On safari in Chitwan – 1 May 2017

Eva Sifis

We greeted the morning on the water today on a canoe ride with 8 others. Hewn from a single piece of Cedar, in the traditional manner, the canoe supplied comfort and berth to share. Warned from the very start to maintain quiet lest animals come to the edge to drink, i remember basking in the silence experienced. With only the sound of birds and the quiet plopping caused by the oar on the water, I felt the effects of a deep meditation whilst calmly looking about myself drinking it all in.
The most exotic wildlife we came across as the sun rose on this part of the world were crocs (yawn), the bright blue of kingfishers and a surprise flight of a peacock overhead. There were absolutely no complaints from me though. I was quite high from the excitement and absolute newness of what was going on.
After alighting from the vessel, our group split in two and we met our companions for the day Ali (from Woodend, Vic ironically enough) and her wonderful Mexican partner whose name escapes me- they met on the Camino trail last year – (swoon). We tramped through the jungle edge here at this point passing a herd of exotically furred velveteen cows and encountering a wild chook whose voice was evidently still breaking. I stepped in shit of the miscellaneous sort (coulda been anything) and spent the rest of the journey hunting for tussocks of stiff grasses to cleanse the base of my trekkers. We made our way to the Elephant Holding area.
I’m not going to lie, the elephants disturbed me. Even though it was repeatedly said to is that they are free for part of the day, i couldn’t avoid the fact they were making repetitive movements indicitive of mental disturbance. Their chains were short and they did not look at ease, at all. I heard they were chained all night as they slept and well in to the morning until they were fed. The little ones run around and go to their mums for a feed when they like. I am not sure how old they are when they join their mothers in chain. Males are kept separately to the females and as the females must be protected from rampant bull elephants from the wild, they are contained in this compound protected by electrified fences.
The herd has been built up from 20 elephants in the 70s to over 100 in total now.
Told that poaching was rife from 1990-2003 while there was political instability, I was shocked to hear that 15-30 animals would be killed in one session of poaching.
Suffice to say I think, regardless of my discomfort, the work being done here is just and needed.
After lunch we headed out for a safari (my first ever). On the open windowed jeep/bus we passed a guy with a big plank of wood strapped on a pushbike. He smiled apologetically as the bus had to make way for him.
Something I have noticed about this area is that it is big honey country with fields and plots of land devoted to hives.
While we waited for our guide to get his permits we saw both a young elephant and one many years senior being trained to be directed by a guy sitting on their back with his feet in natural ditches behind their ears.
Our safari began by being punted over a river serving as a moat around the wildlife reserve area in canoes somewhat like our morning vessels. After a bit of a walk/hike where I positioned myself in front of a young family, thankfully saving the group of 10 (and myself – I am sorry but I cannot handle the distraction) from a vocal child as he sat in the cabin.
The first wildlife we saw was the extremely dangerous jungle Pea Hen… and so on. For 5 hours the truck negotiated jungle tracks spying animals such as deer and antelope, rhinos, boar, crocs, innumerable species of birds all faithfully labelled by our guide who works for the Green Park Chitwan resort we are calling home for the next couple of nights. His capability astounded me. As, may I say, did mine when I correctly identified a nondescript area of jungle coming back the other way a full 2 hours from when we had first attempted passing through. ABI memory problems eat your bloody heart out!!
We planted seeds in the consciousness of at least one Nepalese family today, the only local family along for the ride, when the 4wd had to stop and reverse about 200 metres along a dirt track. This was in order to retrieve a baby wet wipe thrown thoughtlessly, in the manner regularly practised here, out of the window after cleaning the child’s face. The simple problem is lack of education about waste and the contents of some of these innocuous everyday household items.
It is all over the signs as you enter the park that there is to be no littering however the mother thought it was just paper. The 4wd had to stop when another truck appeared behind and the guide walked back to get the wipe to hand it to the lady.
He told us that he had started running workshops at schools educating about waste. The hope is that it will have a trickle-up effect.
Anyway, I have exhausted my notes for the day and will add to this post if any other flashes of memory come back to me after a sleep tonight.
Tomorrow we actually board the elephants after a morning bird watching session.
I should say this is my first ever experience of this sort and it is very special to be sharing it with my Mum as it is also her first.
There is less than a week to go…