up which reminded me of Dumbo the cartoon and made me want to cry! The good thing thought is that the elephants get 'released' every day to go into the jungle between 10-4 and go WILD! The staff were feeding them hay and also seemed to be setting fire to their poo?
On Sunday we had a proper elephant ride which lasted 2 hours. Four of us sat in this box thing - one in each corner. I was at the front so could warn the others if we got too close to a telephone cable/branch of a tree. We travelled into the jungle and saw 5 one-horned rhinos, some deer and some of those naughty monkeys. My photos are not great because of the jogging of the camera during the ride. It was an amazing ride through the trees seeing all these wild animals while being carried by a massive elephant. Our elephant was a male so we had to stay back from the other 'female' elephants who were also carrying people - according to our elephant rider it would be 'dangerous' for us to get too close...I did ask for the name of our elephant but it was too long to remember. Sounded something like "Lati ---llalalalala". Every now and again it would pull down branches of trees to have a snack. Saw a few Nepalese elephant riders with Chelsea FC shirts on, which made me smile...COME ON CHELS!
Two of the other volunteers - Amy and Betina - have gone on a 7-day track to the Annapurna mountains today. We go on our trek to Base Camp Mount Everest next week Monday (or Tuesday)! Very excited about that. It's the Tihar festival this week, which is celebrates the family relationship between brothers and sisters. Although it seems as though it is only the 'brothers' who get all the gifts/attention? I've seen how the 'sisters' put 'tikas' on the heads of their brothers, provide them with food, beer, clothing...Our male volunteers were spoilt and showered with gifts and us girls got nothing!
Luckily the bus ride home back to Kalanki was fine with no delays. It took just over 5 hours, which is normal (as we didn't go rafting this time!) I'm typing this to you all in an internet cafe in Swayambhu near where my host family live. I really miss it in Chitwan - it's much cleaner, quieter and friendlier. Now I have to put up with the crazy dogs and naughty monkeys/monks again!
I will try and see if I can upload my photos of Chitwan, etc by the end of the week. I've only found one internet cafe that would let me upload them...we will see.
Good bye for now! Hope all is well with everyone.
With love to you all XXXXXXXXXXXX